• Simon Gerrans would quite like to wear the green and gold for another year (Getty)Source: Getty
Simon Gerrans is focused on a third victory at the MARS Cycling Australia National Road Championships, which start in Ballarat on Wednesday.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
AAP
5 Jan 2016 - 9:45 AM  UPDATED 7 Jan 2016 - 10:35 AM

Gerrans will lead the Orica-GreenEDGE contingent at the MARS Cycling Australia National Road Championships, which is down on numbers but big on quality.

The good news for rival cyclists is Orica-GreenEDGE will field their smallest contingent in the men's elite road race at the championships. The bad news is their Gerrans has a ferocious determination to put last year's horrors behind him and ensure that Orica-GreenEDGE are still formidable opposition.

Australia's only WorldTour team remain committed to do well at Ballarat's January 6-10 nationals, despite the notable changes to their roster in the off-season.

After four successful years, including three national road race titles, Orica-GreenEDGE are trying to make the transition to a team that can contend in Grand Tours such as the Tour de France.

A side effect is that they will only have eight or nine starters in the elite men's road race on Sunday at Buninyong. Team director Matt White noted that Michael Matthews, who is training in Europe and Rob Power, who is out due to injury, are the only Australians in their squad not racing this week.

"We have just as much importance on the national championships as we've ever had," White said.

"All the Australian races mean a lot to us because we have a six-week window to race at home.

"We have Australian sponsors and a lot of interest, these are the only races we're doing in front of our (home) fans."

Orica-GreenEDGE and their women's team Orica-AIS have made an ideal start to the season, with Caleb Ewan and Gracie Elvin winning the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic criterium series.

Bay Crits titles for Ewan and Elvin
Australian cycling stars Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) showed their class once again in the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic taking the overall titles in the fourth and final stage.

Ewan is the man to beat on Wednesday night for the men's elite criterium title in Ballarat and two-time national champion Elvin will be among the favourites on Sunday morning in the women's road race.

Ewan also finished runner-up to Heinrich Haussler last year in the men's road race. But Gerrans, also a two-time winner at Buninyong, was missing with a broken collarbone. That was the first of a succession of crashes that cruelled Gerrans' season.

Now, Gerrans is fit and he badly wants a return to top form.

"He's definitely our plan A," White said. "He's very reliable on that course, it's a course that suits his characteristics.

"We're going in with the least amount of numbers, with nine, but we have some other options and it's a very, very strong group this year."

Defending champion Haussler will not start, but the nationals feature a host of big domestic names such as Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte (both BMC), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal), Peta Mullens (Wiggle Honda) and Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS).