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Dennis, Brown eye road race breakthroughs

Rohan Dennis and Grace Brown have unfinished business after reclaiming the time trial crowns at the Australian road cycling championships.

The Tokyo Olympians demonstrated they have brought strong form to the nationals by winning Wednesday’s elite time trials and they are among the favourites on Sunday for the blue riband road races.

But Dennis has not raced the championship road race on the testing Buninyong circuit, near Ballarat, since 2018 and also has never finished the event.

Brown has a different motivation to claim the women’s road race title, having finished runner-up last year as well as twice finishing third.

The elite road races at the nationals are always complicated in their tactics and usually become battles of attrition.

Adding to the compexity, COVID-19 means several top Australian riders are staying in Europe.

That means no big block of BikeExchange-Jayco riders controlling the races and giving their rivals a marker.

But what BikeExchange-Jayco lack in quantity on Sunday, they will make up for with quality.

Luke Durbridge is a two-time road race Australian champion and he finished runner-up to Dennis in Wednesday’s time trial.

Cameron Meyer is the two-time defending champion and they will also have Callum Scotson for support.

“There will be a lot of respect on Sunday – he loves the long, hard slogs, him and Cam especially,” Dennis said of Durbridge.

“I’m sure they’ll remember what happened (on Wednesday) and make my life as hard as possible.

“I’ve never finished the race before, so that’s one goal I’d like to complete this year and hopefully it’s with another (title).

“The podium would be great – obviously I always aim for the top step, but the podium is not easy to achieve in the road race. I will give it a good, hard crack.”

Dennis will also have new Jumbo-Visma teammate Chris Harper in the field and he has twice finished on the podium.

Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) is another WorldTour rider who should be prominent.

Likewise, the women’s field will feature new BikeExchange-Jayco signing Ruby Roseman-Gannon, who won Friday night’s national criterium title to continue her strong start to the year.

Alex Manly gave Roseman-Gannon the perfect leadout in Friday’s race and they will work together again on Sunday.

Former winner Peta Mullens and Rachel Neylan are other prominent names in the women’s field.

The 104.4km women’s road race will start at 8.30am on Sunday and feature nine circuits at Buninyong.

The men’s race is 185.6km, with 16 laps and starts at 12.30.

On Saturday, Blake Quick backed up from his win last weekend in the Bay Classic series to win the men’s under-23 road race title at Buninyong ahead of Matthew Dinham and Tristan Saunders.

Paige Greco, Stuart Jones, Stuart Tripp and Carol Cooke were among the Paralympic stars to also claim road race titles.

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