Will the road race circuit be conducive to a bunch sprint, or will the large climb on the course be better for a puncheur? One rider who falls into the latter category is favourite Philippe Gilbert, who admits to being a fan of the Australian course.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Because of the technical and twisty start, we hit the foot of the second climb at a quite a low speed,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That makes it especially tough, but good for me.”
It is clear that Gilbert is in good form, winning a brace of stages at the recent Vuelta a EspaÃƒÂ±a and holding the leaderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jersey.
Gilbert comes in good company too, with 13 fellow Belgians joining him on the trip across to Geelong. The same cannot be said for British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who only has two team-mates to help him to the end of the race in the lead group. Cavendish has given himself an “outside chance” of winning the title.
The 262km course includes a couple of gruelling climbs which will have to be negotiated on each of the 11 loops around Geelong. They have been compared to those on the famous Spring classic Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Team Italy manager Paulo Bettini, a winner of the rainbow jersey himself, says he would be extremely surprised to see it end in a bunch sprint.
Other riders up there in the running for the title include Spaniard Ãƒâ€œscar Freire, who first won this title back in 1999 and has won it twice since. Freire, 34, says he has faith in his chances of becoming the first ever rider to win the championships four times.
Fabian Cancellara is one of the few riders in the running for both the Road Race title and the Time Trial crown, and is well known for enjoying this type of hilly stage.
And Russian national champion Alexandr Kolobnev, who finished second last year in Swizerland, cannot be counted out along with Cadel Evans, who is looking to defend his title on home soil.
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