There’s no doubt interest has never been as high for the announcement of the elite men’s squad that will tackle the course in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday, September 25.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

With the international cycling scene drawing to
a climax, the sports devotees long for the release of the Australian
team that will assemble for the UCI Road World Championships.

Since Cadel Evans
graced the winner's podium near his Swiss base of Mendrisio in 2009,
draped in the rainbow jersey with a tear in his eye, selection for the
men's squad has become a yearly highlight for me.

Why? Because
those of us who closely follow this wonderful sport seem to have a
healthy opinion, one way or another, on the final make-up of the Aussie
squad.

Who should be in - who should be out?

It's like
waiting for the announcement of our national cricket team about to
embark on an Ashes series, or the Socceroos squad named ahead the next
FIFA World Cup campaign, or even the final roster for the Wallabies as
they prepare for an assault of Rugby's equivalent.

Flash back to
2010 when Robbie McEwen was a shock omission from the final line-up as
Baden Cooke got a surprising call-up for the undulating laps around
Geelong.

Commentary ran hot on the pros and cons of having Robbie
in and/or out, and I can remember Shayne Bannan admitting he spent
hours before deciding on the final nine who had the honour of
representing in the green and gold.

The current 16-man elite
'long team' is a cracker – one that mirrors the reasons for Australia's
top three world ranking as a cycling nation.

How Cycling
Australia's National Performance Director, Kevin Tabotta and Matt White,
the Professional men's co-ordinator, reduce the final selection to the
allocated nine required for the gold medal men's road race in Denmark is
beyond me.

Such is the depth of talent currently available on
the professional roads of Europe and North America, I'm sure any
combination is likely to do a fine job.

Only one thing is certain
– the Aussie team will be missing the "Cadel factor". The reigning Tour
de France champion will effectively end his season after the USA Pro
Cycling Challenge in Colorado this weekend.

But does Australia need Cadel on the flat roads of Copenhagen? Probably not.

If
anything, he would have been considered a better chance of snaring gold
in the time trial but be that as it may – Cadel won't be there.

The
Copenhagen course will be ideally suited to a specialist sprinter – a
fast man who has the team support, individual strength and speed to
topple the likes of Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel (to name just two).

So,
after deep thought and serious consideration, here are my final
Australian nine-man team, in alphabetical order, for the Worlds.

Men's
Road Race: Baden Cooke, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Goss, Leigh Howard,
Heinrich Haussler, Matthew Hayman, Michael Matthews, Stuart O'Grady,
Mark Renshaw.


Those who miss the cut are riders like Adam Hansen, Robbie McEwen, Rory Sutherland, Simon Clarke and Chris Sutton.

I
feel the squad I've nominated is one of balance – a choice of riders
who can win bunch sprints, a selection who have the power to clear over
Geels Bakke near the finish, and the experience to drive a train in the
final kilometres at the end of a long day.

I'd like to think there's plenty of back-up for any unforeseen circumstances over the 266km distance.

But who will be nominated to "go for gold"?

The
obvious choice, given his outstanding first six months of the season is
Matt Goss, but given illness which forced the Tasmanian's stage 2
withdrawal from the Vuelta, I'm starting to lean towards Mark Renshaw or
Michael Matthews to do the job.

If all else fails by all means get Gossy going or even Haussler and Howard as each have the fast legs to challenge all-comers.

Either way, another rainbow jersey on the shoulders of an Australian beckons in 2011.