• OGE vs The World... a familiar sight at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. (Kathryn Watt)Source: Kathryn Watt
So long as Cycling Australia places no limit on the number of riders per team, the Australian road championships, irrespective of course, will forever be a lopsided affair, writes Anthony Tan.
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12 Jan 2016 - 2:18 PM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2016 - 2:39 PM

It would be easy to slam Orica-GreenEDGE after Sunday's elite men's road race but does that tell you the whole story?

Was it a simple case of David (that being Jack Bobridge of Trek-Segafredo) defeating the OGE Goliath?

"Addressing the imbalance between teams will not only create a fairer race, but a better and more exciting one, and thus a more deserving winner."

OGE, with nine riders taking to the start in Buninyong, was the best-represented team. Since the team's WorldTour arrival in 2012, when they rocked up to the blue riband event of the national championships with thirteen - thirteen! - men, they always have been.

This, and having won three out of the last four editions, made them an easy target - before, during, and after, the race Sunday.

For anyone who doesn't ride for Orica-GreenEDGE, the objective, it seems, is to not let a rider from Orica-GreenEDGE win.

Okay, they're the only WorldTour squad, they have the numbers, and as such, a large part of the responsibility lies on them to dictate proceeedings, or at the very least, attempt to control the situation throughout.

While it is true that OGE left the chase much too late - they really only got going around lap 11 of 18, when Bobridge's advantage was a cavernous nine minutes - other well-represented teams were equal to blame.

As Cameron Meyer said afterwards, "Once I heard the situation and that Jack was in (the break), I am thinking 2011 when he won, and (that) they are giving (him) a bit too much gap. For the big teams of Orica and Avanti, (I thought), 'It's too big - you let Jack Bobridge go like that, it's going to be a hard chase'. You could see it was too big to bring back."

Drapac Professional Cycling was another that was left wanting. If Meyer, who was in the peloton till three laps to go, could sense the danger, surely others could, too?

That some teams had riders in no-man's land, in between Bobridge and the peloton, was also no excuse. These piggies in the middle weren't strong enough to go with Bobridge and his erstwhile companion Bernard Sulzberger of Drapac, and with the mercury at 31 degrees C, like the Christmas turkey you had far too much of, were being slow-cooked to perfection.

On a course as tough as Buninyong, sitting on OGE for as long as you can and waiting for the decisive move to come from them doesn't win you the bike race. Ever since 2002, when it was first introduced and won by Robbie McEwen, it never has won the bike race.

If, however, the objective is to be the best placed non-WorldTour rider and thus guarantee yourself a start at the Tour Down Under, then that's a different story again.

Bobridge's superlative ride notwithstanding, there's enough class and depth in Australian cycling to say today's riders are not intimidated by Orica-GreenEDGE.

For future editions, perhaps this dependence on the tactics and whims of OGE could be balanced not just by a change of course, as Cycling Central editor Phil Gomes suggested in his most recent blogpost (FWIW, I'm in favour of that, too), but more easily, a limit to the number of riders from any one team.

Road cycling, at this level, has always been a numbers game.

Addressing the imbalance between teams will, in my mind, not only create a fairer race, but a better and more exciting one, and thus a more deserving winner. A cap of say, seven riders per team, seems fair.

Otherwise, look forward to another case of 'OGE versus the rest' next January... Woo-hoo.

A cap on riders per team at the road nationals?
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