Race Preview: Aussie Nats Road Race

Wow, my previewing powers are a bit rusty, as should become apparent in a sentence or two. But hey, the Austrialian Road Championships are upon us, the start list for Sunday's Elite Men's race is top shelf, and anyway idle hands tend to blog about PEDs, so let's have at it!

First, the events have a very thorough website full of course maps, as well as a detailed description and video if you have time. If you don't, consider this:

The course mixes steep inclines and declines on wide open roads with sharply twisting and curving country roads in thick bushland, requiring riders to navigate sharp turns as well as exhibit brute strength in powering up the side of Mount Buninyong, with riders clocking speeds in excess of 70km/h in some parts....

The takeaway point is, it's hard. For the second straight year the race takes place in/around Ballarat, west of Melbourne -- all a blank in my brain, but it's way south, so presumably it's not quite a million degrees there right now. Photos look pleasant enough and the tarmac isn't melting. Sounds like a fine place for a race.

While local media CyclingNews is startlingly short on info, they did post the startlist, which boasts some big names: Mick Rogers, Stuart O'Grady, Allan Davis, Matt Lloyd, Graeme Brown, Baden Cooke, Simon Gerrans, TT winner Adam Hansen, and other familiar names. Also returning is Darren Lapthorne, winner in 2007 on the same course. Missing are Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans... it's not easy having your national championships contested six months before your year's primary goals. McEwen also wouldn't care for the course profile, apparently.

Handicapping races in January is especially dicey if you haven't been watching to see who's on anything resembling top form. However, at last week's Jayco Bay series:

  • Baden Cooke won stage 1 in a long solo break;
  • Matt Wilson soloed away on a difficult stage 2;
  • Mark Renshaw won a sprint in stage 3 and eventually took the overall title;
  • Allan Davis won stage 4's sprint with a leadout from Brown (huh?);
  • Darren Lapthorne won the final stage, solo;
  • Stuart O'Grady was close on a few stages and 6th on GC;
  • Finally, Hilton Clarke was fourth on GC behind Renshaw, Davis and Cooke.

So I suppose that's the short list of guys to watch, along with Hansen, who swears he's gunning for two titles this week.

As for where to watch, I have no idea. Cyclingfans.com hasn't posted anything since October, and Cycling.tv's next live race is the Tour Down Under. If you hear of anything, please shoot a comment our way.

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