The Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits return for 2019 with arguably the best line-up of big-name Australian pro riders yet, who will kick off Australia's 'summer of cycling' with three days of racing in and around Geelong, near Melbourne, starting on New Year's Day.
The popular criterium series – formerly known as the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic – missed out on a 2018 slot due to the scheduling of the Australian national championships, but returns just ahead of this year's Nationals, which take place in nearby Ballarat.
World Championship road race silver medallist Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) and Ale Cipollini's Chloe Hosking will line up for the women's events, while Caleb Ewan – who has moved to Lotto Soudal from the Mitchelton team for 2019 – is, like Hosking, a former overall winner of the event, and will headline the men's racing.
The series opens with racing on an Eastern Gardens circuit in Geelong on January 1, and continues on January 2 with racing on Geelong's Ritchie Boulevard. On January 3, the series concludes with a criterium in nearby Williamstown, where the overall winners will also be crowned.
Other big names already confirmed include last year's overall women's winner Valentina Scandolara, Peta Mullens, and reigning national road race champion Shannon Malseed, and Nathan Haas, Heinrich Haussler, Miles Scotson, Jay McCarthy, Koen de Kort and 2014 winner Brenton Jones for the men's events.
Jones, who races for the Delko Marseille Provence Pro Continental team and won stages at La Tropicale Amissa Bongo and the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2018, will line up as part of a Lexus All Stars team.
"The Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits is a race I have fond memories of – from watching my mum run the event when I was a kid to winning it in 2014," Jones said.
"I'm excited to race with the Lexus All Stars Team. It'll be great to race with Durbo [Luke Durbridge] for the first time. He's got a big engine and heaps of experience. I've raced with the other guys at some point in my career, so it'll be good to catch up and have some fun," he said.
"Having such a high calibre field is amazing, and a great way to welcome in a big summer of cycling," added race director John Trevorrow. "I'm really looking forward to the big names slugging it out over the tight racing. It'll be great for the crowds to see so many pro riders at Geelong and Williamstown."