The two race NSW Grand Prix Criterium series begins at Cronulla this Saturday and concludes the following day in Wollongong. In its fourth year, the weekend race series has once again secured some of Australia's established road stars alongside future talents such as Caleb Ewan.
Team Sky's Chris 'CJ' Sutton has delayed his trip to Majorca for a training camp to challenge for another win. "It's really one of my favourite races. I'm shire boy through and through," said Sutton.
"I am going for a third title. It's not going to be easy as I'm a little bit unprepared. I started the season a bit later this year just changing things up a bit such as doing some more gym work."
"I think it's going to be a pretty strong field all-round. You have the likes of Mark Renshaw and Leigh Howard as well as Tom Palmer who has been training a lot and has a good bunch kick on him. Caleb Ewan, I've done a few training rides within him and he's got a fast finish," Sutton told Cyclingnews.
While favouring the mountains over criteriums, Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) will be racing on the Saturday as he continues to build his form for the 2014 season and is looking forward to the hit out.
"A lot of the aussie guys are always good here. A guy like Caleb Ewan will always be good but it's also pretty open and the course lends itself to aggressive racing," Morton told Cyclingnews.
The women's field contains some hungry riders eager to impress in front of home crowds. Having announced the creation of a new team for the Australian summer of racing, Chloe Hosking will be determined to take the win.
She will face stiff competition from a strong Wiggle-Honda outfit who will have six riders chasing victory. Recently crowned NZ Criterium champion Emily Collins will be a rider to watch over the two race days as will new signing Joanne Tralaggan who is keen to impress on home roads. "I'm signed for Wiggle-Honda for the summer season while they're out in Australia," Tralaggan told Cyclingnews.
"You could say that I am excitedly overwhelmed that Wiggle have paid for the team to come out and race in the summer season because it has afforded a new comer to the sport to ride with one of the world's best squads. I'm really new to the sport, I've only been racing at national level since June. To be identified with talent and be given the opportunity to race is exciting. I'm so grateful and constantly pinching myself, I'm so excited"
Wiggle-Honda team manager Rochelle Gilmore is looking forward to getting back on the bike after a busy period in recent weeks readying the team for next year. "I've been riding casually a couple times a week with no structured training but hopefully my girls will be in form to have a good race," Gilmore told Cyclingnews.
The women's race looks to be a hotly contest affair and Gilmore isn't taking the race lightly, identifying several challenges to her team. "Chloe Hosking is one of the fastest sprinters in the world and she's put together a strong team for this race so I think she'll be hard to beat. So will Kimberly Wells who'll be one to watch," said Gilmore.
"It'll be a hard race to read but we have some strong riders here so hopefully we have all our bases covered."
German Charlotte Becker will be racing in her first Australia criterium series and adds invaluable experience to the Wiggle-Honda squad. "I'm looking forward to it as it's the first time I'll do this kind of crit in Australia and it'll be exciting and something different," Becker explained to Cyclingnews.
The NSW Grand Prix is the only criterium series to be broadcast on national television in Australia. Race organiser Phil Bates has been involved in cycling for generations and is the driving force behind the success of the race in attracting international riders. The NSW Grand Prix is a free spectator event and allows locals to catch a glimpse of some of their favourite riders in the flesh.