A DIFFERENT but exciting Tour of Gippsland begins on Thursday morning in Inverloch.
For the first time, the four-day cycling event will include Australia’s best home-grown men and women and includes a host of world cycling champions.
Another first is that the Tour of Gippsland will be a criterium series which makes the racing accessible to the spectators.
Criterium racing is one of the most spectacular and exciting forms of the sport of cycling. Raced around short circuits, it’s like a mix of road and track racing and it allows the spectators to catch all the action with plenty of thrills and the occasional spill.
The race begins at noon on Thursday in central Inverloch, with Sale hosting stage two on Friday, Bairnsdale on Saturday and the finale in Traralgon on Sunday.
The men will race one hour plus five laps for the first three days with the finale being stretched out to 90min.
The women’s event is 45min plus five laps for the first three days and one hour for the final race in Traralgon.
The tour is part of Cycling Australia’s National Road Series and the valuable points up for grabs will play a crucial role in deciding the winner in both the men and women.
The super strong Isowhey Sports SwissWellness team leads the series with Michael Freiberg, winner of last weekend’s Melbourne to Warrnambool Nathan Elliott and Anthony Giacoppo forming a powerhouse line-up.
Wildcard team Mitchelton Scott – The Australian National Track Endurance Team – will line up with six world champions, and while Sam Welsford who finished second in the ‘Warrny’ is the team’s hot favourite, this team is bursting with talent and all are capable of victory.
Liam White from the talented Drapac Pat’s Veg team is sure to challenge, while young South African Brendan Davids has been a revelation in Australia in the few short weeks he has been here.
The final women’s tour on the NRS calendar is likely to be dominated by the powerful High 5 Dream team with Rebecca Wiasak the form rider.
However, NRS series leader Shannon Malseed has the backing of a strong Holden Women’s Racing team eager to ensure they take both the team’s and individual rankings.
A strong TIS Racing line-up will see former junior world champion Macey Stewart suited to this style of racing and Georgia Baker finding form after coming back from illness.
The Australian men’s track endurance team will compete under a wildcard entry in the Tour of Gippsland.
Head coach Tim Decker said he chose the enter the team into the series as an ideal training event.
“We are in the early part of our longer-term preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“The guys have been doing a lot of individual training to enhance weaknesses. The Tour of Gippsland is a great opportunity to compete in a block of racing to break up the individual training they have been doing and see the improvements.
“We are here to race as hard and good as they can do, on any given day.”
In one of the closest bunch finishers the Melbourne to Warrnambool has seen, Welsford finished second behind Nathan Elliot over the weekend.
“There is a huge team aspect to racing in the Tour of Gippsland (and Melbourne to Warrnambool). It’s about developing the team more and racing together under pressure to perform,” Decker said.
Not only will the team participate in each stage of the criterium series, it will also take part in the community engagement program, including school visits across Gippsland.
“I see that as huge part of their development,” Decker said.
“It’s great for the athletes to get involved in visiting and speaking in front of a school audience, to be put out of comfort zone.
“My hope is that this helps inspire. If they inspire one child to take up this beautiful sport, then it is well and truly worth it.”
For more event information and key times visit www.tourofgippsland.com.