New time trial course for Australian national championships
Twilight criteriums to open proceedings in Ballarat
Cycling Australia have announced a shake up to the 2015 Australian national road championships with a new route for the time trial in Buninyong and twilight criteriums opening the event in Ballarat on January 7.
After the flat roads of Burrumbeet this year, the specialists against the clock will be tested on a course free from any flat stretches of road with a wind farm to mark the turnaround point. There is also a new schedule for the time trials which now take place on Thursday.
At the announcement of the championships, Cycling Australia CEO, Nick Green, explained the change in the schedule will facilitate the continued growth and support of the event.
"Part of what has raised the prestige of this event has been the significant contribution made by Ballarat Regional Tourism and the City of Ballarat," Green said. "When Robbie McEwen won on the Mt Buninyong course in 2002 the crowd could be counted in its hundreds."
The presence of Cadel Evans (BMC) for the last time at the nationals is sure to draw another large crowd Green added.
"Earlier this year when we saw Simon Gerrans, Cadel Evans and Richie Porte on the final podium the crowd was estimated at 25,000, and the race was watched live on television by many more around the country."
Evans' teammate Rohan Dennis, who was blown off his bike at this year's time trial, is targeting success on the new course that will suit his characteristics.
"With my track record of the last two years I haven't had the best of luck in January, so I'm a little reserved in saying I'd be the one to beat," Dennis said, "but for me the time trial is the most important."
Evans can call upon the support of Dennis and U23 time trial world champion Campbell Flakemore in the road race as BMC look to end three year run of Orica-GreenEdge success.
"The road race will be Orica-GreenEdge versus everyone else," Dennis said. "We'll have a good team, with Cadel (Evans) and Campbell (Flakemore). I'll talk to Cadel about the tactics and I'd be happy to lay it on the line for him. We'll have to take a gamble and stick to our guns while they've got a lot more cards to play."
With GreenEdge's numerical advantage, Dennis added that it will be hard to stop with defending champion Simon Gerrans from claiming a third career win.
Gracie Elvin is looking to become just the second women to win three successive titles after Kathy Watt in 1992-1994 and extend the winning streak of her Orica-AIS team.
"Having won two in row is pretty awesome and three in a row would be even better," Elvin said. "I'm always proud to line up with the green and gold jersey internationally and sit on the start line alongside the other national champions. It's very special to wear the jersey. I don't want to swap it. I quite like the stripes. It's my jersey."
GreenEdge and Orica-AIS are yet to find out what it's like to finish the road race without the green and gold jersey and Elvin explained the team is not keen to experience that feeling.
"There's pressure on the team (Orica-AIS) as the biggest team in Australia, to prove we're worthy of being in the team and showing how strong we are," Elvin said who will skip the time trial in 2015. "But the level of racing in the National Road Series has risen again this year and winning it again won't be easy.
The rider to watch according to Elvin is the 2014 overall NRS winner and 2010 national champion Ruth Corset but the 26-year-old is confident her team can do the job.
"Ruth Corset is one of the stalwarts of Australian cycling who is almost unbeatable in a lot of areas. She can sprint, climb and time trial. She'll be one to watch," she said.
"In our team we've got Lizzie Williams. She's really stepped up and could match Ruth in a lot of areas and will definitely be a contender."
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