ELITE Mens National Road Race PREVIEW
Australian Road Nationals 2018- Elite Mens Road Race Preview
16 laps around Mount Buninyong is enough to make anyone dizzy and that is what is in store for those taking the start line on Sunday for the Elite Mens Road Race.
Traditionally, to add to the dizziness the riders must battle the scorching heat, however, this year the mercury is tipped to only reach a pleasant 23 degrees, music to the ears of most of the field.
Since their inception into pro cycling in 2012, “Greenedge” have held the keys in every edition of the National Championship Road Race, both through their own will to take control and by others simply leaving it to them to take the reins of the race. Over the last six years, we have seen this race won in many ways. Simon Gerrans, twice winning the race in dominate displays by his team setting up a showdown on the final ascent of Mount Buninyong, going clear with a small group and torching his rivals in a small group gallop. Both Jack Bobridge and Luke Durbridge have gone solo from the early break and hung on for victory, Heinrich Haussler has won from the breakaway, winning a six-up sprint and last year, Miles Scotson won solo with a late attack to hold off the field by a matter of meters. History shows us that this race is a bit of a lottery of how it’s going to pan out but one thing that has always been consistent is the quality of rider who takes home the green and gold jersey. This is a brutal race, there are no gifts given here.
Unlike previous years, Mitchelton- Scott have no out and out leader, with Simon Gerrans making the transfer to BMC for 2018 which hugely bolsters their fire power for Sunday's showdown, which we will touch on shortly. With Mitchelton- Scott lacking a genuine leader, they will be looking to make the start of the 185.6km test aggressive and throw riders up the road into a group of 10-15 riders with 3-4 of their guys in it and then re-shuffle the deck from there. A tactic they have used in the past. Damien Howson, Luke Durbridge and others will be busy early looking to sniff out the early break with Cam Meyer and depending on how the race unfolds, Caleb Ewan as the protected riders for a battle royal in the final few laps.
BMC Racing Team has a star studded line up with Richie Porte, Simon Gerrans, Rohan Dennis (who won the Time Trial on Friday) and last year’s winner Miles Scotson. With only 4 riders, it not enough to control the race from start to finish for either Porte or Gerrans so expect to see an aggressive start from the boys in red and black, with one of the two just mentioned to take a back seat and roll the dice on the race coming back together on the last lap. Another possibility is Mitchelton-Scott and BMC collaborate to control the race, letting a smaller group go clear, but with the former having superior numbers, I don’t see them subscribing to that potential strategy.
Bennelong- SwisseWellness is another team with large numbers and as always, will be looking to use those numbers to their advantage. With Steele Von Hoff back on the team where he made his name, they have a genuine option if the race comes back together on the last lap, with Von Hoff known to be able to scramble over Mt Buninyong on the last lap in the past with multiple top ten results on this circuit, his best result, 3rd, in 2013. Cam Bayly and Nathan Elliott are two other options for a genuine result with the former finishing 4th in last year’s edition, a real racer who is always there or thereabouts in the tough one dayers. Elliott, the winner of the last two Melbourne- Warrnambool’s has shown that he has what it takes in the big one dayers, but has yet to have a result worth writing home about around the roads of Buninyong. Both men are capable of finding the early move or waiting in the wings and following the big boys in the final two laps, the early break the more likely of the two. Sean Lake and Chris Harper are other names to look out for from the best local team in the nation.
Now to touch on the lone wolves who will be a threat.
NATHAN EARLE- The biggest grafter in Australian cycling. His career was all but dead and buried 12 months ago and approached last year’s race as a last chance saloon and finished 5th. He is now back at Pro-Conti level and is looking in super shape. He possesses all the tools to jagg a result around Buninyong, a punchy climber with a good sprint, don’t be surprised to see him around the mark on Sunday.
NATHAN HAAS- I keep reading that he is due for a BIG result in the spring classics, 4th last year in the Amstel Gold race is pretty handy but obviously the new Katusha rider has some lofty goals for 2018 and with good reason following his 2017 season. A 5th in the Time Trial on Friday shows that he has some solid form coming into the road race and not unlike Earle, it’s the perfect parcours for the Canberra local. He was 3rd in last year’s race and will be looking to go two better and take the green and gold back to Europe.
JAY MCCARTHY- Always moving in January and he is turning into the rider we all expected of him as a super talented U23. Like the other favourites without team support, it’s important for McCarthy to stay vigilant early and not miss the potential 20 man early move that may go clear. Super quick in a small group finish and if all things go well for the Queenslander this could be his year to take the chocolates.
Others- Simon Clarke, Lachlan Morton, Chris Hamilton, Ben O’Connor, Robbie Hucker.
Like any one day race it’s a bit of a lottery of how things will pan out but here are our predictions.
See you back at the social club,