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Durbridge a marked man in National Road Series opener

Cycling Australia’s National Road Series commences with the Mersey Valley Tour in Tasmania this weekend, where points will be on offer for the elite men and women’s categories.

With the race being the first major open road event in Australia since January’s Australian Open Road Championships, the form of many riders taking part in the event is largely unknown. Despite that many have tipped Jayco-Skins rider Luke Durbridge as the man to beat at the series opening race.

Opening with a 24 kilometre time trial, Mersey Valley’s parcours is well suited to Durbridge who finished second in the AORC’s Under 23 time trial. Durbridge should be able to fight amongst the contenders on the following two road stages as well, however as the sole Jayco-Skins representative Durbridge will be at a tactical disadvantage.

Exploiting that weakness will be the best defense for those hoping to stand between the strong West Australian rider and overall victory. With a full complement of riders on hand, Genesys Wealth Advisors, formerly Praties, and the newly formed Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans will be hoping to play a numbers game against Durbirdge and one another for the race victory and National Road Series lead.

Genesys will field defending series champion William Clarke in its line-up, but has another card to play in defending race champion Dylan Newell. While no rider has ever claimed two wins in the tour, Newell is hopeful of not just becoming the first but doing it back-to-back, according to team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston.

“We want to establish an early lead in the NRS which will hopefully setup the rest of the year for the team,” said Christie-Johnston. “A win will build the confidence in the team, which is extremely important early in the season. The longer a team goes without a win puts more pressure on the riders so hopefully we can put that to rest this weekend.

Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans’ tactical advantage isn’t only in its quality and numbers, with the team benefiting from the guidance of sport director Pat Jonker during the event. The team’s strong rider includes the likes of Andrew Roe, Ben Dyball and Michael Freiburg.

Taylor, Macpherson lead women's field

Carlee Taylor is the highest finisher from last year’s NRS to start this weekend’s event and will enjoy a competitive battle against the likes of Jenny Macpherson, who finished third at last year’s race. Oceania Time Trail Champion Alexandra Carle will benefit from the 15 kilometre time trial the women’s field will contest.

While better known for her mountain bike exploits, national cross country champion Rowena Fry has always been strong in the road events she’s contested. As has been the case off road this year, Fry could be challenged by Heather Logie who will also contest the Mersey Valley Tour.

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