Australians planning for a sprint at Games road race

It’s not like an Australian national team to be bullish or anything, but the Australian men’s road race team reckons the Commonwealth Games road race is going to end in a sprint.

Two days before the Commonwealth Games men’s road race, the Australian team already has a clear idea of how the race will unfold and end. “It’ll be a sprint,” stated Nathan Haas, with simple authority and confidence.

And how can he be so sure?

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“Because we’ll make sure it finishes that way!” laughed the Garmin rider. Beside him, Orica GreenEdge’s Michael Hepburn nodded his approval.

And weren’t they worried that somehow that famous Aussie grit and team spirit would be undone by trade team loyalties? “No, we’re here and we know what we need to do to get the result we want, that won’t be an issue,” replied Hepburn, almost bristling at the question. “We’re professionals,” added Haas.

Clearly, the Australian team is the one to beat and, looking at the line-up of Haas, Hepburn, Simon Clarke, Rohan Dennis, Luke Durbridge, Mark Renshaw and young Caleb Ewan, you’re not going to find a stronger line up on the Games start sheet. Gathered on a grassy knoll outside the athletes village in Dalmarnock for a final meet the press session, the team was relaxed and joking.

Mark Renshaw, the oldest rider among them, agreed that they had all the bases covered and that he had spoken to his Omega Pharma team mate Mark Cavendish about the course. “People looking at the result (of the 2013 British Road Race Championships) might have thought that because Mark won it was a sprinters course, but it wasn’t and that wasn’t the way he won,” said Renshaw.

“But I think we’ve got a good young team here. I feel pretty good, after the Tour de France I went back down to my home in Monaco for three days and my legs feel fine.”

The question though, is who the Australians will be riding for assuming it does come down to a sprint since with Renshaw and Ewan, they have two of the fastest riders in the field.

With that duo as well as Clarke and the rest, the Australian team looks like it has strength in depth. “Riding for Australia is still a big deal, representing your country is important. I know not many European pros will know about the Commonwealth Games, but it’s important back home.”

A medal might not add any leverage to Renshaw’s contract negotiations with Patrick Lefevre, but it would mean a lot to Renshaw. “I’ve never won a medal when I’ve been riding for Australia.” Not yet anyway. Tune in on Sunday afternoon.