It’s somewhat foolish to describe any team as a shoo-in at a one-day race but Australia certainly has its bases covered ahead of the elite men’s UCI Road World Championship in Spain tomorrow.
Cadel Evans, who announced his pending retirement this week, became the first Australian to win an elite men’s road cycling world title five years ago in Mendrisio, Switzerland and his experience may contribute to seeing a compatriot welcomed to the club on Sunday.
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In-form Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews spearhead the diverse squad that also includes Classics specialist Mathew Hayman as well as Simon Clarke, who is making his fifth senior career appearance, Adam Hansen, who just completed his 10th consecutive Grand Tour, Rohan Dennis, who finished a respectable fifth in the elite men’s time trial world championship on Wednesday, plus Heinrich Haussler and Rory Sutherland.
Gerrans, Hayman and Clarke were part of the team that supported Evans to victory in 2009. It was a year later that Matthews won gold in the under-23 road world championship on home soil besting German John Degenkolb, who is another favourite for this year’s elite race.
National performance director Kevin Tabotta wouldn’t go as far to say Australia has its best shot since Mendrisio of winning gold in the event. However, he has faith in what is a very capable roster.
“I certainly believe that we are in the frame – like a lot of nations,” Tabotta told Cycling Weekly in a telephone interview from Spain. “I wouldn’t go as far to say this is our best chance since any time.
“We go to every world title thinking we’re a chance because we have a range of athletes at each world title that suit that course. I mean, we went into last year’s world title with some talented bike riders as well thinking that they were suited to that course … conditions played a little bit of havoc obviously that day.”
Australia will certainly be marked in the undulating circuit race, the outcome of which, based on the course, is even more unpredictable. The onus will too be on the powerhouse nation to work.
“I think that we are a very good chance this year because we have a strong leadership group and we have a very strong support group,” Tabotta continued. “I think it’s one of the best teams we’ve put together in a few years because of availabilities and also people hitting form at the right time. But I also see that there are a number of nations in the same boat.
“We’re in a good position and give ourselves every chance, but it’s got to happen on the road and it’s up to the athletes on the day.”
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Simon Gerrans takes Australian road race national championship win ahead of Cadel Evans and Richie Porte