The 'major changes" to the road race courses for this week’s road nationals in Ballarat were said to create a more even playing field, but as far as Anthony Tan is concerned, little has changed between this year and last.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

I have to admit, I'm struggling to get back into the swing of the professional cycling milieu. You, too?
If anything, the race is geared even more heavily towards the mountain goats and Ardennes-style specialists, like defending champ Simon Gerrans.
We're still talking about Lance Armstrong. The plethora of 'independent' reviews, scrutinising the practices of the UCI, Cycling Australia, Orica-GreenEDGE or otherwise, are still pending. The inaugural Change Cycling Now summit changed, um, er, well, nothing. The same people are running a sport exposed as corrupt and fraudulent by the US Anti-Doping Agency's Reasoned Decision dossier.

No wonder the likes of David Walsh, Paul Kimmage and the rest of those – that is, us – who care about salvaging and restoring cycling's battered reputation and its beleaguered victims continue to feel aggrieved and peeved.

As the French saying goes, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

We want to see performances where, five minutes afterwards, we're not asking ourselves, 'Can we believe what we've seen? Was it real?'

In essence, we want to see fair play. Which brings me to this week's Australian national road championships.

A year ago to this day, I penned a blog called just that – 'Fair Play' – where I refuted the suggestion by sparring partner Mike Tomalaris that the national titles remain in Buninyong in the foreseeable future. I also felt that fielding what was essentially a 17-man team tipped the scales too far in favour of one side, turning the race from one of great anticipation to a GreenEDGE fait accompli.

As usual, Tomo won the argument (which doesn't make him right; it just means he won, but I digress). Ballarat will host the championships till at least 2017 and because organisers have deemed the road race to be ostensibly a contest among individuals, Orica-GreenEDGE can field as many of their Australian riders as they want, which they will no doubt do, as come Sunday in Buninyong, anything less than a repeat win will be considered a failure by Patron Saint of Australian Cycling and the year-old outfit's primary benefactor, Gerry Ryan.

The "major changes" to the road race for all categories, to quote the 14 November 2012 press release from Cycling Australia, with the inclusion of a larger 27.7 kilometre circuit coupled with the original 10.2km Buninyong loop, "opens the door to a different style of rider to claim the winners jersey".

"The new section of the road race course refreshes the event for participants and spectators alike," said race director Sean Muir. "Starting the road race on a flatter circuit will allow a more even playing field and will increase the incentive for riders to 'try their luck' off the front to make a break and stay away."

Matt Goss said: "The strongest guy on the day wins and the course changes for 2013 are really exciting. This new course opens the door a little more for the sprinters so I think the 2013 race is going to be an open and exciting one."

And reigning women's champ Amanda Spratt said: "It will create the opportunity for other riders to become more involved in the race, for the climbers and sprinters to use their strengths.

"With the tough loops around Buninyong, it will split the race and encourage riders to make a break and you never know… if someone goes early they might stay away. So I am excited it will be a longer course for the road race; I am used to racing longer races overseas and having the changed format, it will give more people the chance at the national title."

I'm not so sure. In fact, I'm so certain a sprinter will have no chance on this supposedly more open circuit, I'm willing to bet Tomo's house on it, since I do not own one of my own.

Look at the courses closely and you'll see the larger circuit still incorporates the unforgiving Mount Buninyong climb. So for the Under-23 men and women, they will tackle three less circuits than in 2012 for a total of seven ascensions of the 2.1km stepped climb but ride an additional 4.6km for a total distance of 106.6km.

As for the elite men, they will encounter Mt Buninyong just two times less than yesteryear for a total of 14 ascensions but endure another 32.4km for a total distance of 195.6km. If anything, the race is geared even more heavily towards the mountain goats and Ardennes-style specialists, like defending champ Simon Gerrans.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not so unpatriotic that I'm petitioning for a non-GreenEDGE victory. I'm just saying the chances of said occurrence happening is about as likely as me being married with two children in the next 12 months.

Still, I am heartened by what I saw last week at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, where, after perusing the start list before the race started, I was certain a member from the Jayco Australia National Team would win – only to be gladly proved wrong by week's end.

There's also the fact that our National Road Series (NRS) is growing in size and stature, not to mention depth within the top competing teams, so an upset is possible – but with Orica-GreenEDGE holding strength in numbers, just not probable.

So… Will you be watching, and if so, who's your pick? My money's on Simon 'Call Me Maybe' Clarke.