Whatever the odds, Inverell’s Heinrich Haussler has the bearing of a cyclist who knows what it takes to win the Australian road race title.
Haussler is back at the nationals for the first time since he won the race at Buninyong, near Ballarat, four years ago.
He finished third overall at the season-opening Bay Crits series earlier this week and is one of the riders to watch in Sunday afternoon's 185km road race.
Haussler joked that he is "pretty angry" at new Bahrain-Merida teammate Rohan Dennis, who will miss the road race to focus on his title defence on Tuesday in the time trial.
In 2015, Haussler had then-teammate David Tanner for support.
But even on his own, Haussler has the strength and the nous to have a big result in Buninyong.
"It does make it a little bit easier, just to move you up into position every now and again ... just so you don't put yourself in the wind," he said of having a teammate.
"But also every year it's been a different group or a sprint, so it's going to be a bit of a lottery.
"Normally the strongest guys win on that course - it's not a course for a lucky winner.
"So if you have the legs, you're going to be up there any way. We'll see."
Haussler would love to wear the national champion's jersey from January 15 at the Tour Down Under, but is under no illusions about how tough it will be.
Mitchelton-Scott will boast a powerful lineup featuring defending champion Alex Edmondson and former winner Luke Durbridge, plus Mat Hayman and Cam Meyer.
New Lotto-Soudal signing Caleb Ewan will have Adam Hansen for support and they will be a strong duo, while Jay McCarthy is another threat.
"Obviously I didn't come here to just sit in the peloton - it would be a dream to get the jersey back and start at Tour Down Under with the jersey," he said.
"But obviously the whole peloton want to do the same thing."
Haussler is a stage winner at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career.
He said he could never repay his German wife Romi, who is back in Europe minding their twin sons Heinrich and Samuel.
"She puts up with a lot of stuff," he said.
The women's elite road race will start on Sunday at 8.30am (AEDT), with the men to follow at 12.30pm.
On Saturday, Ballarat local Nick White won the men's under-23 road title ahead of Michael Potter and Sam Jenner.
Patrick Eddy and Francesca Sewell took out the under-19 titles, with Neve Bradbury disqualified from the women's gold medal because her bike failed a post-race check.
Australian Associated Press