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Cycling calendar continues to expand

AAP logoAAP 31/12/2016 Roger Vaughan

The new Race Melbourne event means an even busier Australian cycling schedule at the start of 2017. Here are the key events through January and early February.

January 1-3

Mitchelton Bay Classic criterium series

Geelong, Portarlington and Williamstown

The traditional start to the year for Australian cycling has lost a day because of the busy calendar. Always one for the sprinters.

Riders to watch: Caleb Ewan, Chloe Hosking, Annamiek van Vleuten (Ned)

January 4-8

Mars Australian road cycling championships

Wednesday - criteriums (Ballarat)

Thursday - individual time trials (Buninyong)

Saturday - men's under-23 road race (Buninyong)

Sunday - men's and women's elite road races (Buninyong)

The nationals have again attracted strong fields, with Richie Porte the notable absentee because of his Tour de France ambitions.

Riders to watch: Ewan, Kimberley Wells, Sarah Roy, Sam Welsford (criteriums), Rohan Dennis and Katrin Garfoot (time trials), Simon Gerrans, Adam Hansen, Gracie Elvin, Amanda Spratt, Peta Mullen (elite road races), Lucas Hamilton (under-23 road race)

January 14-22

Santos Tour Down Under

Adelaide

Each year, race director Mike Turtur manages to find a way to make the World Tour opener a bit harder. This stopped being a sprinter's paradise several years ago and while a couple of stages will end with bunch sprints, the overall title will go to a climber or a strong all-rounder.

Riders to watch: World champion Peter Sagan, Gerrans, Porte, Esteban Chavez.

Santos Women's Tour

January 14-17

Adelaide

Once a support event for the men's Tour Down Under, the women's Tour keeps growing in status. It now features two street criteriums and two open-road stages. A solid January hit-out for riders looking to the European spring classics.

Riders to watch: Spratt, van Vleuten, Garfoot.

MND Track Classic

January 20

Adelaide Superdrome

The event will raise money for MND research and is a show of support for former Australian sprint coach Gary West, who has the disease. Some of track cycling's biggest names of the last two decades are said to be riding, including French great Felecia Ballanger.

Race Melbourne

January 26

Albert Park F1 circuit

The latest addition to Australian cycling's crammed January schedule is a kermesse, or circuit race around the grand prix track and will features most of the riders competing in the Cadel Evans men's and women's races.

Riders to watch: Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Gbr), Caleb Ewan.

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Rd race

January 28-29

Geelong

The men's race has now achieved World Tour status, although not all teams at that level will compete. The races are held on a solid course in and around Geelong and an all-rounder, rather than a sprinter will probably win.

Riders to watch: Peter Kennaugh (Gbr) and Spratt are the defending champions, Froome will also compete.

Herald Sun Tour

February 1-5

Melbourne, country Victoria

There are significant course changes, with a Falls Creek summit finish in stage one and the Queen Stage on the final day moving from Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula to Kinglake north of the city.

Riders to watch: Froome, Gerrans, Chavez.

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