600 riders to compete, including bevy of former champions
By: Greg Johnson
Peter McDonald won the 2009 Australian road championship and returns to defend his title.
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A record field will start this week’s Scody Australian Open Road Championships, in large thanks to Cycling Australia's decision to add the national criterium championship races to the event's schedule. The addition sees a shuffle of the event schedule with the Elite, Under 23 men and women's time trials now all held on Wednesday, freeing up Thursday for the three criterium races. The remainder of the event goes unchanged with Friday a rest day then the Under 23 men and women's road races on Saturday followed by the elite men's event on Sunday.
Peter McDonald returns as the Elite men's road race defending champion after an upset victory last year which saw him come out on top, despite being outnumbered by Columbia-HTC riders Adam Hansen and Michael Rogers in a sprint. Rogers will be the man to beat this time around, the Australian Capital Territory rider is focusing on the road title this year and as a result will not defend his time trial title.
The race will feature no less than five previous green, gold and white jersey winners. In addition to McDonald, Matthew Lloyd, Darren Lapthorne, Robbie McEwen and Matthew Wilson will all line up for the event.
Any one of a number of riders taking part in the race, from Allan Davis through to Wes Sulzberger, could claim the men's race. Support from other riders will be crucial to a winning move in the event, throwing it in favour of a team with several riders present like Columbia-HTC or Drapac-Porsche.
After finishing runner up to Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions) last year Michael Matthews enters the Under 23 men's road race as favourite. Matthews's main competition comes from Luke Durbridge, while top 10 finishers from last year Benjamin King and Nathan Haas will return for another crack at the title. These riders will also be the main contenders in the men's Under 23 time trial race.
Cameron Meyer enters the Mars Elite Men's Time Trial as favourite, following the withdrawal from the race of Under 23 Time Trial World Champion Bobridge. Bobridge said he didn't have the fitness to be competitive over the 38-kilometre race and will instead focus on the Elite men's road race.
Coming off the back of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic the criterium championship will be hotly contested amongst the men. McEwen is the top sprinter taking part from the Bay Cycling Classic, but coming off the back of a serious knee injury and up against some top domestic riders may not be the favourite for the title.
Expect Fly V Australia to feature heavily in the Elite men's criterium title. The outfit has performed well over the past 12 months in the criterium-dominated North American scene and is bringing Bernard Sulzberger, Jonathan Cantwell and Cronulla Grand Prix winner Ben Kersten to the event.
Tiffany Cromwell is widely tipped as a rider who could provide an upset victory in the women's road races – with the 21-year-old set to contest both the time trial and road race. While Cromwell is definitely a rising star within Australian women's cycling even she admits to being unsure how her time trial will compare to the more experienced Alexis Rhodes, Kathryn Watt and Bridie O'Donnell.
Watt will be a force in the road race as well but another experienced rider in Ruth Corset will be watched closely by the peloton. Vicki Whitelaw is another experienced rider a youngster like Cromwell would have to prove her race smarts against in order to claim the title.
The women's criterium should be a close contest but it's hard to deny the form Rochelle Gilmore enters the race with. Gilmore not only won the Cronulla Grand Prix last month but also claimed three stages of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic en route to an overall win.
Gilmore will have Belinda Goss and Chloe Hosking to keep her honest in the 33-kilometre race. Peta Mullens showed she was quick while riding for Gilmore earlier in the week, while Megan Dunn has had a quiet week and could be looking to take something away from the week of racing. Like Dunn, defending champion Kristy Broun has had a quiet week and withdrew from the Bay Cycling Classic after the second stage, leaving a question mark over her form heading into the race.
For more about this week's racing see Cycling News HD