Whoever gets crowned overall winner in this year’s Tour of Tasmania is going to have to like climbing...
The 365.4-kilometre course is nothing short of brutal, beginning with a 670-metre uphill prologue and continuing on a similar gradient for much of the next four days.
Stage one ends with the climb to Grindelwald, stage two incorporates the infamous undulations of Gunns Plains and the 103.8km queen stage finishes with the ascent up Poatina Hill won by Richie Porte in 2008 en route to claiming overall victory and a passage to a success-strewn pro career.
By the time the 97-strong field arrives in Devonport for Sunday’s final-stage 30-lap criterium it will be grateful for a profile map that doesn’t resemble a heart-rate monitor.
The race which helped launch the careers of Tour de France stars Porte and Cadel Evans has again assembled a classy field of potential future champions.
After five rounds of the National Road Series, the Avanti IsoWhey Sports team of Tasmanian Andrew Christie-Johnston dominates the standings, led by Joseph Cooper (48 points), Patrick Shaw (44), Sam Crome (24) and Patrick Lane (19) in the top four positions.
Former New Zealand national road race champion Cooper, who has won the last three NRS races, and Victorian Shaw will both seek to extend their tallies this week in what is considered the marquee event of the series.
State of Matter MAAP Racing leads the opposition, with a strong squad including Jesse Kerrison and Dylan Sunderland.
“We are going to Tasmania hunting for a general classification victory, in addition to the green jersey and some stage wins,” said Inverell-born Sunderland, who won the Grindelwald stage last year with a late breakaway.
“This is one of the toughest tours on the calendar. It would be fantastic to get away with the overall win, but the form of Avanti will make that a challenging task.”
Former winner Bernard Sulzberger, of Legana, leads the home-state contingent by mentoring the latest crop of young TIS talent while Launceston’s Tom Robinson (SOM) and Hobart’s Jai Crawford (JML) bring plenty of experience to their teams.
Several Tasmanians are entering as individuals including Launceston’s former rowing world champion Ali Foot and versatile mountain bike specialists Michael Smith and Alex Lack.
Meanwhile the list of team sporting directors reads like a who’s who of Australian cycling including Olympic and world champions and Tour de France veterans.
AVANTI ISOWHEY (DS: Andrew CHRISTIE-JOHNSTON): 1 Joseph COOPER NZL, 2 Patrick SHAW VIC, 3 Robbie HUCKER VIC, 4 Jason LEA VIC, 5 Chris HAMILTON VIC, 6 Ben O'CONNOR WA, 7 Anthony GIACOPPO WA
Mobius Future (Tom PETTY): 11 Ben DYBALL NSW, 12 Samuel BURSTON NSW, 13 Alex WEST NZL, 14 Aden REYNOLDS NSW, 15 Ben CARMAN QLD, 16 Peter LIVINGSTONE NSW, 17 Sebastian BERWICK NSW
SASI/Callidus (Brett AITKEN): 21 Harry CARPENTER SA, 22 Tom KAESLER SA, 23 Liam NOLAN SA, 24 Rohan WIGHT SA, 25 Jarrad DRIZNERS SA