Cadel Evans looking to make his Great Ocean Road Race an important early-season fixture

Cadel Evans and Ryder Hesjedal post-press conference in Geelong

Cadel Evans and Ryder Hesjedal post-press conference in Geelong (Image credit: Rob Lindblade)

Cadel Evans is hoping to grow his event, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, in years to come and position it as an ideal introduction to the season for top riders.

After the inaugural edition last year, this Sunday’s race has pulled in the likes of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo), and Evans, speaking at a press conference on Thursday, said he wants the race to be a launch pad for the "best season of their careers".

The proximity to the Tour Down Under, the warm weather, and the nature of the parcours are all factors that combine, in the eyes of the 2011 Tour de France champion, to make for a fruitful early-season outing.

"For the riders’ preparation, like Ryder said, he comes here to get ready for his season and that’s an important part of us having the race," he said.

"It’s a perfect weekend on so many levels, one being we can complement the Tour Down Under as an event and for riders’ preparation. I’d like to think you can come here and train here in good weather – weather that’s good to make you good.

"It’s a race that’s hard enough to be selective, but not so difficult that it’s going to scare people off. It’s a gentle easing into competition because it’s a long season ahead. We have Mark Cavendish here of course, who I would say is pretty firm favourite for the World Championships this year, at other end of the season. As much as we’d love them to win here, I hope that guys like him and Ryder can go off and prepare here well to have the best season of their careers so far."

Despite acknowledging that the race won’t be a focal point of many riders’ seasons, Evans nevertheless issued a warning to the first-timers about how competitive it can be. Last year the weather conditions made for a tough day and the racing was more aggressive than might have been expected for a new race at the start of the year.

"I was amazed at – but also proud of – how hard the guys raced," said Evans, who was in the unique situation of being race organiser but also competitor.

"I warned the guys who came here for the first time, they raced really aggressively last year in the rain and crosswinds. It split into four groups just as we were coming onto the first lap of the old Worlds circuit. I won’t say which group I was in in the crosswinds there – it wasn’t very professional of me from a ride point of view but I was happy to see the peloton broken to pieces and knowing we still had 86 kilometres to race."

For a provisional start list for the elite men's race on Sunday, click here

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