World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) has said that the leader of the Australian team has not yet been decided for next week's world championship road race in Geelong, Australia. After his victory in Mendrisio, Switzerland last year, members of the Australian team vigorously denied reports in the Belgian media that Evans had lost a vote for the team leadership in a meeting on the eve of the race.
"We haven't had that meeting yet," Evans told AAP. "I hope at least to get the role of a protected rider."
Evans readily admitted that there is a great deal of uncertainty over the precise nature of the Geelong circuit, which will make it difficult for specific roles to be assigned. "It's a question of whether there's three guys left in front or whether there'll be 40 guys left in front," Evans said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but nobody does, so everyone's in the same boat."
While Evans nominated his former teammate Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as the favourite for the event, he also suggested that Australian sprinter Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) would be in contention should the race come down to a bunch sprint.
"It might be in our interests for Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) not to get to the finish," Evans said. "But if Mark can get there, it also means that Gossy can get there and I think of all the guys people have been speaking about, Gossy is the one who's showed he can really do something."
Allan Davis (Astana) also believes that the 23-year-old Goss's speed in the finale could be telling, provided that he survives in the front group to the finish. "He's got the ability too, he's got the form," Davis said. "He's got everything and for Gossy it's a huge experience for him and this could really set up his career."
Meanwhile, Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) maintained that his form has not been affected too much by his recent expulsion from the Vuelta a España. O'Grady was sent home from the race along with Andy Schleck for breaking team rules. The duo allegedly breached the team's code of discipline by staying out too late the night before stage 10.
"You always take positives out of indifferent situations," O'Grady said. "I went back home to Monaco and probably in the last two weeks did the best training I've done in a long time. I put in a lot of work behind the motorbike, did a lot of race simulation and I'm feeling really fresh."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.