Kiama kid ready to upset champion

CYCLING 

If any rider is to upset defending champion Chris Sutton in the NSW Grand Prix Cycling Series men's event at Cronulla and Wollongong this weekend it could well be Illawarra Academy of Sport graduates Caleb Ewan or Aaron Donnelly.

Sutton, of St George Cycling Club and riding for Team Sky, is the pre-race favourite aiming to repeat his series wins in 2010 and 2011.

However, Ewan, 18, and Kiama's Donnelly, 21, are two outstanding young riders who will be out to break his winning sequence.

Moss Vale sensation Ewan will ride for the NSWIS team while Donnelly is riding for Jayco AIS with one of his teammates from Adelaide, Damien Howson.

Donnelly recorded a sensational second place in the toughest race in Australia - the famous Melbourne to Warrnambool in mid-October, and that was after he had a fall early in the race.

Ewan is making his own presence felt, not just in Australia but throughout the world.

This year he won the world under 19 omnium world championship, the ironman of cycling.

Last year Ewan finish third in a three-way photo finish at the Cronulla Grand Prix, just centimetres away from beating world under 23 road champion Michael Matthews and eventual series winner Sutton.

Ewan then went on to win two stages in the Jayco Bay Series and has taken over the mantle from Robbie McEwen as Australia's best road sprinter.

Donnelly took in the Flagstaff Hill circuit yesterday and is ready for some hectic racing in both Cronulla and Wollongong over the weekend.

"I'm feeling good. The form's all coming along well," Donnelly said.

"Hopefully I'll be able to put in a good ride.

"There's a few big names coming down so it will be a tough race but, yeah, I'm feeling good.

"I've been picking up some good results.

"Melbourne to Warrnambool was huge for me, especially after the misfortune early in the year."

Donnelly broke a bone and tore ligaments in his wrist in an accident on the stairs at the AIS European base in Italy.

"I've come back pretty strong and hopefully can continue the good run on the weekend.

"After Warrnambool I went to China for a nine-day tour there, then came home and had a bit of time off to recover for a couple of weeks. Then got back into it, been back into it for a good four or five weeks now.

"So everything's coming along well."

Racing at Cronulla and Wollongong means a lot to Donnelly, as it does for all the other riders from the Illawarra and neighbouring area.

"It's not very often you get to do a race in your backyard sort of thing," he said.

"I'll have lots of family support and everything there and hopefully be able to put on a good show."

Donnelly said the criterium circuit would be testing, with the speed on from the start.

"It's a very tight course, very short, 660 metres, very fast, fast finish down the hill, tight corner to take you back up the hill.

"Going back up the hill - however many laps we do - is going to test the legs out.

"From the gun it will be on. Everyone will be very aggressive, fighting for positions to make sure that they hit that climb well.

"Chris would be the favourite, I guess, after winning it the past two years. But GreenEdge are bringing a strong team and Chris doesn't really have any teammates here.

"And I think Caleb Ewan will be up there and one to watch."

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