Clarke seeking the edge on Sun Tour rivals
Defending champion Simon Clarke says he’s ready to fight for his Jayco Herald Sun Tour title when the race begins in Melbourne tomorrow evening.
The 62nd edition of Australia’s oldest stage race opens with a twilight 2.1km individual time trial prologue along the Yarra River, which last year attracted a crowd of 25,000 to Federation Square and Southbank Promenade.
Sounds of the Tour: Audio from today’s media activity including interviews with Simon Clarke, Robert Power, Tyler Farrar and race director John Trevorrow, are available here.
Pictures from today’s media activity, credit Con Chronis, are available here.
Speaking on the eve of this year’s race Clarke (ORICA-GreenEDGE) recognised the importance of being ready to go for the city prologue if he is to defend his title.
Only four riders in the events history have defended their title, Peter Panton (1959-60), Barry Waddell who won five consecutive titles between (1964-68), Graham McVilly (1973-74) and Clarkes ORICA-GreenEDGE teammate Simon Gerrans (2005-06).
“Obviously the idea is to beat all the GC (general classification) guys tomorrow and if I can beat anyone else at the same time it’s a bonus,” he said. “You just need to try and get as much head start on those guys as you can to give yourself a bit of a buffer depending on how the rest of the race unfolds,” Clarke said.
The Victorian, who finished runner-up to Etixx-QuickStep’s Gianni Meersman on Sunday at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong, is in form and ready for the five days of racing to come at the Sun Tour.
“Everything’s on track personally and with the team I don’t think that it could have gone any better on Sunday,” he explained.
“The Tour Down Under in supporting Daryl Impey was a good block for me in preparation for the Sun Tour and I don’t think I could be any more prepared than I am coming into tomorrow.”
While it’s the climbers who will ultimately decide who will take overall honours in this year’s event, a crack field of sprinters has assembled in Melbourne. One of those is MTN-Qhubeka’s Tyler Farrar, a winner of stages in each of cycling’s grand tours. Together with Australia’s Matt Goss, Farrar will be out to get the South African outfit’s season off to a winning start.
“It’s a really strong field here,” the American rider said. “I think everyone’s excited to kick the season off with some big results. Obviously Steele [Von Hoff, Korda Mentha Australian Team] has already shown just how well he’s riding. Caleb Ewan [ORICA-GreenEDGE] as well with the Nationals,” Farrah said.
“At MTN-Qhubeka we definitely want to walk away with a stage win from the next five days so we’ll be doing our best to make things happen.”
Minister for Tourism, Major Events and Sport John Eren said that the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, in bringing to a close a packed summer of cycling, was a boon for the community taking in both the City of Melbourne and regional Victoria.
“Cycling is front and centre with 850,000 people cycling in Victoria, this is a very important sport,” he said. “All of the riders behind me will contribute to making sure this event is successful as well,” Eren said in reference to the representatives of the 16 teams participating in this year’s race.
Race director and three-time Sun Tour winner John Trevorrow is very pleased with the quality of the peloton with teams from South Africa, Italy, the United States and New Zealand joining the best that Australia has to offer.
“It is a wonderful mix,” he said.
“You’ve got to remember that the Jayco Herald Sun Tour is different to the Tour Down Under and even Cadel’s race – it’s about having as many Australian riders as possible racing. It always has been. It’s been a wonderful avenue for Australia’s up and comers to race against world class riders and that’s the part that makes the Jayco Herald Sun Tour pretty special,” Trevorrow said.
KordaMentha Prologue – 2.1km
The first leader of the 62nd Sun Tour will be decided following a 2.1km race against the clock at twilight in Melbourne’s CBD.
The prologue route differs slightly from the one seen in 2014. This year’s start house is on stage at Federation Square and after heading over the bridge across the Yarra River, riders will hang a left into Alexandra Gardens. Slightly undulating, a few technical corners will slow momentum before the rise from Boathouse Drive onto the Capital City Trail. From there, it’s a downhill, fast run into the finish along Southbank Promenade that is only interrupted by a deviation near the pedestrian bridge. Expect the winner to get to the finish on the edge of Queensbridge Square in around three minutes.
Stage 1 – Mount Macedon - Bendigo – 146.2km
The climb up Mt. Alexander proved decisive in the overall victory of Simon Clarke (ORICA-GreenEDGE) last year but with a slightly longer run into the finish in Bendigo, more of the peloton will be hoping to make an impact on the race on stage 1. It’s a tough start to the day with a climb up Mt Macedon just 10km into the 146.2km stage. The largely downhill run through Kyneton, Malmsbury and Taradale should see any splits within the peloton neutralised before the five kilometre-long Mt Alexander climb. Along with the rough surface of the climb, with sections which top a gradient of 10%, the pressure can be applied by the race favourites before arriving in Bendigo from the north. The proud cycling community of Bendigo get a great opportunity to see the peloton with a six kilometre loop around the city set to determine a new race leader.
Stage 2 – Bendigo – Nagambie - 117.9km
Stage 2 begins with a lap around Bendigo’s iconic Tom Flood velodrome before the Sun Tour’s sprint contenders get their chance to shine. A few bergs punctuate the easterly run into Nagambie via Strathfieldsaye past Lake Eppalock, the little village of Redesdale and Heathcote. Fittingly, the 117.9km stage will reach a conclusion alongside the statue of champion sprinter, Black Caviar, the most famous sporting export of Nagambie.
Stage 3 – Mitchelton Winery – Nagambie – 146.7km
The longest stage of the 2015 Jayco Herald Sun Tour at 146.7km gets underway from the beautiful Mitchelton Winery on the banks of the Goulburn River. The peloton will head south alongside the waterway before the fast run into Yea. Looping north, the Ghin Ghin Road climb will test riders over seven kilometres, twisting and undulating. A short respite follows downhill before a second climb on Highland Road. Overall, it’s a nasty segment, with an average gradient of 6%, the climb will top out at 15% before the peloton heads back towards Seymour. If the sprinters have recovered, they will battle for stage honours again in Nagambie.
Stage 4 – Arthurs Seat – 122km
The 62nd Sun Tour will reach a thrilling conclusion with stage 4, with Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula once again taking centre stage. A neutral descent off the peak will take the peloton to a circuit south through Boneo, cutting through the National Park before the first of three ascents of Arthurs Seat. At just three kilometres in length, the climb is not a long one but it is punishing. Crowds can get up close to the unfolding drama as the peloton winds its way up Arthurs Seat with its hairpin turns that can result in gradients of up to 18%. A battle of attrition will result in only a select few fighting for victory and cementing their name in the history books as overall winner.
Jayco Herald Sun Tour
62nd edition of Victoria’s oldest stage race
Wednesday 4th to Sunday 8th February 2015
KordaMentha Real Estate Prologue - Wed 4th Feb – Melbourne Southbank – 2.1km
Team Presentation (3.45pm) Cycling (6.15pm-7.30pm)
Stage 1 - Thurs 5th Feb – Mt Macedon to Bendigo – 146.2km (10.30am-2.40pm*)
Stage 2 – Fri 6th Feb - Bendigo to Nagambie – 117.9km (10.30am-1.40pm*)
Stage 3 – Sat 7th Feb – Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie – 146.7km (10.30am-2.20pm*)
Stage 4 – Sun 8th Feb – Arthurs Seat Finale – 122km (2.00pm-5.00pm*)
*Approx stage finish times based on pace of the peloton