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Team Sky looking to kick off 2011 with win in Aussie National Road Championship

Simon Gerrans spearheads British team's efforts, with Michael Rogers making debut...

Britain’s Team Sky are targeting early season success this weekend with a presence in the Australian National Road Championships road race which takes place at Mount Buninyong near Ballarat on Sunday.

Simon Gerrans will spearhead the team’s efforts to take the green-and-gold jersey, with new signing Michael Rogers acting as number two in a squad that also includes Chris Sutton, Mat Hayman and Britain’s Ben Swift, riding as a guest ahead of his participation in the Tour Down Under, which starts on 18 January.

The other two Team Sky riders due to ride in the Tour Down Under will be absent from this Sunday's race - Geraint Thomas is still in Britain, while Greg Henderson will be competing in his own national championships in New Zealand.

The 30-year-old Gerrans is in excellent form at the moment, having taken the sprints jersey in last week’s Jayco Bay Classic Series of criteriums, in which Matt Goss of HTColumbia won the overall.

The Australian national title, however, has so far eluded him, a fourth place finish in 2004 being his best effort, although previously he had won the under-23 version of the event.

“I’ve had some good times and bad times at Mt. Buninyong,” Gerrans told Cycling Australia.

“I would love to win an Australian open road championship,” he continued. “It is a race that has eluded me for the past few years.

“I think every Aussie would like to win it, but it’s such a tough race.”

The race takes in 16 laps of a 10.2km circuit and Gerrans has been training in the mountains near his parents home to help get into the right condition for the race.

“I have been working pretty hard on the road but you never know what’s going to happen at Buninyong,” he explained. “The race may unfold not in your favor in the form of an early breakaway and then you’ve just got to deal with it as best you can.”

Gerrans, who is one of a select group of cyclists to have won a stage in each of the Tour de France, Vuelta and Giro d’Italia, the former while riding for Crédit Agricole, the latter two with Cervélo TestTeam, said of his career achievements to date: “It’s pretty satisfying but you take it in your stride. It’s not something you think about all the time. I hope there’s a bit left in me yet.”

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald about the race, Rogers, who has joined Team Sky from HTC-Columbia, said: “It's the best field ever.

''Simon is in pretty good shape and we have a few guys who can support him.
''We are in with a great chance to win.''

Gerrans may be the nominated rider and Rogers his alternate, but with Australia set to lose the Ashes series by a crushing margin on home soil, we’d be interested to see what effect an unexpected victory on Sunday by Yorkshireman Swift would have on the country’s sporting psyche…

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Simon_MacMichael | 13 years ago

Aussie Shane Sutton came third in GB National Championships in 1993 (and came third in Aussie Road Champs a couple of times too). Mind you, he's pretty much an honorary Pom these days  3

cat1commuter | 13 years ago

Their national champs are labelled as "open". I guess the first Australian across the line get to wear the green and gold banded jersey for the next year?

step-hent | 13 years ago

Slightly confused that an Englishman is being allowed to ride the Australian National Championships - seems like an unfair advantage to Gerrans, as Swift will clearly want to work for his team mate, it being impossible for him to take the jersey himself (I assume).

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