Injuries hit Australian cycling team
20 September 2013
CYCLING - ROAD: The Australian men's elite team have the firepower to continue their strong form at the world road cycling championships, despite losing key riders to injury.
Cadel Evans, the 2009 world champion, and Richie Porte will be the Australian medal hopes on September 29 in the road race.
The hilly course in and around Florence, Italy will suit their strengths.
Evans returned to form earlier this month with a stage win in the Tour of Alberta and Porte has enjoyed a stellar season.
Australia had a rider on the men's road race podium every year from 2009-2011 and Allan Davis was sixth last year.
Simon Gerrans and Michael Rogers would have been among the first riders selected in the nine-man road race team, but event crashes in the past few weeks put them out of action.
Ironman Adam Hansen, who incredibly has completed the last seven-straight Grand Tours, also ruled himself out of the road race.
Another big name out of the Australian team because of injury is Rachel Neylan, who scored a breakthrough silver medal last year in the women's road race.
Neylan has finally overcome a persistent knee injury, but lacks race condition.
The absence of Gerrans and Rogers and the retirement of Stuart O'Grady will mean a new-look men's road race team for the titles.
Shooting star Rohan Dennis has come into the team and will also join Porte in the individual time trial.
Another big change is the men's team director, with former star Brad McGee making his debut in the national role.
McGee was appointed following the dismissal of Matt White, who confessed late last yeat to doping during his career.
McGee's role is crucial, as he has to bring together high-profile riders who spend most of the year competing against each other in their professional teams.
"I'm really keen to see how that comes together three years out from the Olympics with Brad at the helm now," said Cycling Australia high performance director Kevin Tabotta.
"I'm confident Brad will put that together quite well with those guys."
The main elite women's chances for Australia will be Shara Gillow, who will also ride the time trial, and Tiffany Cromwell.
Under-23 sensation Caleb Ewan might not be a standout on the hilly course, but Tabotta said he could still be a factor.
"He's not a kid who you say 'you can't do it'," Tabotta said.
Campbell Flakemore and Damien Howson are rated solid chances in the men's under-23 time trial and WA rider Robert Power is showing strong form heading into the junior men's road race.
The championships open on Saturday with the men's and women's team time trials.
They are the only two events at the week-long championships that are based on professional, not national, teams.
Orica-GreenEDGE and their women's team Orica-AIS are solid medal chances.