Australian WorldTour team Orica-Scott and half American, half Australian WorldTour outfit Cannondale-Drapac have both named their squads for this week's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race one-day race and the inaugural Towards Zero criterium race on Albert Park's F1 circuit.
The Towards Zero criterium race will be held over 116km with a bunch sprint the expected outcome in the heart of Melbourne before the peloton heads south to Geelong for Sunday's 174km one-day race with a challenging parcours expected to see a smaller group contest for the win.
Fresh from four stage wins at the Tour Down Under and pre-race People's Choice Classic, Caleb Ewan is aiming to add his his early-season tally of wins at the Australia Day criterium for Orica-Scott and conclude his 'sumer of cycling' on a high.
"Caleb was unbeatable at the Santos Tour Down Under and he will be the man to beat at Race Melbourne," Orica's director sportif Matt Wilson said of the team aims. "We have a good strong team around him to back him and there’s no doubt about it we are going into this race to win."
Ewan won't be able to call upon Roger Kluge and Darly Impey for the leadout as he did at the Tour Down Under with New Zealander Sam Bewley and Australian Michael Hepburn coming in as replacements. For Sunday's road race, Mitch Docker and Luke Durbridge come into the team that is aiming for the victory with Simon Gerrans and Esteban Chaves as its two trump cards.
"We've got a strong team giving us options, different cards to play and we're expecting it to be another hard race like the previous two years," Wilson added of the race which is elevated to WorldTour status from 2017. "It's a really aggressive sort of race and it is quite unpredictable especially on those final hilly laps. We have a really good team, a lot of these guys have already had many race days so we are ready for a solid race."
Like Orica-Scott, Cannondale-Drapac have made adjustments to its lineup from the Tour Down Under with Brendan Canty recovered from the virus that saw him miss the race at the last minute. The Victorian will replace Tom Scully, who was a late call up in Canty's place at the Tour Down Under, to make his WorldTour debut with the team on Sunday. The team will be the same for both Thursday's criterium and Sunday's road race.
"It's a one-day race. You can always win it. It's very different coming from a stage race like Tour Down Under where you're very much in stage race mentality. We keep the same group of riders and stay together all week, which is like a stage race, so it feels a bit odd that it's only a one-day," director sportif Tom Southam explained. "You have to go through a sizeable shift as a team. Everything is going to have to change in terms of our approach to the race.
"That it's a WorldTour race will change the dynamic of how the race runs. It will be difficult to predict. That being said, we've got riders who are certainly in the condition to be competitive. It may not be the same guys we backed at Tour Down Under. We're also going to bring Brendan back. He showed at Nationals already that he's in great shape on short climb. I think they will change our dynamic a little."
Orica-Scott for the 2017 Cadel Evan Great Ocean Road Race: Caleb Ewan (Towards Zero only), Sam Bewley, Esteban Chaves, Mitch Docker (Road Race only), Luke Durbridge (Road Race only), Simon Gerrans, Michael Hepburn, and Damien Howson
Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Cadel Evan Great Ocean Road Race: Paddy Bevin, Brendan Canty, Will Clarke, Alex Howes, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Tom Van Asbroeck and Mike Woods.
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