The men’s 2016 Subaru National Road Series continues this week when the Australian Paper Tour of Gippsland makes its return to the calendar after a one year hiatus. With an honour roll including the likes of the Sulzberger brothers, Leigh Howard and Nathan Haas, the race has been the launch pad for many a professional career. In 2016 the race will cover 450 kilometres over five hard and fast days of racing...
Stage 1 sees the tour kick off with a brand-new and unique criterium circuit in the heart of Traralgon. Featuring only two corners and one sweeping bend, the pace will be fast and the action furious from the gun. With intermediate sprints on laps 15 and 30 there will be no rest for the wicked as riders look for opportunities to pick up early bonuses.
Stage 2 has the tour return to Paynesville for the iconic Paynesville to Metung road race. In 2014 Avanti IsoWhey Sports' Joe Cooper attacked late and soloed to victory in a thrilling finish.
Featuring two sprint points and two category two King of the Mountain climbs over the 105 kilometre stage, all eyes will be on Cooper to see if he can repeat his 2014 performance.
The fast and flowing finale into Metung often lends itself to a bunch sprint, so it will be a brave band of escapees who will need to be on their game if they are to deny a hungry peloton this year.
Stage 3 takes riders from Sale to Gippsland’s oldest port, Port Albert. The second longest stage of the tour at 125 kilometres is one of the fastest on the Subaru National Road Series schedule as tail winds roar off the Bass Strait. The pace will be high and a bunch sprint likely, as the conditions make it difficult for a break to sail away from the peloton.
With time bonuses up for grabs at the intermediate sprint and King of the Mountain points there will be a lot of opportunists trying to get up the road and improve their position on the general classification.
Stage 4 is a new course for the Australian Paper Tour of Gippsland, and is the Queen Stage of the 2016 edition. With 138 kilometres and three category one climbs on the menu, the rider who is hungriest for overall tour honours will need to show his climbing legs on this stage.
The race goes over the aptly named Mt Misery twice, at the 100 and 116 kilometre points.
"This course entices breakaways. An early breakaway of approximately six riders is likely and could extend out to 30 seconds or more quite easily.
"The Gippsland terrain provides the perfect course for cycling with a great mix of challenging mountains that push the riders to their limits. It doesn't get much better than this," Race Director John Trevorrow enthused.
Stage 5 sees no letup in intensity with a punishing criterium in Traralgon concluding the tour. At 45 kilometres in length with intermediate sprints after 10 and 20 laps and a tough climb right at the start line, there are still plenty of opportunities for the general classification to be shaken up.
An extremely daring ride from Tim Roe in 2014 saw him snatch the leaders jersey on a frenetic final day in Traralgon, and with the cream of Australian cycling battling it out for final stage honours, we should expect more of the same.
After a challenging outing at the recent Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, AMR Renault Racing’s Directeur Sportif Russell Menzies is looking for a change of fortunes when the team tackles the picturesque roads of Gippsland.
"No question, King Valley wasn’t what we’d hoped for. We had our share of bad luck, but Gippsland gives us a great chance to regroup quickly and continue building towards our main targets of the season, Canberra and Tasmania.
"On the upside, we’ll be strengthened considerably with the addition of one of our top riders, Josh Aldridge, who’s recently come back across from New Zealand. He was strong for us at G2I earlier in the year and is itching for his second crack at the NRS in 2016.