News: Aussie Sun Tour Preview

British riders looking to challenge for the overall in the Australian classic stage race, the Sun Tour

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News: Aussie Sun Tour Preview

Jayco Herald Sun Tour in 2017 – Defending champion Froome warns of an ‘even more competitive’

Note: For those in the northern hemisphere, the prologue will begin on Wednesday, 1st February at 7.15am concluding at 8.30am. 

Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s bid for a back-to-back Jayco Herald Sun Tour victory begins on Wednesday evening with the 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race set to get underway in the heart of Melbourne.

Three former winners of the ‘Sun Tour’ will be attempting to stop the Team Sky leader, including Simon Gerrans (ORICA-Scott), Cameron Meyer (Korda Mentha Australian National Team), and Calvin Watson (Aqua Blue Sport).

Adding to the intrigue, 2016 Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves gives ORICA-Scott a two-pronged attack with a battle royale on the Sun Tour’s climbs set to decide the 2017 winner.
Froome said that the five days ahead are not about ‘defending’ last year’s win. “People ask me the same thing about the Tour de France – going there as defending champion,” he explained. “Personally I don’t like to look at it like that. It’s a clean slate each time you go in and you’ve got everything to gain as opposed to going in there with a defensive mindset. Every edition’s different and I’m here to race to the best of my ability,” Froome said.

Team Sky had control of the yellow jersey from stage 1 through to the finale on Arthurs Seat in 2016, but Froome laughed off any suggestion that a repeat performance would be a fait accompli. “It’s not easy at all,” Froome scoffed.

“This year’s going to be even more competitive with the likes of Chaves (above) here. It looks like he’s in great shape after a good block of racing already. I think we’ve got a good team down here as well. Unfortunately we’re a rider short but what we lack there I think we make up with in the quality of the rest of the guys.

“Last year I saw that the level of racing here in Australia’s really high for the local level and I think that there are more and more guys who wouldn’t necessarily be on our radars who we’re racing against here,” Froome said of the local Australian Continental contingent lining up to take on Team Sky. “I’ve got no doubt they’ll be up there this week. It’s a good field and a good opportunity for them to test themselves against us and vice versa.”

Gerrans, who claimed back-to-back sun Tours in 2005-2006 is in top form off the back of his nail-bitingly-close runner-up finish at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race at the weekend. While ORICA-Scott will be aiming to have ‘Colombian Kangaroo’ Chaves in yellow on Sunday, Gerrans will be playing the role of team captain and hopefully be able to target stage wins in Beechworth and Kinglake.

Caleb Ewan and new signing for JLT Condor Brenton Jones going man-o-man in the Bay Crits

“There are a couple of stages, possibly the one after Falls Creek that I think I can be a real contender for but the big objective this week is to win the overall,” he explained. “If stage 1 goes well and we’ve got Esteban right up there hopefully we’ll be defending a lead from there on.

“Esteban’s looking really good. We’ve seen him perform well already on courses which really don’t suit his capabilities down to the ground. Once we get up in the big mountains, up in the Victorian Alps we’ll see Esteban come into his own.”

While Froome and Chaves have held the spotlight in the lead up to the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, race director John Trevorrow said that a host of local riders will be right in the battle for overall hours, naming Ben Dyball (St. George Continental), Lucas Hamilton and Michael Storer (Korda Mentha Australian National Team) as men to watch. Trevorrow, a three-time Sun Tour winner, said that Filipino rider Marcelo Felipe from the visiting 7 Eleven – Sava RBP team is someone who could spring a surprise on the peloton.

“I don’t think it will be a two-horse race from the beginning. I think we’ll have a few more than that in it,” he said.

British team JLT Condor get a head start on the other British teams with a start in this major Australian event with a strong international line-up. Having spent a lot of time preparing for the race in Bendigo, they will look to capitalise on good form following race wins at the Mitchelton Bay Classic and NZ Classic in their first showing against World Tour opposition.

The Sun Tour will be Ian Bibby’s first big test for 2017 after his Bay Crit Series win

Described as “one of the toughest courses in the history of the race,” the five day race begins with a crowd pleasing prologue in Melbourne before heading out of the metropolitan areas for a hilly romp across the state of Victoria.

