The Elite Men’s National Championship Road Race has become something of a numbers game in recent years. And it may well happen again. But you get the feeling things won’t be quite so easy for the OGE juggernaut to dictate things in 2015. Yes, Orica-GreenEDGE has impressive numbers and a stable of globally-accomplished riders. But, just like 2014, Drapac also lines up with real strength in numbers plus an added year of Pro-Conti experience behind them. With the addition of Rohan Dennis and Campbell Flakemore BMC have better numbers than last year when their main man, Cadel Evans, still managed to finish second just behind the now-injured Simon Gerrans. While it’s essentially as you were for Sky with Nathan Earl and the in-form Richie Porte.
Most of the top NRS squads are well represented with quality riders as always but, aside from possibly enjoying some nice TV time in a lengthy breakaway, it’s hard to see any managing to surprise the WorldTour big guns when the whips really begin to crack and the DNFs begin to skyrocket. That said I’m very much looking forward to seeing how emerging guys like Grafton to Inverell winner Sean Lake, Warney winner Oliver Kent-Spark and Avanti’s Ben Dyball fare. Also, you just know Ben Hill is going to have a crack. He always does.
Other interesting riders are Mick Rogers, the Morton brothers Lachlan and Angus who have linked with USA outfit Jelly Belly in 2015, plus lone wolves like Steele Von Hoff, Heinrich Haussler and the guy I’d probably love to see in the green and gold bands more than any other, Lotto-Soudal’s Grand Tour iron man himself, Adam Hansen. The 33-year old has finished second twice and third once in this race, so he’s no stranger to peaking in early January. SportsBet currently has him at $19, which I reckon is well worth a lazy $20. I have no idea how his offseason has been going, but one-time BMC rider Tim Roe, this year backed by the numerical might of Drapac, also isn’t without some appeal at $101 if things go his way. Then again, the same goes for about 25 of the 150+ strong field. It’s all about luck in running.
After the Tasmanian’s fine win in the time trial on Thursday, and his third place here just 12 months ago, Richie Porte is justifiably pre-race favourite ($4) ahead of Cam Meyer ($5.50) and the retiring legend, Cadel Evans ($5.50).
Whoever wins, with so many high quality riders on show it’s sure to be a cracking race. Oh, yeah. And it’s on telly. Live. Whoo-hoo.
Who are you tipping?