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The two Robbies: McEwen, Hunter headline Indian races

NASHIK, India (VN) – The “two Robbies” – Robbie Hunter and Robbie McEwen – of RadioShack headline the field for a pair of one-day races in northern India set for Friday and Sunday this weekend.

RadioShack, Liquigas-Cannondale and Team Type 1 are the major teams among 17 squads lining up for the second year of what’s a multi-year project with the long-term goal to create India’s first international stage race.

“Last year we started with the Mumbai circuit race, this year we’re adding a real road race in Nashik,” said race director David McQuaid. “The idea is to add a day every year and grow the organization until we have enough to form a stage race in a few years.”

Last year, J.J. Haedo won the inaugural edition of the Mumbai Cyclothon. The Mumbai circuit race is back and will be joined up with the Nashik Cyclothon, held on an out-and-back route across some spectacular rift valleys in what’s described as India’s wine country.

RadioShack will be the clear favorite with presence of McEwen and Hunter. Also penciled in to start for RadioShack are Michael Kwiatkowski, Sam Bewly and Bjorn Selander.

Liquigas-Cannondale brings top sprinters Tiziano Dall’Antonia and Elia Viviani while Team Type 1 lines up with Alessandro Bazzana, Charles Eldridge, Alexey Shmidt, Martijn Vershoor, Andrea Grendene and Fabio Calabria.

Another name to watch is 40-year-old Jaan Kirsipuu, who will be starting with the Champion team.

Other teams include national teams from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as well as continental teams such as Endura and Team Bonitas.

The South African Bonitas squad flew into Mumbai early Wednesday morning and then took the four-hour bus ride up to Nashik, a holy city sitting at about 1,800 vertical feet.

“We have the Tour of South Africa next week, so we thought it would be good to bring the guys here to test the legs under race conditions,” said Bonitas team manager Malcolm Lange. “It was a long flight but we raced here last year. We hope the event keeps growing because we want to race more internationally in the coming years.”

Italian pro-continental team Androni-Giacottoli was a last-minute scratch after the squad could not get their required Indian visas in time for this weekend’s events.

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