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Wheels of fortune turn for Matthews

Canberra's Michael Matthews has been named to make his debut for Orica-GreenEDGE as Australia's professional cycling outfit aims to make a powerful start to the new year at the national road racing championships in Ballarat from January 9 to 13.

Team members are looking for back-to-back titles in the men's road race and time trial, as well as a maiden men's national criterium jersey.

Simon Gerrans and Luke Durbridge are out to defend their road and time trial crowns and headline the Orica-GreenEDGE team.

Simon Clarke, who gave the team its first Grand Tour jersey when he claimed this year's Tour of Spain King of the Mountain title, returns, as do former two-time time trial champion Cameron Meyer and the 2003 road champion and six-time Olympian Stuart O'Grady.

Former Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke and Matthew Goss, world road race silver medallist last year, will lead the sprinters, while Matthews, the 2010 under-23 world road race champion, will make his debut after switching from Dutch outfit Rabobank.

This year's Tour of Britain stage winner Leigh Howard and 2010 national road champion Travis Meyer, with Michael Hepburn, Mitch Docker and Wesley Sulzberger, round out the team.


This year Durbridge claimed overall victories in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes and Circuit de la Sarthe, and the individual time trial prologue at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Durbridge was also part of the Orica-GreenEDGE team, with Meyer, which won bronze in the men's team time trial UCI road world championships in the Netherlands.

''Certainly, defending my time trial title is definitely one of my big goals for the nationals and it would be fantastic,'' said Durbridge, 21. ''But I will also be looking to support the team in the road race and maybe even take my own opportunities.''

The time trial is the opening event of the championships on January 9 and, for the first time in the event's history, will be contested on a fully closed course.

Durbridge said this was a vital development for riders.

''It's crucial for full road closures in the time trial … It gives riders a lot of peace of mind when you are humming along with your head down at 60km/h that you are safe.'' AAP