The Jayco Bay Cycling Classic promises even more spectacular racing in its 22nd year, with stellar men's and women's field contesting the four-criterium event which takes place in the area surrounding the Victorian port city of Geelong.
Racing kicks off on January 2 with the Eastern Park criterium in Geelong, before moving onto Portarlington, back to Geelong - along Ritchie Blvd - before the finale in Williamstown on January 5.
Event director John Trevorrow said that the peloton will boast a record 20 teams and many of Australia's best riders in what is known as the fastest criterium series in the world. "It's the 22nd year of the Bay Crits and this is going to be the best one yet, definitely the best field," said Trevorrow.
"We've got a record 20 teams in the elite men's which is fantastic and the list of names is very impressive. It is a really class field in both the men's and women's events."
Under 23 road world champion Michael Matthews will headline the Urban Hotel Group outfit with Rabobank stablemate Graeme Brown before joining his teammates for the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
Bronze medallist at the UCI Road World Championships and Commonwealth Games road race winner Allan Davis returns to the Bay Classic while winner of the 2004 event, Baden Cooke, and 2010 Giro d'Italia best young rider Richie Porte will ride for the Lowe Farms/Bomaroo Nurseries team.
The Tasmanian trio of Matthew Goss, Wesley and Bernie Sulzberger will join forces for the E3/Pure Tasmania lineup. Racing for O2 Networks, 2007 and 2008 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic champion Mark Renshaw will start as one of the hot favourites for stage and overall honours in a bid to become just the second man to win the event on three occasions.
After missing the 2010 event due to illness, Renshaw is out to claim early season victories before returning to his duties as the lead out man for HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Cavendish.
One man missing will be Stuart O'Grady, who yesterday announced that he had been forced to withdraw from the event following a skiiing accident at a recent team training camp.
"Obviously I am really disappointed, for me it's quite an important decision; a big decision with three kids and a family and only being in Australia for such a short time," O'Grady said.
"Not only am I supporting John's (Trevorrow) races and it's a great series but it is extremely important preparation for the Tour Down Under. You get the opportunity to train on some great roads in the morning and do some really hard, intense fast racing."
Women's field will be firing
Trevorrow has also built a quality field for the women's event, which includes Delhi Commonwealth Games medalists Rochelle Gilmore and Chloe Hosking, with Gilmore fresh from a win in the Honda Insight NSW Grand Prix Series last weekend.
They'll be taking on the likes of Josie Tomic and Megan Dunn, the latter proving her prowess on the track in Delhi but coming off injury that forced her to miss the NSW Grand Prix Series. Despite the time off she'll be one for the experienced heads to look out for in Geelong.
For the sixth consecutive year, Amy's Ride will provide over 2500 recreational cyclists the opportunity to ride amongst some of their professional heroes in a fantastic initiative by the Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) to proliferate key messages of safe and responsible road use, increase awareness to the need for more shared respect, raise much needed funds and honour the memory of Amy.
AGF patron Phil Anderson said the event will see some changes this year which will make the ride the safest yet.
"This year the entire course will be swept specifically before the event. Riders will start in bunches of 100 (split into fast and slow) and each bunch will be accompanied by a number of pro riders who will brief each group on key safety and behaviour expectations prior to the start," Anderson said.
For more event information: www.jaycobayclassic.com.au