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Commonwealth Games road race preview: The final countdown

By Kristy Scrymgeour and Mal Sawford

The final day of the 2006 Commonwealth Games will take place on Sunday with only the road races remaining in the cycling events. The women will line up first for nine laps of an 11km course that starts and finishes in the Royal Botanical Gardens in downtown Melbourne. Huge crowds are expected to match or exceed those attracted to both the marathon and individual time trials, with fine and sunny conditions forecast.

The course does not boast many challenging climbs but is more like a technical criterium course, containing 23 corners and a number of short but very steep climbs. But as Australian men's road director Neil Stephens told Cyclingnews today, "The circuit is only as hard as you make it." Hard or not, the number of corners means that breakaway groups will be quickly out of sight, and will also make it very difficult for any one team to co-ordinate a concerted chase. Wins from small groups or solo breaks seem the most likely outcomes.

The women's field is only 36 riders strong; however the field is world class. According to the Australian team, they have six riders who are capable of winning the race and will use the many cards they have to play. "Australia comes first," says Australian women's national coach Warren McDonald. "I think personalities aside, Australia comes first. The girls have raced enough over the last couple of years to know that when they put Australia first, the results will come."

McDonald declared his team "a phenomenal six". "It's the strongest team we've fielded at a Commonwealth Games and even a world championships and it's going to be exciting." Joining time trial gold and bronze medallists Oenone Wood (Nürnberger) and Sara Carrigan will be sprinter Rochelle Gilmore (Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan), the Bates sisters - Kate (Nürnberger) and Natalie (AA Drink) - and Olivia Gollan (Nobili).

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