Australia will field one of the strongest road cycling teams in Olympic history this July-August, spearheaded by five of the best male riders in the world.
With what seems like an endless array of talent in Australia’s road cycling ranks, the men’s team features Australia’s first ever Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, sprint superstar Matt Goss, 2012 Milan-San Remo Classic winner Simon Gerrans, triple individual time trial world champion Michael Rogers and Stuart O’Grady who will join an elite club of six-time Olympians.
The men’s road race will be staged on the first day of Olympic competition (July 28) and will be followed by the women’s road race on Day 2 (July 29).
In the women’s event, Australia will have a three-pronged attack from rising stars Shara Gillow, Chloe Hosking and Amanda Spratt. The three debutants will look to replicate the achievement of Sara Carrigan, who won road race gold at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Australia has also qualified starting places, two men’s and one women’s, in the time trials to be raced on Day 5 (August 1).
“This has been one of the most difficult team selections in Australia's cycling history because we really have enough talent to field two teams of Olympic standard,” said Australian professional men’s coordinator and Athens Olympian Matt White.
“We have more than 30 Aussie riders in the ProTour and they're major contributors to their respective teams,” he said. “It's a great position to be in and we're really pleased with the riders we'll be putting on the start line.
“The team has a lot of experience with Stuey (O’Grady), Cadel (Evans), Mick (Rogers) and Simon (Gerrans) - all having raced at Olympics, or five Olympics in the case of Stuey. Matt (Goss) might be an Olympic debutant but he's already notched up some solid 'big race' experience.”
“The selectors have chosen a team based on our race strategies for London - but we won't be going into detail about what those strategies are for obvious reasons. What I can say is that we're definitely in the hunt to challenge for the top step of the podium.”
The riders are currently with their respective professional road teams preparing for the Tour de France that starts this weekend in Belgium. Evans is hoping to defend his history making 2011 title.
“The riders will come together the day after the Tour to prepare as a team,” said White. “It will just be a matter of maintaining the form they'll have from the three weeks of racing in France.”
Preparation for the women will see all them competing on the road in the Women’s Tour of Italy, Giro Donne beginning on June 29. Spratt and Hosking will continue racing on the road in early July while Gillow, who will contest both the road race and time trial, will train at altitude to prepare for her Olympic campaign.
“I always ride to win,” said the 2011 Australian Female Road Cyclist of the Year and Giro Donne stage-winner.
“I have high expectations. I love riding time trials and this one is one I would love to win gold for Australia in. In the road race I will be working hard to achieve our team goal and follow the plan we go in with.”
Gillow has cycling in her blood with her father David having competed for Zimbabwe at the 1980 Moscow Games.
“Selection for me is an honour and a wonderful goal to have achieved. I think every cyclist would have the Olympics as one of their major career goals.”