Tour de France stage winner Simon Gerrans has set himself for a dynamite start to the 2014 season, with eyes firmly fixed on a third Jayco Herald Sun Tour victory in February.
Gerrans, who became just the sixth Australian in history to wear the Tour de France yellow jersey in his most successful season to date, returns to his home race in pursuit of a trio of Sun Tour victories, following his back-to-back win in 2005 and 2006.
“The Jayco Herald Sun Tour is a race that I grew up watching as a kid and it was always such a big highlight of my season early in my career so it’s always great to have the opportunity to go back and compete in the race again and with an Aussie professional team as well,” Gerrans said.
“The form coming into summer is good.
“Obviously because I am in the middle of a heavy training load it’s hard to gauge exactly where I am at but everything feels like it is on track at the moment and probably even slightly in front of where I would normally be at this time of year.
“We should have a really competitive line up with the team with a mix of experience and younger guys and we should have all bases covered.
“We expect to be competitive in all of the stages, from the sprint stages to the hillier ones and a couple of us will be coming off a block of racing in January so we should be in strong shape for the race.”
A victory for the 33-year-old would make him just the fourth rider in history to win the Tour on three separate occasions – alongside Barry Waddell, Graham McVilly and race director John Trevorrow.
Victoria’s oldest and most prestigious stage race returns to a UCI 2.1 international level in 2014 and moves to a new February timeslot for five days of thrilling racing from Wednesday 5 to Sunday 9.
Bringing cycling to the people, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour will kick start with a post-work crowd pleaser - a twilight city centre prologue starting from Birrarung Marr and finishing at Queensbridge Square in Southbank.
The Tour then moves to regional Victoria for a stage one journey from Geelong to Ballarat, stage two trip from Ballarat to Bendigo and stage three lap around the Mitchelton Winery and Nagambie region.
The final and decisive day of racing will return to popular Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula for a spectator friendly three-lap circuit of the challenging climb and mountain top finish in conjunction with the popular Amy’s Ride participation event.
Gerrans, who has just returned from an Orica-GreenEDGE team training camp where he was resigned to the fact that he is ‘well and truly one of the older guys’ following some key squad changes over the break, has commended the change of racing calendar for providing the best opportunities for Australian riders to prepare for the European season.
“Moving the Jayco Herald Sun Tour to the February timeslot has worked out really well because it has allowed me to stay in Australia in the good weather for an extra few weeks and miss a stage race over in Europe in the cold conditions,” Gerrans explained.
“The first thing I will be doing following the Sun Tour is having a little rest and travelling over to Europe. With such a heavy racing schedule to get things started it’s actually really important that you back things off a little bit again in order to peak again for the Spring Classics which will be the next big goal of mine in Europe.”
Executive general manager of Herald and Weekly Times, Peter Clark is looking forward to welcoming Gerrans and some of the world’s best riders, but also thousands of recreational riders who can take part in Amy’s Ride Victoria in conjunction with the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
“Every year, Australian and overseas riders get to experience the very best of Victoria on the Herald Sun Tour. At the Herald and Weekly Times, we love that Herald Sun readers across the state get to see our home-grown Tour, up close, as it travels through,” Clark said.
“With the popularity of cycling as an elite sport, as transport or just for fun and fitness, we are delighted that the Amy Gillett Foundation’s public event, Amy’s Ride Victoria, will run in conjunction with the 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, for the first time.”
Minister for Sport and Recreation Hugh Delahunty also said Victorian’s were in for a treat this summer.
“We are pleased to be able to support the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic through our major events funding and the Significant Sporting Events Program which keeps Victoria in the national and international spotlight and allows the likes of Simon Gerrans, Mitch Docker and Peta Mullens to race on home soil,” Minister Delahunty said.
“What an opportunity it is for Victorians to be able to watch one of just six Australian Tour de France yellow jersey holders race on their local streets and I encourage everyone from the regional centres the Tour visits and those in the centre of Melbourne to get roadside for a great summer of cycling action.”