Australia could be set for a successful cycling world championships in Spain with Orica-GreenEDGE riders Simon Gerrans and Caleb Ewan among the favourites.
By
AAP

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

Australia heads into the UCI Road World Championships as one of the strongest nations with favourites in the team time trial (TTT), the under 23 road race and the flagship elite men's road race.

Orica-GreenEDGE was beaten by just 0.8 seconds in the TTT last year and has vowed to turn the tables on Belgian outfit Omega Pharma-QuickStep when the championships get underway in Spain on Sunday.

When the under 23s roll away later in the week young gun Caleb Ewan will be the clear favourite, and, a few days later, Simon Gerrans will believe he can pull on the rainbow stripes after 255km of elite racing.

Moreover, if Gerrans fails on 28 September, Michael Matthews has what it takes to get over the two climbs on the 18.2km circuit in Ponferrada and contest the sprint.

Orica-GreenEDGE's six-man time trial team includes four Australians, Luke Durbridge, Brett Lancaster, Michael Hepburn and Damien Howson.

Sport director Matt White says after securing bronze in 2012 and silver in 2013 only the top step of the podium will do in 2014.

"We're going to the world championships for one reason and that is to win the gold medal," he declared this week.

Australia's national performance director, Kevin Tabotta, says if the under 23 road race doesn't split to pieces on the climbs "Caleb Ewan will be a big favourite".

But even if it is more selective, Tabotta believes climbers Robert Power and Jack Haig can mix it with the best.

"We are in a really excellent position no matter which way the race goes," said Tabotta.

"I'm really optimistic about the under-23 group."

He must be equally thrilled with the nine-man elite squad.

Gerrans, Matthews and former world champion Cadel Evans will be the protected riders.

"The course really suits Simon Gerrans," Tabotta said of the Victorian who's coming off back-to-back Canadian GP wins.

"It's selective particularly the way it's going to be raced, and you've got the distance playing a factor."

The director thinks so highly of Matthews he compares him to Spanish triple-world champion Oscar Freire.

And Evans, rumoured to retire in early 2015, is always a fierce competitor.

"Once the numbers go on Cadel doesn't just front up to these things to be a passenger," said Tabotta.

Simon Clarke and Heinrich Haussler provide additional options.

The women's team isn't as strong overall but Orica-GreenEDGE expects to medal in the team time trial.

In the road race, Tiffany Cromwell, who finished ninth in 2013, is the standout.

But Tabotta says Ponferrada will also be an opportunity for newcomers such as Katrin Garfoot and Lizzie Williams to impress.

"Putting it all on her (Cromwell's) shoulders isn't really the best strategy.

"It's a group of opportunists ... and we'll be there to take our opportunities rather than dictate terms."

Team management has picked just one rider for each of the under 23, women's and men's individual time trials.

Australia is hoping Campbell Flakemore, Katrin Garfoot and Rohan Dennis, respectively, can finish in the top eight as they progress towards the podium in future years.

The first five days of competition will be live-streamed on the Cycling Central website, while the final two days will be broadcast on SBS ONE and streamed online.