BMC celebrated its first Australian national title on Thursday as Rohan Dennis won the time trial ahead of defending champion and new teammate Richie Porte but the duo are far from done with Sunday's 183.6km road race firmly in their sights. Porte has twice finished third on the Buninyong circuit with Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) taking the win on both occasions. Speaking with reporters, Porte explained while Gerrans is considered the man to beat, there will be several other protagonists vying for the win.
"I think Simon wants it, that what we hear, whether that’s the truth or not…," Porte said of the race. "Also Caleb [Ewan] last year was surprising that he got to the finish, he was probably the fastest guy at the finish but didn’t quite finish it off. It’s a bit silly to just get caught up with GreenEdge. I think Jack Bobridge looks good and the Avanti guys.... We’ve seen NRS riders like [2007 winner Darren] Lapthorne and guys like that, Lapthorne obviously wasn’t just a NRS rider, but maybe it's time to see that happen again with the favourites all looking at each other and someone slips under the radar. That could well happen."
On the two occasions Porte took home bronze, he arrived at the finish in a small group after final lap attacks. Asked which scenario would best accommodate his characteristics, Porte explained that "I think if it goes absolutely bananas with three laps it's good for me," he said.
"I don’t really see any team that can do that and I certainly don’t expect Rohan to come and do that. I don’t think it’s a hard enough climb and there is so much recovery in that course. Yeah, you could hit it from the bottom but you’d have to be absolutely flying to hold on to the top before they accidentally let you go which is not impossible either is it?"
With Orica-GreenEdge's numerical advantage over BMC, Dennis added the composition of the day's breakaway will be a deciding factor in the team's tactics on the day. A block headwind on the Buninyong climb, and with the favourites heavily marking each other, helped the breakaway make it all the way to the line but such conditions aren't likely to be repeated come Sunday.
"That is an option," said Dennis of attacking early as another tactical option for BMC, "but it also depends on what’s happening out in front and like what happened with [Will] Clarke out front and they put all their guys on the front and pulled that break back and Gerro won obviously," he said of the 2014 race. "He produced on the day, we have to look at what guys are in the breakaway and decide what is a good idea like what Jack [Bobridge] did in 2011 and attacked to go across and went early.
"They have more cards to play with breakaways but we just have to be smarter with the numbers," said Dennis. "We have quality riders with Richie and I but they have quantity to fire more bullets a little more freely and go with a few dark horses before letting off their main guys with Caleb Ewan and Simon Gerrans."