An impressive selection of local talent with Richie Porte and Grace Brown will fill some of the international void next month for Australian cycling.
The continued impact of COVID-19 means that Australia’s two biggest annual road events, the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race, have been canceled for the second year in a row.
It was too difficult for international riders to travel to Australia for the events.
But Victoria’s Lexus of Blackburn Bay Classic Criterium will return after a year off on January 8 and 9.
The National Road Championships will follow in Ballarat and Buninyong from January 12-16.
Instead of the Tour Down Under, Adelaide will then host the Santos Festival of Cycling from January 21 to 29.
The centerpiece of the festival will be the men’s and women’s road tours, where Porte and Brown will be the main runners.
Brown was fourth in the women’s road time trial at the Tokyo Olympics, missing bronze by just seven seconds.
After three years of racing for the best Australian team BikeExchange-Jayco, she signed a two-year contract with the French team FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope.
“I’m going to want to have some good races to start in my new colors so hopefully I am successful here,” Brown said at the Bay Classic launch on Tuesday in Geelong.
Tokyo Olympic road time trial bronze medalist Rohan Dennis and fellow stars Luke Durbridge and Cameron Meyer will also take part in the men’s tour in Adelaide.
Another key name will be Luke Plapp, who will attend all three events next month.
He won a bronze medal in the ill-fated team pursuit, where Alex Porter’s broken handlebars deprived the Australians of any hope for a gold medal.
“It was a very interesting and different experience,” Plapp said of Tokyo and its strict pandemic measures.
“It keeps fire in the stomach, wanting to go to Paris and really experience the Games as a party, but also to get this gold medal (team pursuit).
Plapp, 21, has also signed with the best team of the World Tour Ineos Grenadiers, where Porte will be one of his teammates.
Weeks after his Olympic medal, Plapp won silver in the under-23 time trial at the world road championships.
He was part of the squad, made up of the Australian Track Endurance Team, which helped Sam Welsford win the Bay Classic 2020 title.
“It was pretty awesome and it’s also a great springboard for the rest of the year,” he said.
“We were able to get a lot of momentum out of the race in 2020 and we were preparing quite well for the Games, but it ended up being postponed.
“We bring a good team so hopefully we can win. We have the track team again.”
The Bay Classic Shortcut will take place over two days on the Eastern Beach circuit in Geelong.