"I'd say, across the board, it's a stronger team this year. And it's a stronger team based on the course, it suits this group more this year than last year."
At 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Cycling Australia's chief selector, Shayne Bannan, outlined his reasons for choosing the deserving nine slated to compete in this year's men's elite world championships road race.
With defending champion Cadel Evans, of course, they are Baden Cooke, Allan Davis, Simon Gerrans, Matt Goss, Mathew Hayman, Stuart O'Grady, Michael Rogers and Wesley Sulzberger.
That Bannan Ã¢â¬â along with the two other selectors, Brian Stephens and Rik Fulcher Ã¢â¬â believe the squad chosen to contest the 260-kilometre elite men's road race is, on paper, superior to the nine he selected the previous year, should give Aussie cycling fans a lot of hope.
Let's face it: with a slew of contenders Ã¢â¬â enough to field three top-notch Worlds teams, when you think about it Ã¢â¬â it was always going to be a tough decision.
And after listening to Bannan's logic, despite having some initial reservations, I completely understand and agree with the choice he has made Ã¢â¬â a selection that I hope will deliver Australia back-to-back world road champions.
"No question, it was a lot of hours [and] a lot of discussion to finalise this team, over an extended period of time," Bannan conceded.
"The course does determine the type of riders selected, the composition, and the balance in the team that we're after."
In fact, Bannan was less concerned with his choice of riders, which he divided into leaders (Evans, Gerrans), "second-tier leaders" (Goss, Davis) and workers (Hayman, Rogers, O'Grady, Cooke, Sulzberger) than the actual course.
Some parts are exposed to potentially wild winds Ã¢â¬â that being the 80-odd kilometres from Melbourne's Federation Square Ã¢â¬â and other parts are yet to be built, namely the bridge leading to the second climb on the final circuit in Geelong.
"If we look at the course, the unknown is really the weather conditions. So the first 83 kilometres may or may not play a role in the race," Bannan explained.
"The only part of the course that I haven't actually seen is the bridge that's been constructed at the moment.
"What I understand is that it will play a significant role; the speed will really be nullified before they hit the second climb [of the Geelong circuit]. And that will play a major role, particularly in the last two or three laps."
Asked to compare this year's parcours with other Worlds courses, Bannan replied: "This course is probably a little bit more difficult than Madrid, so it's around a Stuttgart [or] Salzburg type of course.
"The big difference being Ã¢â¬â and this is where it could play a significant difference in how the course is raced Ã¢â¬â is that the [elevation gain] is in the last 180 kilometres, as opposed to 3,076 metres being spread over the 260-kilometre distance."
True enough, when one takes this into account, the final eleven circuits make this Worlds course on par with Mendrisio, which boasted an elevation gain of 4,655 metres Ã¢â¬â but over the total 262.2km distance.
"So therefore the type of rider we were looking for is somebody you would consider successful and play a significant roles in races like the Ardennes Classics, being the Amstel Gold Race, LiÃ¨ge, and to a lesser extent, Gent-Wevelgem. So they're the type of characteristics we're after," Bannan reasoned.
But really, Shayne, what we all want to know is this: is Australia a bona-fide contender to win again, and create another defining page in cycling's greatest annals?
"I believe we are. I believe we've selected a really well-balanced team. I believe we're a definite medal chance," he said.
In my next blog, I'll outline the reasons why some riders were selected, and others didn't make the cut.