Ewan ready to fire at cycling nationals

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    After misfiring on New Years Day, the Orica-Scott machine is ready to roll into Ballarat.

    Australia’s top cycling team will again provide many of the favourites at the national road championships, which start on Wednesday night with the criteriums.

    Caleb Ewan is the defending champion in the men’s elite criterium and Orica-Scott will also field a powerful team for the women’s race.

    While Sarah Roy won the criterium title three years ago and is Orica-Scott’s main sprint option, Jessica Allen showed she is a dangerous breakaway option with her form in the Bay Classic series.

    The Bay Classic criteriums started badly for Orica-Scott on Sunday when they were caught out in the women’s race and Ewan then crashed on the last corner while leading the men.

    British rider Ian Bibby and former Orica-Scott member Valentina Scandolara went on to win the three-race series after taking out the opening round.

    But Orica-Scott bounced back quickly, winning the next two men’s and women’s races.

    Amanda Spratt nearly lapped the field at Portarlington and Allen took second overall with her win at Williamstown.

    Michael Hepburn soloed to his first Bay Classic win in race two and Ewan proved he has put his crash behind him by taking out the final round.

    “It makes me feel like I have all bases covered going into nationals, so I’m feeling good,” Ewan said.

    But for all Orica-Scott’s strength, national road titles are not a given.

    Sophie Mackay was an unheralded winner of the women’s criterium last year and Kimberley Wells is a two-time champion.

    Steele von Hoff, another two-time national criterium champion, and Brenton Jones will provide stiff opposition for Ewan.

    The criteriums will be held on Sturt St in Ballarat, starting with the men’s under-23 race at 4.30pm AEDT.

    © AAP 2017