Last year’s winners Simon Gerrans (Road Race) and Luke Durbridge (Time-Trial) will both line-up to defend their titles, whilst veteran Stuart O’Grady will aim to win his second National title, ten years after his first.
Other big names to compete including rising stars Simon Clarke and Cameron Meyer, both of whom announced themselves to the cycling world with strong performances at the 2012 Tour of Spain.
The sprinting contingent will include Tour of Britain stage winner Leigh Howard, Tour de France Green jersey challenger Matty Goss, and new 2013 signing, 22 year old Michael Matthews.
The road race will commence on Sunday 13 January and will have a different look to that of previous years. The major changes have come with a reduction in climbs over Mt Buninyong, with the intention of leaving the race open to a wider variety of challengers, in particular the sprinters. The race is just short of 200km beginning with three rides around a flat 27.7km circuit before the peloton is lead to Buninyong where they will take on that circuit (10.2km) twelve times.
With the Championships taking place so early in the season, many riders will warm their legs at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour kicking off on 3 January in Victoria. The most notable starter will be Stuart O’Grady, who will be racing for the first time since breaking his shoulder in a crash at the Vattenfall Classics in August. Whilst he has said he will be using the race purely as continued rehab and preparation for the Tour Down Under, O’Grady’s inclusion is great for the publicity of the event, which has hit several speed bumps over the past few years.
“It’s the Sun Tour and it’s the 60th edition, there are two pretty good reasons (to compete),” said O’Grady. “We don’t get to race enough in Australia, so when we do get the chance, I think it is important we do so.”
O’Grady will be joined on the Jayco Australia National Team for the Sun Tour by: Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Simon Clarke, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Goss (All Orica-GreenEdge), and Jay McCarthy (Saxo-Tinkoff).
The Australian cycling summer concludes with the Tour Down Under (22-27 January), with the event already enticing numerous big name international cyclists. So far classics specialists Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and current Rainbow Jersey holder Philippe Gilbert (BMC) will headline the event, with Andy Schleck (Radioshack) and Andre Griepel (Lotto) also set to make their presence felt.
A in-depth race preview will be posted closer to the event.
Finally, I hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas break. If you are anything like me, the New Year will involve a lot of time spent on the bike to work off that Christmas belly.