All eyes to follow the best and brightest cycling talents

SIMON Gerrans: an ORICA-GreenEDGE team leader, the only Australian to win stages in the three grand tours – the Tour de France, Giro D’Italia and Vuelta A Espana; a yellow jersey holder in 2013 Tour De France and 2012 national road race champion.

Richie Porte: a super domestique and one of the key men in the Sky team behind the 2012 Tour de France victory on Bradley Wiggins and 2013 Tour de France win of Chris Broome, now preparing to be team leader in this year’s Giro D’Italia when he will get his chance for grand tour honours.

Cameron Meyer: a two-time national time trial champion and national criterium champion, 2013 Tour de France stage winner team time trial (ORICA-GreenEDGE) and track world champion.

The rich talents of defending champion Luke Durbridge, Matt Goss, Michael Matthews, Steele Van Hoff, Darren Lapthorne and Simon Clarke.

What a line-up for the MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships elite men’s road race at Buninyong tomorrow.

Then there is Cadel Evans.

Is there any need to say more?

For cycling aficionados and general sports fans, the answer is no.

Evans is a household name in Australia, and across the sporting world.

That comes with winning the biggest annual sporting in the world, the Tour de France, which he did in 2011.

Evans, whose home is just an hour down the Midland Highway from Buninyong at Barwon Heads, is also a world champion.

In typical fashion, there will be no special pre-race fanfare for Evans tomorrow.

The naturally quiet cycling legend, who has never looked completely comfortably in the media spotlight, is apparently going to slip into town as quietly as possible.

Once he is on the ground and his BMC Racing colours sighted though, it is difficult to imagine anything low-key about his presence.

This is the biggest national cycling championship of all.

Every Australian road cyclist wants to win it.

No doubt Evans has the same desire, given it is one event he does not have on his resume.

Can he win it?

Of course he can.

He has to be among the top 20 in a world class 150-plus strong field.

But will he win it?

Most say he cannot.

Even Evans is playing down his chances given he is nowhere near full race fitness or fully wound up.

His main focus for a much earlier than usual start to his racing campaign is the Tour Down Under in South Australia, when he will have the support of his BMC Racing team.

The road race is an individual event, but teams are a big factor.

Evans will be isolated, as will largely be the likes of Porte and criterium champion Steele Van Hoff against the big numbers of ORICA-GreenEDGE and Drapac, with the latter desperate to make a big impact against GreenEDGE, which has produced the past

two champions in Gerrans and Durbridge.

Evans will be a marked man –  something he is generally accustomed to being.

He knows he will be shadowed wherever he goes.

With the crowd expected to break the 20,000-barrier for the first time owing to the presence of Evans, the biggest focus will be on the superstar.

While it would be it unbelievable if he did win, this is not about Evans winning.

For Australian cycling, it is great to see in the national championships an event which should be contested by the best.

After all, it is a title only won by the best and this is a sporting moment to be savoured.

david.brehaut@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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