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Tough Dutch cyclist to headline Bay series

AAP logoAAP 27/12/2016 Roger Vaughan

Hard-as-nails Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten will feature in a strong Orica-Scott team at the Bay Cycling Classic series.

Van Vleuten will be the team opportunist in the three-day Mitchelton series which traditionally starts the Australian cycling year.

She was leading the Rio Olympics road race with about 10km left when she overcooked a corner on the notorious Vista Chinesa descent.

Van Vleuten crashed heavily and lay motionless in a gutter for several minutes, leaving onlookers to fear the worst.

She suffered severe concussion and three broken vertebrae in the horrific crash.

But van Vleuten returned to racing a month later, winning the Lotto Belgium Tour.

Even by road cycling's standards, it was an amazing display of toughness.

She also finished fifth in the time trial at the October world road championships.

Van Vleuten will join top Australian Amanda Spratt, former national criterium champion Sarah Roy and youngsters Jenelle Crooks and Jessica Allen in the Orica-Scott team for the series.

The Bay Classic starts as usual with the hotdog circuit at Geelong's Eastern Beach late on New Year's Day, followed by the tough course at Portarlington and the final race on January 2 at suburban Williamstown.

Orica-Scott's defending series champion Gracie Elvin is targeting the Australian champion road race in Buninyong on January 8 and will not compete.

"We are lining up with options for all scenarios," said team boss Gene Bates.

"Annemiek is a really aggressive racer and will take her opportunities, Spratt is more suited to the tougher days like the Portarlington circuit and Roy, as a former national criterium champion, can easily look after herself in the sprints."

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