Cyclists pursue gold on Ballarat's roads

JUST days after racing on the streets around the Bay, many of the country's best cyclists are bound for Wednesday's start to the national road titles at Ballarat.

Although he was runner-up in the Mitchelton Wines-backed Bay criterium series, Bendigo's Zak Dempster has bypassed Thursday's criterium in Ballarat's centre.

Dempster is one of many central Victorian-based cyclists who will compete in one, two or all three disciplines at the Mars-backed Australian road titles.

The action begins at 10.30am on Wednesday when the under-23 time trial is contested.

Riders will race 28km on the Burrumbeet course.

The elite women and under-23 women's time trials, also 28km, begin at noon.

Finale to the titles opening day will be the elite men's 45km time trial from 2.30pm.

Barkers Creek's Lachlan Norris has spent most of the year racing in Britain and across Europe.

An Australian representative at multiple world mountain bike titles, Norris will be chasing gold in the elite time trial and road race.

Bendigo clubmates Jack Haig and Robert Oakenfull will contest the under-23 time trial.

A big year for Haig, racing for Huon-Genesys, was capped by winning the Subaru-backed national road series.

Racing moves to the streets on Thursday evening.

Duels for the criterium crowns will be over 30 or 40 laps on the 1.1km circuit which starts on Sturt Street.

Contenders for the under-23 men's 33km race, which starts at 4.30pm, include Bendigo's  Jack Haig, Sam Crome, Chris Hamilton, Aidan Bowe and Tasman Nankervis.

They will face a great test against NSW gun Caleb Ewan, winner of the 2013 Bay criterium series.

The elite women's and under-23 women's field will start at 5.30pm and race 33km.

Those to watch in the 30-lap contest include Bendigo's Peta Mullens, Beth Duryea and Kate Finegan.

Gold for the elite men will be decided after 44km, 40 laps.

Bendigo's Darren Lapthorne and Robbie Hucker are team-mates with Drapac, while Horsham's Mark O'Brien is another to watch.

After Friday's rest the road battles will be on Saturday and Sunday.

The under-23 men's road race is 132.6km and starts at 9am on Saturday.

A field which includes Bowe, Crome, Haig, Hamilton, Nankervis and Oakenfull will race 13 laps of the 10.2km circuit.

The elite women's and under-23 women's race lasts 102km and starts at 1.30pm.

Duryea, Finegan and Mullens will race on the daunting course.

The championships finale is the men's 183.6km race from 11.30am on Sunday.

There are 154 entrants for the race which will be televised live on SBS. 

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