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By Ray Chesterton in Beijing, September 12, 2008

AUSTRALIA'S Paralympic star Michael Milton has cut back his cycling program to just one more race - but it's the showstopper of the sport.

Milton will make his international debut as a road racer over a gruelling 60.5km course tomorrow (Saturday) in predicted high temperatures.

He is up against a championship field, including a Spanish cyclist who once beat legendary Lance Armstrong in a mountain leg of the Tour de France. In a later race he crashed and now competes at the Paralympics in a cerebral palsy category.

Milton accepts that finishing out of the medals in a slow time in the 3000m individual pursuit was less than he expected in Beijing.

He is now looking at the road race as a new challenge and withdrew from the 20km time trial scheduled for today to focus completely on the punishing event. "I didn't want to race two days in a row," Milton said.

"I guess the road race events for me are the fun stuff. The indoor was the serious part of the Games for me. I hear the scenery is very nice along the route," he said.

Milton said he could not explain his slower than expected times in the velodrome, including his 3000m time.

"I was in a good position at the 2K mark but I just died in the last kilometre," he said.

"I went about three seconds faster than my time in Beijing to qualify for the Games and that was back in April. But we just have to move on."

Milton is putting a light slant on his situation, perhaps realising it will take extraordinary willpower and endurance to get among the medals in his road debut against such a classy field.

No one has worked harder to become a cyclist at the Paralympics than Milton, whose extensive fame came from six Paralympic gold medals during a long career as a snow skier.

His already-shortened preparation for Beijing was further interrupted by an operation to remove his oesophagus and much of his stomach because of cancer.

He said the championship quality of the road-race field was reflected in the big names taking part.

"There are so many big names that I don't know where to start," he said.

"But Great Britain, Spain, France and the US are all there.

"It's going to be an interesting experience for me. Because I've never been to an international road race before it will be good to go out and see how fast the boys will go, and how long I can hold on."

Milton said his own tactics would be determined by the opposition. "We'll see what happens when we come down to the final few kilometres."

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