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Top Australian Professional teams for Wellington

After Travis Meyer in 2008 will it be another Aussie in New Zealand?

After Travis Meyer in 2008 will it be another Aussie in New Zealand? (Image credit: Bruce Pool)

Four Australian professional teams have entered the January 21-25 Trust House Cycle Classic in Wellington New Zealand. They are looking to bring the title again to Australia, like Travis Meyer did last year.

UCI Continental teams Savings and Loan, Team Budget Forklifts—Australia, and Queensland squad QSM Racing have joined the previously announced Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team, which makes it likely the final field will number around 100 riders.

It looks to have justified race director Jorge Sandoval's decision to run the classic about the same time as Australia's Tour Down Under. "When I planned the 2009 tour I decided to go head on with the Tour Down Under because I thought it very unlikely that any of the Oceania UCI Continental Teams would receive invitations to compete in the top tier ProTour event," Sandoval said.

"I've been proved right. For the first time in the 22 years of the Trust House Classic we will have four Australian professional teams competing. This, plus another 10 Australians who have entered individually, will give them a powerful group of 30 riders."

The Budget Forklifts team is led by Cameron Jennings, who brings considerable experience and knowledge with six seasons of racing in some of the most demanding races around the world. Fellow team member Cody Stevenson made his North American debut with professional team Jittery Joe's two years ago. He has a reputation as a crafty sprinter, hiding in the field before launching himself as the riders dash for the finish line. Their teammates Jack Anderson, Michael England and Craig McCartney have a wealth of experience.

"Cameron Jennings is a big name in cycling. I'd expect him to be prominent going up the key Admiral Hill climb on day three," Sandoval said.

The Savings and Loan team is one of Australia's most successful Continental teams. It is returning for a third time, and previously its members have won stages, and the king of the mountains and sprint competitions, and twice finished third overall. Team member Joel Pearson showed impressive form in winning the Bay City Criterium in Australia earlier in the month.

"Joel was competing against some of the best sprinters in the world, and he'll be one of the favourites to win the tour," Sandoval said. "He has ridden in Europe for the last four years, which includes five race wins in France in 2007. He has a reputation as a true sprinter but is still a more than capable climber."

Another team member is David Pell, third overall in the classic two years ago and the king of the mountains victor, and an Australian representative on numerous occasions. Jai Crawford, Tim Roe and Will Dickeson complete the Savings and Loan line up. Team manager Stephen Cunningham said his riders would come well prepared with plenty of recent racing across the Tasman.

The QSM Racing Team will field a capable lineup of Gavin Nicholls, Brady Cummings, Kyle Bateson, Scott Kilmartin and Gilbert Gutowski.

"Securing four top Australian teams is very encouraging for the tour, and cycling in New Zealand," Sandoval said. "The field is already better than last year's. The New Zealanders are going to face some formidable opposition."

Other riders have entered from Spain, Canada, and Croatia.

The tour starts on Wednesday January 21 in Lower Hutt, and concludes on the afternoon of January 25 with a criterium on a circuit on Wellington's Lambton Quay.