John Herety highlighted that sprinter, Brenton Jones has ear marked the prologue for a good performance and the flat and fast stage three. “Stage three is for the pure fast men. On paper stage two from Mt Beauty to Beechworth is a sprinters day but the 2nd category climb 15km before the finish will reduce the bunch. It could be a day for one of our other riders like Ian Bibby who can punch over the climbs.”

Brenton Jones is well supported by Alex Frame, who is in good form following two sprint wins at the New Zealand Classic. Climbers Edmund Bradbury and Mitchelton Bay Classic winner, Ian Bibby will be keen to test their legs after a month of training in Bendigo.

James Gullen gets his first stage race with his new team alongside Mr Reliable Ali Slater.

Ed Bradbury also starts his first stage race with the men in dark blue in the Sun Tour

Stage winner in New Zealand, Alex Frame will be one for the sprints

Ian Bibby
James Gullen
Edmund Bradbury
Steve Lampier
Alex Frame
Brenton Jones
Ali Slater

For British fans, also racing will Be Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard (both team Sky), Conor Dunne, and Kiwi Taylor Gunman (Madison Genesis) racing for New Zealand. Taylor says of the opportunity to ride the Sun Tour,  “It’ll be a good test and I’ll be ready for Normandie come March. This is definitely an opportunity you can’t pass up I’ve always wanted to do the Sun Tour and with the national team it will be really cool a good group of guys.”

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The course
It’s a fast and furious start to the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour and keeping with recent tradition, the action begins with a 2.1km individual time trial for the KordaMentha Real Estate Prologue in the heart of Melbourne.

Cycling fans and commuters have the chance to get up close and personal at the end of their workday with a course that makes the most of the city’s magnificent backdrop. The 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour journey begins at the start house located on stage at Federation Square, and from there, riders will make a beeline for the Princes Bridge crossing the Yarra River and then swinging 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 two-and-a-half minutes.

Brenton Jones, a key new signing for the team

The action will shift dramatically, from Melbourne’s CBD to Victoria’s spectacular high country for Falls Creek Stage 1, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour traversing Tawonga Gap and Falls Creek for the first time since 2007. Departing Wangaratta, the longest stage of the 64th edition of the race at 174.2km will be action packed with the battle for yellow set to explode over the next four days. The 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour won’t be won on Thursday, but this is the day for the true contenders to make their intentions known.

Stage 2 at 165.6km in length will be another day where the general classification really takes shape. Leaving Mount Beauty, the KOMs will bookend the stage, which is largely flat but it’s the conclusion of the stage that will force the selection. The 11km climb to Stanley only 10km from the finish in Beechworth should result in a reduced bunch to determine the stage win.

Stage 3 is 167.7km of racing the sprinters will be waiting for. The road will head skywards at the Strathbogie Ranges at around the halfway mark of the stage, but the long, flat run to the finish gives the fast men plenty of time to recover. The road into the Mitchelton Winery and then to the finish line requires perfect positioning so the lead-out trains will need to be at the top of their game.

Stage 4 is the stunning conclusion to the toughest Jayco Herald Sun Tour seen in years. It’s a new stage, but one that is familiar to any cyclist who has spent time in Melbourne. The 121km of racing comprises of four laps around a Kinglake circuit that will decide who takes home the yellow jersey. The climb itself is seven kilometres long and expect the last lap to take around 14 minutes and the circuit format will require the teams attempting to put their leader on the podium to be highly vigilant. Froome and Chaves are favourites to rise to the challenge and take home the trophy, but could a darkhorse cause an upset?

The 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be presented by Jayco and the Herald Sun, along with the continued support from the Victorian State Government.

2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour
What: 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race
When: Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5th February 2017

Prologue, Wednesday, February 1: Melbourne, 2.1km
Stage 1, Thursday, February 2: Wangaratta – Falls Creek, 169.9km
Stage 2, Friday, February 3: Mt Beauty – Beechworth, 165.9km
Stage 3, Saturday, February 4: Benalla – Mitchelton Winery, 165.6km
Stage 4, Sunday, February 5: Kinglake Loop, 121km



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