Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte are the only two riders to have won on the current Buninyong Australian national championships time trial course. It's therefore no surprise the BMC teammates will start Friday's 40.9km out and back course as the overwhelming favourites.
Teammate and current road race champion Miles Scotson has also tasted success on the course, claiming the 2015 U23 title and is aiming for his first elite podium.
Dennis, who won four-time trials last season, enjoyed a white Christmas in Europe with a delayed return to Australia compared to previous years. But Dennis knows the demands of the course arguably better than any other rider and is well poised for a third straight win.
"It will be interesting because I have only just returned back to Australia after spending winter in Europe, so it will depend on how my body copes in the heat," Dennis said. “My form is as good as any other year. It's all about not going out too hard especially on the final climb on the way back as there are still ten kilometers to go. Those last ten kilometers take longer than you think they should and it's always mentally tough."
Although Porte has only limited race days since crashing out the Tour last year, where he last rode against the clock, the 2015 champion can't be discounted from medal contention.
"To be honest it's hard to know how my form is when I haven't raced properly in so long," said Porte. "For both the time trial and the road race, my goal is to get some good racing kilometers in my legs in the lead up to the Santos Tour Down Under. Anything more than that is a bonus at this stage. I hope to produce a decent time trial result and in the road race, I think we have a strong team to give it a good shot."
Scotson likewise has had an extended break from time trialling with his sixth place at the Tour du Poitou Charentes his last race against the clock.
"I haven't done an individual time trial since August so it has been a while. I'm looking forward to giving it another go and improving on my result last year," Scotson said.
For Scotson, the road race is of greater importance, starting as defending champion with the number one dossard on his back.
"This year there is probably more expectation on me as last year there was no pressure," said Scotson. "It was my first race as a professional and I was the only rider from BMC Racing Team competing. That being said, I don't feel a lot of pressure this year as I have already won an Australian title. The road race is always a lottery and you can't predict who will win. But, we have a really strong team and we'd love to have the jersey again."
Simon Gerrans is the fourth Australian BMC rider on the 2018 roster and as a two-time winner, and silver medalist last year, is well acquainted with the Buninyong course. The 37-year-old will make his BMC debut in the race alongside his three new teammates and believes the high-quality squad can execute the plan of defending the green and gold.
"Being an Australian national champion is something I am really proud of. I see it as one of the big achievements in my career and it was a huge honor to wear the green and gold jersey in the year to follow," Gerrans said. "I think we have a team to keep a lot of the bases covered for the road race. We have strong guys who can win the race from a long way out and I'll be confident going into a small group finish. I'd like to think that between Rohan, Richie, Miles and myself, we have riders for all scenarios come Sunday."
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