The 2012 Mars Australia National Road Championships launched today in Melbourne and is already being touted as a battle between GreenEdge and the "rest".
With the 2011 podium of the championships in Buninyong, Jack Bobridge, Simon Gerrans and Matthew Goss, all riding for the soon-to-be WorldTour squad, it would seem hard to not acknowledge the team as favourites for the coveted jersey in 2012.
Perhaps even more ominous is the announcement today from team general manager Shayne Bannan that he intends to field all seventeen of the team's Australian contingent, assuming they're fit.
"All the Australian riders in our team will line up if they're injury-free and healthy," said Bannan. "We would be pretty disappointed if we don't win and get the green and gold jersey, but we want to see a really good race."
"It is going to be incredibly competitive. The Rabobank guys are pretty keen and there are heaps of others."
The situation can be likened to this year's British national championships that saw an armada of Sky riders taking part in the elite men's road race, which was won by Bradley Wiggins.
The key difference however is the selective nature of the Buninyong course, which will make it hard, even for a numerous GreenEdge to control the race. Plenty of teams will make it hard for the GreenEdge squad, with Rabobank, Garmin-Cervelo, Drapac, and Genesys Wealth Advisers all with strong cards to play.
A real dark horse for the win in the event will be a debuting Heinrich Haussler, who has the ability to sprint and climb as he showed in stage 13 of the 2009 Tour de France. Newly appointed Garmin-Cervelo head director Allan Peiper said that Haussler cannot be written-off.
"After recovering from a knee injury and operation he is ready for the next step, the confirmation of the promise he showed in 2009."
"The goal is to have Haussler in top form for the Tour Down Under, and the nationals in Buninyong is the best gauge of that.
"He will have support from Nathan Haas, but against a full line-up of GreenEdge it will not be easy."
The Mars Australia National Road Championships start on January 5, 2012. The 163.2 kilometre elite men's road race takes place on Sunday, January 8.
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