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Australian Open Road Championships - CN

Mt Torrens, Australia, January 11-January 14, 2006

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Race 6 - January 14: Elite Men's Road Race, 175.5 km

Preview: All out in Mt Torrens

By Les Clarke in Adelaide

Robbie McEwen (Lotto)
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With defending champion Robbie McEwen lining up for the 175.5 kilometres in Mt Torrens on Saturday, many observers will be expecting another victory from the Queenslander. But as was seen in the women's road race on Friday, there could be a few surprises in store for the men's race as gusty conditions play games with the favourites.

Another factor which may produce a surprise winner is that gun riders such as Cadel Evans, Henk Vogels, Stuart O'Grady and Michael Rogers have chosen not to ride at their national championships this January, opting instead to skip an Australian programme or focus on the Tour Down Under during their time in Adelaide. The question is; what motivates these riders to skip an important event on the Australian calendar? Last year's field boasted most of the biggest names in Australian men's cycling, but in 2006 it may just be that the race interferes too much with rider's programmes, or it could be that these riders consider a 175km slug in tough conditions simply not worth it.

No Cadel Evans in 2006
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Credit Agricole's new Australian signing, Mark Renshaw, isn't sure why there so many of the big names are missing from the starting list, although he does know he's got the form to have a shot at a podium place. Having arrived in Adelaide on Friday, Renshaw will ride the men's road race before moving onto the Tour Down Under, an event he enjoys and stands a good chance of performing well in.

"I don't know why some of the guys have chosen to miss nationals," said Renshaw shortly after arriving in Adelaide, and couldn't explain why Robbie McEwen's teammates, for example, wouldn't want to ride nationals. "I know Robbie wouldn't mind a hand race, so...I can't really explain why." Asked how he thinks things will pan out on the day, Renshaw said, "It's always hard from the gun - no one's hanging about. I'll be flying with a few other guys as I don't have any of my teammates with me. Guys like Robbie [McEwen] [Simon] Gerrans and even Cookie [Baden Cooke] look like they can do something," he said.

No O'Grady either
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As for his own preparations, Renshaw said that after riding the Bay Classic he's taken a week off to recover and do a few motorcycle sessions in his hometown of Bathurst. He says that He's "hoping to get a podium or top five" placing, and at the end of the day believes one of the race favourites will get up. This is the belief of some of the women's field, who rode their race today and believe that an outside chance could take the main prize. Riders such as Peter McDonald surely come into reckoning, considering his penchant for longer distances.

A definite chance for the win would be AG2R's Simon Gerrans - his performances in last year's Tour de France and a win in the 2005 Herald Sun Tour indicate he has the ability and maturity to cope with the big occassions, so look out for the Victorian in any significant moves off the front. Another rider in this position is Queenslander Allan Davis - he's got the experience and ability to do anything on his day; but as with most one-day hitouts, everything has to be perfect on that one day, and that can require some luck! But one thing's for certain - the racing's bounnd to hard and very fast very early on the roads outside Adelaide for the national champion's jersey.

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