ORICA-GreenEDGE and ORICA-AIS ready for Australian championship battle

Tue 6 Jan 2015

With the first race of the season – the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic - a successful one for both ORICA-GreenEDGE and ORICA-AIS, attention immediately turns to the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.

The national criterium championship in the centre of Ballarat will kick off racing tomorrow evening before the big engines race against the clock in the time trial on Thursday.  The weekend's action moves to the famous Buninyong circuit for the road races, elite women on Saturday and the final championship, elite men on Sunday, 11 January.

Our sport directors preview each of the championships:

National criterium championships – Wed 7 January

  -  Caleb Ewan
  -  Leigh Howard

Crowned champion of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic for the second time on Monday, Caleb Ewan has shown that he is carrying strong form into the national championships.

But numbers will be against him, with just one support rider in multiple track world champion Leigh Howard, and options limited for the duo to grab the race by the horns, sport director Matt White explains.

“Caleb was dominating the Bay Crits but the national criterium will be the next level up,” White said.

“They will certainly be out numbered. Caleb, I think, is definitely the fastest guy racing but they are going to have to ride a very intelligent race and the right scenarios are going to have to line up for him to be able to win.

“He will have some pretty stiff competition. The national champions jersey carries a lot of weight for our Aussie NRS teams with a great deal of their racing being in the criterium format.”

  -  Gracie Elvin
  -  Sarah Roy (tentative)
  -  Amanda Spratt
  -  Lizzie Williams

ORICA-AIS will go into Wednesday night’s criterium with confidence after some strong and aggressive riding at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, but like the ORICA-GreenEDGE team will find a battle against the numbers.

At best the team will have four representatives, with a decision on the health of Sarah Roy to be made tomorrow, but regardless, each of their riders have a number of cards to play and will try to factor.

“We want to have a good race.  It’s the first national title for the season and we have some really strong riders as we have seen this week,” sport director Gene Bates said. 

“Gracie, Amanda and Lizzie have all got a shot of winning the title and we will go in there with a few different plans of how we can do that.

“Hopefully our whole team doesn’t fall off on the final corner as in 2014 but we will race aggressively to try to bring a smaller group to the line to increase our chances.  Otherwise it really comes down to positioning and a certain degree of luck going into that last corner.”

National time trial championships – Thu 8 January

  -  Luke Durbridge
  -  Michael Hepburn
  -  Damien Howson

It’s hard not to be impressed with the start list of the elite men’s time trial national championship and ORICA-GreenEDGE expect to be right up amongst it.

Luke Durbridge (2012 and 2013) and Michael Hepburn(2014) have both won the title before and they want it back.

“This is by far and away the best field ever assembled for an Aussie time trial championship and it’s a big call, but I actually think there is no national time trial title anywhere in the world that would have this level of depth,” White said.

“Durbridge, based on his recent training, is going really strongly and could do it and Hepburn is such a calculating athlete, he knows exactly how to get the most out of himself on the day. While Howson has prepared well and is also keen to make his mark in such a star studded field.”

“I think Rohan Dennis is the favourite, especially with him putting his hand up for the world hour record in three weeks time, but I expect all of our guys to be in the mix for medals.”

No representative.

The withdrawal of 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Katrin Garfoot due to a knee injury will see ORICA-AIS unrepresented in the women's national time trial championship.  Garfoot has been working to overcome knee soreness but in the interest of the season to come will not line up in Ballarat.

National road race championships – Sat 10 and Sun 11 January

- Simon Clarke
- Mitch Docker
- Luke Durbridge
- Caleb Ewan
- Mathew Hayman
- Michael Hepburn
- Damien Howson
- Cameron Meyer

This year’s road race presents the opportunity for a ORICA-GreenEDGE rider to step up following the withdrawal of the ever-reliable Simon Gerrans.

The 2014 champion’s absence, combined with a lack of numbers will see ORICA-GreenEDGE enter the race as underdogs for the first time in the team’s short history.

Former world champion Cadel Evans is motivated for a victory ahead of his pending retirement and will enter Sunday’s race as one of the favourites whilst Ritchie Porte is also expected to contest for the jersey.

"It was a big blow not to have Gerrans but it’s a chance for our other guys to step up,” White said.

“We have got multiple options, guys who can win the bike race, and we are just going to ride intelligently to get that job done.

“It’s a big race for us to try to win. We want the jersey, on whose shoulder is irrelevant, but at the end of the day we are not the favourites anymore.”

- Gracie Elvin
- Sarah Roy (tentative)
- Amanda Spratt
- Lizzie Williams

The winner of the last two titles, Gracie Elvin will start as favourite for the 2015 women's national road race championship.

Elvin showed her cards at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic where she soloed to an impressive victory in Geelong despite being heavily marked. 

The 26-year-old will again start with a target on her back come Saturday, a tactic that could benefit her ORICA-AIS teammates.

“Gracie is definitely one of the favourites after her performance at the Bay Classic,” Bates said. 

“She is clearly in good form and she is up and about with good morale. But I wouldn’t discount Amanda or Lizzie either, they are also both in really good shape and will be looking to capitilise on the marking of Gracie.”

“With only a maximum of four riders taking part, the pressure is already off us a little bit because we don’t have the numbers as in previous years. The girls will need to ride a smart race and be ready to adapt to different scenarios that present. But with the likes of Spratt and Elvin who have enormous experience on this course, we can expect they will be right in the mix at the business end of Saturday's race.”

“The likes of Tiffany Cromwell or Ruth Corset, who is a bit of a dark horse who hasn’t been mentioned a lot yet, will be amongst the contenders and Peta Mullens, as we saw on Sunday, if you give her an inch she will take it and the race away with her too.”