Tasmanian contingent crucial part of team

THIS is the Tasmanian team that will form the backbone of Drapac Cycling's debut season in the ProContinental ranks.

Will Clarke, of Campbell Town, Flowery Gully brothers Bernard and Wes Sulzberger and Hobart's Jai Crawford have teamed up at the Melbourne-based outfit as it steps up a gear this season.

Pictured together at a preseason training camp in Bright, the quartet will contest a hectic program across Australia, Asia and the US.

Drapac opted to forego Victoria's Bay Crit series in favour of the camp in the state's high country with training rides also taking in Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.

The 17-rider team's first goal will be taking on the likes of Orica-GreenEDGE at the national road championships this week before making its debut at Australia's only WorldTour event, the Tour Down Under, courtesy of a wildcard invitation.

The Australian road championships start in Buninyong tomorrow, when Clarke will contest the 45-kilometre elite men's time trial.

Drapac directeur sportif Henk Vogels is optimistic of a solid result.

"I think Will Clarke's going well and he may shock a few in the time trial but I wouldn't put Will Clarke down as a specialist - he's just a beast," Vogels said.

"He's a very strong guy so I think he would be happy with a top-five finish in the time trial championships and we'd be over the moon with that."

Clarke, who finished fourth in 2010, is happy with his start time of 3.05pm.

"I prefer to start maybe a bit earlier so I can catch other riders," he said.

"It gives you a bit more motivation.

"I'm feeling pretty good on the road bike at the moment and while my fourth place came quite a few years ago now, hopefully I can get another top- five performance."

At the Tour Down Under, Clarke will join the Sulzbergers in a team led by Jonathan Cantwell and also including Thomas Palmer, Travis Meyer and Darren Lapthorne.

Clarke will head to Adelaide in high spirits fresh from victory in the Latrobe Criterium on Boxing Day and having enjoyed the biggest win of his career with a breakaway stage victory in the tour a couple of years ago.

Wes Sulzberger's former team, GreenEDGE, and an Australian development team will also contest the January 19-26 tour along with the other 17WorldTour teams.

Launceston riders Matt Goss and Richie Porte will also feature, representing GreenEDGE and Sky respectively.

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