Porte riding from Port of Sale

TOUR de France star cyclist Richie Porte will be hitting local roads, as a stage of the Sun Tour heads through Wellington Shire in February.

The 161.3 kilometre third stage of Australia’s oldest stage cycling race, on Friday, February 1, will begin at the Port of Sale and head up Maffra-Sale Rd to Maffra, where riders will sprint for points.

Cyclists will ride through Tinamba, and on backroads to Glengarry, then through Tyers, Yallourn North, Willow Grove and Shady Creek, to the finish at Warragul.

After seven years away from the event, and more than his fair share of heartbreak in Europe, one of Australia’s best stage racers returns for the nation’s oldest stage race.

Porte will lead his new 2019 team Trek-Segafredo over 600km of tough Victorian landscape, including the famous ascent at Arthurs Seat. The Tasmanian is looking to join the illustrious honour roll of winners including Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Simon Gerrans and Baden Cooke.

The soon to be 34-year-old said he would be “there to win it”.

“I’ve wanted to do it for years, but it just never really fit or I was riding for teams that weren’t going to do it. But next year with Trek it just worked,” he said.

The 66th tour will be a big component of a busy Australian summer for Porte, with race director Scott McGrory elated such a high calibre talent will be taking on a raft of WorldTour team riders, with teams to be announced shortly.

“Richie brings enormous experience to the race, and I’m sure the crowds will get out to support one of the best Australian cyclists of this generation,” he said.

“There are so many great vantage points to watch the tour and no doubt plenty of fans will wish him well with his new team.”

The complete tour is across five days with the women’s tour showcasing the best female riders on January 30 and 31, with the men riding January 30 to February 3.

Gippsland features strongly this year with the first stage around the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, before Wonthaggi and Churchill become the focus for stage two.

After stage three from Sale to Warragul, stage four will have riders go from Cape Schanck to Arthurs Seat. Stage five will be around Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, replicating parts of the 2006 Commonwealth games circuit.

“The 2019 course is truly spectacular and one of the best courses I think I have ever seen for this race, so I’m really excited to see how the riders themselves like the course,” McGrory said.

“It has a real mix of stages that the fast riders can go for but also in terms of the overall classification — the winner will truly be a top class international cyclist because the climbing stages are very difficult.

“It’s also very spectacular. Definitely at Phillip Island, we all know that place as we see it every year on TV with the MotoGP.

“And then when we go down into Gippsland, which I believe is very underrated by the cyclists around the world just how beautiful and diverse Gippsland is. And the two stages we have through there are both spectacular — one quite difficult and hilly and the other geared towards the sprinters a little bit more but both of them will be fun to race.”