Cycling circuit kicks off in Nagambie

By Liam Nash

Pedals will fly and lanes will be lit up when cyclists competing in next year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour make their way from Nagambie to Shepparton during February’s five-day event.

Locals will have the chance to witness international talent tackle Australia’s oldest stage race, with day one of the tour based in the Goulburn Valley.

Starting in the Strathbogie Shire on February 5, stage one for the men will consist of a gruelling 122.4 km ride from Nagambie to Shepparton, where the peloton will traverse a mix of wide and narrow roads over undulating landscape that will bring about some spectacular sprints from the riders.

Shepparton will also feature as part of the blossoming two-day Lexus of Blackburn Women's Herald Sun Tour.

Standing in the way of the women is a demanding 94.5 km circuit around Shepparton’s outer regions on day one, where participants will be forced to push their legs to the limit in a course which is expected to blow the playing field wide open early on.

The location of the tour’s opening day has been strategically chosen to drop the riding group directly into adverse conditions and challenge competitors to test their full measures, according to tour race director Scott McGrory.

“The flatter stages around the Shepparton region are expected to throw up some crosswind challenges and ‘elbows-out’ finish lines that will suit the sprinters with raw power,” McGrory said.

“We’ve also picked some good quality, but narrow, roads to really force the issue.

“The teams that come prepared and have scouted the course will have an advantage to make sure they’re in the right positions in case there’s crosswinds or a dangerous moment.”

With a plethora of world-class sprinters expected to compete in the tour, the drawcard of next year’s race will be two mountaintop finishes on Mt Buller and Falls Creek, the first of its kind in the race's 67-year history.

“It gives the riders who love going uphill a great opportunity, without those two mountaintop stages being brutal. The climbs are obviously difficult, but the stages themselves are not overly difficult before they get there,” McGrory said.

Competitors will ride more than 600 km during the five-day event in an attempt to join the race’s distinguished list of winners, including cycling royalty such as Tour de France champions Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins.