New Zealand will go into this weekendís UCI World Road Cycling Championships in Melbourne with arguably two of the best sprinters in the world in top form.
The question is if the stiff climb on each of the 11 laps of the circuit in Geelong and the 263km will deaden their legs for the all-rounders in the menís race on Sunday.
The championships begin tomorrow with the time trial for elite women and under-23 men where most New Zealandís interest centres on Linda Villumsen, third last year in Italy, and her Commonwealth Games-bound teammate Melissa Holt.
The menís time trial is on Thursday with the under 23 men road race on Friday, elite women on Saturday and men on Sunday. National road race champion Jack Bauer has arrived in Melbourne, flown in from Great Britain for the time trial and back-up in the road race following the withdrawal due to illness of Hawkes Bay rider Jeremy Vennell.
The menís road race starts in Federation Square in downtown Melbourne and after an 80km transition to Geelong, they will hammer out 11 laps of the 15.9km circuit which has a short but telling climb on each lap.
Dean, New Zealandís most celebrated road rider has left no stone unturned in his preparations. The 34 year old from the Garmin Transitions professional team has arrived in cut condition after a three week stint at altitude in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
ďI think I have prepared better for this than at any time in my career. May be it is one last ditch go before I may get too old?
ďItís been hard. I had that problem with the crash in the Vuelta. Since I pulled out of that I have been at altitude in Sierra Nevada. The form has come on very good and I am looking forward to see what I can do,Ē Dean said.
He has been training with the Beijing Olympic champion Sammy Sanchez.
Dean, who rode the course earlier this year, says he is unsure if the sprinters can hold on.
ďIt is a 50:50 call which way it will go between the sprinters and classics riders. I think it is going to be a great race.Ē
Dean enjoyed three podium finishes in the Tour de France and two in the Giro DíItalia this year while Henderson (Team Sky) comes in on top of his points jersey win and stage victory in the Tour of Britain.
Roulston, who also performed strongly in the Vuelta a Espana over the first two weeks of the Tour, says he will be there primarily to work for Dean but if the sprinters are burned off, then the two time Olympic track medallist has the capability to figure at the sharp end of the race.
There are plenty of world class sprinters on show including the likes of Mark Cavendish (GBR), Andrew Greipel (GER), Thor Hushovd (DEN) and Tylar Farrar (USA), some power sprinters like three time world champion Oscar Freire (ESP).
The pure climbers like Andy Schleck (BEL) may not find the climb sufficient to favour them and the powerhouses like three time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (SUI).
That might leave the classics riders like Belgiumís Phillippe Gilbert as a contender in what looks an open race.
Hosts Australia have a massive team to cover most bases although the set up will be for defending champion Cadel Evans on home turf.
New Zealand takes a strong team into the womenís race over 127kms with eight laps of the same tough circuit where Cath Cheatley comes in superb form after overall honours in the USA National Points Series title.
Villumsen has been the workhorse in the HTC Colombia team for the likes of big German Ina Teutenberg (GER) but will relish the chance to have a New Zealand team that might assist her and Cheatley if they can remain in touch.
Organisers had predicted crowds of more than 250,000 for the race, although they now face competition for the attention of the sporting public and media with the replay of their beloved AFL Grand Final on the same day.
The BikeNZ team is:
Elite men: Julian Dean (Rotorua), Hayden Roulston (Christchurch), Greg Henderson (Melbourne). Reserve: Jack Bauer (Nelson). Time Trial: Gordon McCauley (Auckland), Bauer.
Elite women: Cath Cheatley (Wanganui), Linda Villumsen (Auckland), Toni Bradshaw (Counties Manukau), Serena Sheridan (Hawkes Bay), Emma Crum (Auckland), Courteney Lowe (Tauranga). Time trial: Melissa Holt (Cambridge), Villumsen.
Under-23: Michael Vink (Christchurch), Jason Christie (Ashburton), George Bennett (Nelson). Reserves: James Williamson (Alexandra) and Shem Rodger (Cambridge). Time Trial: Vink, Rodger.