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Photo ©: Schaaf

Jayco Bay Cycling Classic - NE

Geelong, Australia, January 3-7, 2007

Stars return for Bay Series

By Mal Sawford

Can Robbie McEwen claim his seventh title?
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Robbie McEwen (Volvo Team T5) takes out the fourth race in the 2006 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic Series

There could be fireworks in more ways than one as the 2007 edition of the Bay Classic kicks off in Williamstown, Victoria. Not only will a host of up and coming riders be out to try and derail Robbie McEwen's bid for a seventh series win, but the forecast calls for showers and even thunderstorms - which will no doubt cause havoc on the tight and technical city circuit around Williamstown's café district.

Fortunately, the weather should improve for the next two days of racing, but a wet finish to the five day series is on the cards. McEwen will be ably supported in the Volvo team by European team mate Nick Gates and a trio of Queenslanders including Jason Phillips, one of the form riders from the South Bank and Surfers paradise Gran Prix series last month.

Defending champion Hilton Clarke is a non-starter, so finding an obvious challenger to McEwen is a little more complicated. Herald Sun Tour and Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans (Portfolio Partners) has won stages in the Classic and is suited to the tough Port Arlington and Geelong Botanical Gardens circuits, but may not have the speed to challenge McEwen in bunch kicks.

The Skilled team has a trio of fast men in Mark Renshaw, Jeff Hopkins and Tommy Nankervis, not to mention 2006 Sprint King winner Trent Wilson, while the Jayco VIS team is led by Giro d'Italia prologue winner Brett Lancaster. Lancaster has previously ridden the series in support of former team mate Graeme Brown, but this year will lead a young team including Commonwealth Games points race champion Sean Finning and 2006 Australian criterium champion Richard England.

In the women's series, defending champion Katie Mactier will aim for her second title, but without the luxury of the strong Jayco VIS team she led last year. Instead, Mactier will wear the Portfolio Partners strip and have Kiwi sprint ace Joanne Kiesanowski and junior track star Tess Downing for support as she takes on her former team mates, led by Jenny Macpherson, Emma Rickards and Peta Mullens.

Strong competition is also expected from the star studded Pitcher Partners - Jason Nicholls team containing Kate and Natalie Bates, reigning Australian criterium champion Alexis Rhodes and Olivia Gollan. Belinda Goss headlines the Volvo team and has been honing her sprinting skills with lead out rider Briana James in local Melbourne club racing in recent months.