Nathan Burrell (left), Alex Evans (centre) and Julian Thomson. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

TWO track world champions will headline a strong field for this weekend’s Bendigo District Cycling Club Merv Dean Memorial Tour.

The three-day classic starts on Saturday and sees a host of talented riders from all age groups lining up.

Track world champions Sam Welsford and Kelland O’Brien have entered the event, reprising the South Australian Institute of Sport connection with former Bendigonian and national track coach Tim Decker.

Decker himself is also entered in the three-day event which he won in 2009.

Young climbing star Alex Evans will also line up following a stellar start to the year including an eighth overall finish in the Herald Sun Tour and time spent racing in the United States.

Defending champion Trent Stevenson, 2014 winner Alistair Donohoe and 2011 champion Brendan Schultz are among the others to have entered.

BDCC president Syd Anstee said the club is thrilled with the depth of talent in the race.

“It’s great to have so many strong riders in the A-grade this year, obviously Sam and Kelland are the big two names in there but there’s a really strong bunch of locals too,” he said.

“You’ve got older guys like Trent Stevenson and Brendan Schultz who are really experienced and then young guys like Nathan Burrell, Julian Thomson and Alex Evans who are really exciting talents.

”But you look through the list and there’s probably 15 guys who could potentially win it.”

The race was first held in 1960 and is named after 1963 winner Merv Dean, who was a longtime rider and volunteer with the club.

Saturday’s first stage is a hilly 87-kilometre test with two laps of a circuit taking in Harcourt, Faraday, Sutton Grange and Harcourt North as it circles Mount Alexander.

The race heads north-west for stage two on Sunday, a 12-kilometre individual time trial circuit starting and finishing at the Bridgewater football ground and heading along Bridgewater-Maldon Road.

Stage three will be held later that day, riders heading west from Bridgewater to Inglewood before taking in Kingower, Rheola, Tarnagulla and Newbridge before the dash to the line alongside the Loddon.

The race’s final stage starts at 12.20pm on Monday, with an hour-long criterium at the Huntly Saleyards.

“I think the course gives the real opportunity for anyone to win the race,” Anstee said.

“If you look at that first stage it will suit the climbers, no doubt. The second stage is a time trial, but at 12km the climbers may not lose as much time as they would in a longer time trial.

“That third stage is a real mix and the road from Newbridge to Bridgewater is pretty exposed and if it gets windy there could be some big time won or lost.

“That final criterium also opens up opportunities for the likes of Stevenson and Schultz who are specialists in that discipline to potentially do some damage.”

A total of 80-90 riders are expected to line up in the three grades of racing.

The club will also be running a junior club tour over the three days.

– Joel Peterson