FORMER national road race champion Simon Gerrans and his team ORICA-GreenEDGE are bracing for a battle with a newly upgraded rival in the MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships elite men’s road race at Buninyong on Sunday.
Gerrans said his teammates were preparing for battle with pro-continental team Drapac.
“Drapac is definitely a threat,” Gerrans said at an ORICA-GreenEDGE launch in Melbourne yesterday.
“They’ll have 14 guys (more than anyone else) on the starting line and they’ll be just as determined as anyone.”
Gerrans believes an early training regime had him in good form for Sunday.
“I’m feeling good, I’ve had a great pre-season,” he said.
“I finished my 2013 season early at the Tour of Spain, so I started training late October.”
He crashed in the Tour of Spain in September and had to withdraw with a broken hip.
“I quite like the Buninyong course. I like the hills,” Gerrans said.
“It’s quite a tough race. Anyone who can win there is deserving.
“The nationals are definitely a good hit out before the Tour Down Under. It would be an honour to (again) wear the green and gold jersey.”
An advantage for Gerrans is Cycling Australia reverting to the hilly 10.2km circuit at Buninyong for the whole race.
Last year, it inserted flatter sections early in the race after years of debate about whether the course should change.
Asked if the return to the old race format would suit him, Gerrans said: “I think so, the fact the race is a bit more selective, being just on the short laps.”
But Gerrans also knows he will be a marked man throughout the event.
“So for me to win on the day, I have to be the strongest guy in the race,” he said.
Gerrans also said the likely addition of Tour de France champion Cadel Evans to the race meant there would be a greater challenge to conquer.
“Obviously Cadel is a major contender,” Gerrans said.
“His disadvantage is that he is by himself and without teammates.”