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57th Jayco Herald Sun Tour - 2.1

Australia, October 12-18, 2008


Sun Tour kickstarts another sensational summer

By Cyclingnews staff

Matt Wilson is the defending champion
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

ProTour squads and some of the world's best riders will surely make this year's Jayco Herald Sun Tour the perfect curtain raiser for a great Australian summer of cycling. Now in its 57th year, Victoria's biggest stage race showcases some of the state's best scenery and culture. Riders travel from Traralgon through to the Victorian Alps and back to the state capital, Melbourne, where cycling is a local religion for some. The Lygon St criterium is a highlight amongst the city's 'Little Italy' district.

Defending champion Matt Wilson returns as the leader for US-based outfit Team Type 1 after he took the title in 2007 with the now-defunct Unibet.com squad. With experienced American Ed Beamon at the helm, look out for the team that supports awareness and treatment of Type 1 diabetes. Wilson will have kiwi rider Glen Chadwick for support, who recently won the overall title at the Vuelta a Mexico and is in the form of his life following an appearance for his country of birth at the Olympics in August.

Team CSC-Saxo Bank is undoubtedly the big drawcard, with three Australians appearing on the road for Bjarne Riis' squad while Brad McGee's brother, Rod, is calling the shots from the team car. McGee, making his final appearance as a professional rider, will be joined by compatriots Stuart O'Grady and Matthew Goss and they will be on the hunt for stage wins. Talented Dane Lars Ytting Bak will be the supporting firepower, himself capable of taking a win.

Cyclingnews spoke with Bak as the CSC team was introduced in Melbourne ahead of the race, and he was confident of a good showing. "Matthew Goss is in really good shape - he's a good sprinter and he did very well in the Tour of Britain and Franco Belge. I also have good form myself, plus Stuart and Brad," he explained. "It's looking good. I've heard that there are a lot of bunch sprints here, so we're in a good position with Matt and Stuart; we'll see how the rest goes.

"I don't know how hard the long day and the time trial are, and we'd like to go for the GC for sure. In a race like this, 10 guys can go up the road on the first stage, and then you need to be in that group otherwise the GC is gone. You have to be awake because all the stages are short; it's going to be intense racing - you have to be up the front and alert. We'll see what happens."

Wes Sulzberger (SouthAustralia.com) will be in the hunt for another stage win
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

After battling injury for several seasons, McGee has decided to quit professional racing but wanted to finish at home. "It was proposed to stop the season straight away, but I said no, this is the perfect way to go out. It feels a bit strange - I have been doing it for 12 years as a professional so it's a bit surreal. "It [the Sun Tour] has got its own identity through the heart land of Victoria; the kids cheerings you on, the Aussie voices over the loud speakers. It's not like anything we have in Europe," explained McGee.

After enjoying plenty of highs and lows in the last two years, Stuart O'Grady is back at the race where he made his comeback late last year, and the significance of that fact is not lost on the perennial frontrunner. "It's a massive difference to last year. After the big crash. it was just a stepping stone. This year, after being on the winning team at the Tour De France, it's a lot different. It's been a massive year; after the Tour we all had a bit of a meltdown at the Olympics, but I am recovered now and looking forward to the race."

There are a host of Victorians returning to home shores after a season overseas who should feature in proceedings, with Will Walker, Baden Cooke, Richard England and Nic Sanderson all lining up on Sunday. They're sure to be amongst the pointy end of any bunch sprint, and look out for Cookie's kick or a dash from Richard in the final criterium or the run into Inverloch.

And while the headlines may focus on the experienced hands before the race starts, it's the young guns that may make them once the flag drops. Riders such as Wes Sulzberger (who won the first stage here last year), Jack Bobridge and Simon Clarke are fast, strong and looking to impress in one of the biggest races they'll ride all season. With the possibility of a break deciding the overall classification, there will be a few eyes kept on the Sulzbergers, especially Wes, who has proven himself at world championship level. The same can be said for their fellow Tasmanian Goss, who stands a good chance of taking something significant from this year's edition.