ENTRIES are flooding in for the 104th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic with a number of teams already signaling their interest.
One of those is Israel Start-Up Nation (Israel Cycling Academy), who is preparing to step up onto the highly competitive UCI World Tour.
Canadian Ben Perry, who is on the World Tour team, and continental team rider Estonia's Mihkel Raim will contest their first Classics when the race sets off from Avalon on February 15.
Recently retired Australian professional cyclist and Israel Start-Up Nation team manager Zak Dempster said the team are planning on staying in Australia after the Herald Sun Tour to continue building for upcoming events.
"Ben and Miku are both down to do the Tour of Hainan in China which starts on the 23rd of February," the 2008 Melbourne to Warrnambool winner said.
"So it doesn't make too much sense to do the trip to Europe after Sun Tour, only to turn around and head back the same direction a few days later.
"We organised a mini training camp with some support in Melbourne so they can go about their preparation for the season in warmer climates and the Melbourne to Warrnambool is timed perfectly with that."
Dempster said he expects the pair to be contesting for the win at the end of the 267-kilometre race.
Two-time former champion Nathan Elliott, who finished last year's race 10 minutes behind in 16th, returns for another go at a third title with his InForm TM Insight Make team.
The 29-year-old will be joined by German teammate Raphael Freienstein and fellow Australians Steele Von Hoff, Mark O'Brien, Rudy Porter, Carter Turnbull and Tom Benton.
Freienstein finished fifth last year in the sprint to the finish line along Warrnambool's Raglan Parade which was eventually won by Ballarat's Nick White.
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