By Paul Verkuylen
It's anyone's race as the Women and Under 23 men line up for Australian title. Those who believe that interest is waning for cycling, need only look at the number of participants who have entered the National Championships in Australia on Saturday to stand corrected. Almost ninety women have entered the event, with the number of Under 23 men being almost identical.
With one of the biggest fields ever assembled for the women's race, the outcome is far from certain.
"This year is going to be different to any other year, simply because of the numbers that are lining up. I think with that depth, it is going to create different dynamics throughout the race, compared to what we have seen in the past," 2004 Olympic champion Sara Carrigan explained.
With so many women taking part, picking a possible winner has become a hard task, with even the best in the world struggling to narrow it down to just a handful of riders. When asked to name who she thought will be one to watch, Carrigan was unable to come up with any riders who stood out in her mind, amplifying the strength in depth that Australian women's cycling is enjoying at the moment.
One rider who may be on everyone's lips as a possible candidate for the title, Oenone Wood, played down her own chances, using her time trial performance as a possible indicator. Yet, going on past performances, she is definitely not one to discard as a possible winner.
"I didn't have a fantastic time trial, but I have done some good preparation. December was a little bit disjointed because of what happened with T-Mobile, which for me personally had a few implications," Oenone Wood commented.
"Hopefully tomorrow I will be recovered enough and have good legs," she added, before going on to explain that the race was not as important as the World Cup rounds, later in the season, were for her preparations towards gaining selection for the Olympics.
The Under 23 men's race which features last year's champion and runner-up at the Worlds in Germany last year, Wes Sulzberger will be equally hard to predict, with so many talented young rider in the field. Sulzberger is the obvious choice to defend his title, but with riders the caliber of Ben King targeting the victory, the result is anything but decided.
Riders to watch, such as Travis Meyer, Matt Goss and Zak Dempster, have all shown their class on many occasions on courses much like this, and will face some tough competition from newcomers to the category, Joe Lewis and Angus Morton. Both of whom have shown their class before, with Lewis finishing fourth in Wednesday's time trail, sandwiched between four South Australia.com-AIS riders.
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