Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome will lead Team Sky at the 2016 Jayco Herald SunTour.
In a coup for Victorian cycling, the two-time winner of the world’s biggest bike race will become the first Tour de France champion to compete in Australia’s oldest stage race.
The 63rd edition of the event will be staged from Wednesday 3rd to Sunday 7th February as the climax to the summer of cycling. Commencing with the Melbourne CBD Southbank prologue and finishing with a showdown on Arthurs Seat, the peloton will also ride through the Yarra Valley and Gippsland as part of the five day event.
In what will be his only Australian appearance, Froome will make his 2016 season debut in Victoria, using the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as the launch pad for his back-to-back yellow jersey assault at next year’s Tour de France.
Froome said he was looking forward to kick starting his 2016 campaign with some Victorian sunshine on the race known worldwide as the ‘Sun Tour’.
“I’m really pleased to start my 2016 season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour,” Froome said.
“Victoria is a beautiful part of the world and racing in the warm climate will give me a good platform for the new season.”
Froome also said Team Sky was looking forward to racing in front of their strong band of Australian supporters.
“We don’t often get a chance to race in front of our Aussie fans so we’re all looking forward to seeing them over there as well.”
2016 promises to be a huge year for the 30-year-old, with the Tour de France title defence and a tilt at the Rio Olympic Games time trial and road race the major dates in his calendar. After claiming the bronze medal in the time trial in London behind teammate Bradley Wiggins, Olympic gold is a major motivator with Froome recently travelling to Rio to reconnaissance the course for both events.
Froome rode in the 2008 Jayco Herald Sun Tour as a 23-year-old member of the Barloworld team, coming off a debut Tour de France where he rode strongly up Alpe d’Huez and in the final time trial.
Finishing fourth on the overall general classification behind tour winner Stuart Grady, Froome rode in support of teammates Baden Cooke and Daryl Impey who both captured stage wins. He almost claimed a stage win himself, finishing second behind former Australian mountain bike champion Chris Jongewaard on the climb from Alexandra to Mount Buller.
He is no stranger to Melbourne, having also participated at the 2006 Commonwealth Games – riding for Kenya – where he finished 17th in the time trial and 25th in the road race as well as participating in the mountain bike event, even though he’d never ridden a mountain bike.
Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren said the participation of the reigning Tour de France champion in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour is a milestone occasion for an iconic Victorian event.
“Victoria is fast establishing itself as one of the flagship locations outside Europe for the big cycling events, and welcoming one of the sport’s giants only serves to grow our global reputation, Mr Eren said.
“The big names at the big events mean visitors to Victoria from all over the nation and the world wanting to see their heroes. They’re crucial to our economy and to the jobs of thousands of Victorians.”
Tom Salom, chairman of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour organising committee, said the participation of the reigning Tour de France champion will be a high point in the tour’s long history.
“The Jayco Herald Sun Tour has always provided the young rising stars of Australian and world cycling with the opportunity to mix it with the best, and this year they will be up against the best of the best in Chris Froome,” Mr Salom said.
“We are obviously thrilled that Chris will return to the event for the first time since 2008. A lot has happened since then, and he returns as a global sporting star. For aspiring riders on all teams, the chance to ride alongside Chris and his Team Sky colleagues will be memorable, as it will be for all those watching from the road side.”
“We again thank the Victorian Government and Jayco, who last year committed their support for three years. The ‘Sun Tour’ has been part of our DNA for over 60 years and with this announcement, seems set to go to yet another level in 2016,” Salom concluded.
2016 Jayco Herald Sun Tour route announced
Southbank Promenade will provide cycling fans with the ideal vantage point to watch the finish of the opening 2.1km prologue of Australia’s oldest stage race.
The 63rd edition kicks off on Wednesday 3rd February and for the third successive year riders will commence the individual time trial starting from Federation Square.
With 25,000 spectators lining the streets in both 2014 and 2015, the twilight prologue will provide the opportunity for Victorian sports fans to see the Tour de France champion up close as he speeds along the Southbank Promenade with the finish at Queensbridge Square.
The Tour then moves to regional Victoria for a picturesque ride through the Yarra Valley on a 126km route that begins in Healesville and travels through Yarra Glen, Coldstream, Gruyere, Woori Yallock and Launching Place, Warburton before returning to Healesville for the finish.
Stage two traverses the grazing farmlands of South Gippsland on a 144km trek from Yarra Glen taking the riders through Launching Place, Gladysdale, Powelltown, Piedmont, Noojee, Fumina South, Hill End, Willow Grove and Tanjill South before the stage finish in Moe.
Stage three is the longest of the tour at 146km. Commencing in Traralgon, riders head to Churchill, Boolara, Mirboo North, Dumbalk and Leongatha on their way to the coast at Wonthaggi before riding through Cape Patterson to the finish at Inverloch.
The final 122km stage will return to the popular Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula, with another huge crowd expected to celebrate the final day of the summer of cycling. This stage features a three lap circuit of the gruelling climb, with a mountain top finish once again expected to play an important role in determining the Tour winner.
The 2016 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be presented by Jayco and the Herald Sun, along with the continued support from the Victorian State Government.
Jayco Herald Sun Tour
|What:||63rd edition of Australia’s oldest stage race|
|When:||Wednesday 3rd to Sunday 7th February 2015|
|Course:||Prologue – Wednesday 3rd February – Melbourne Southbank – 2.1km
Stage 1 – Thursday 4th February – Healesville to Healesville – 126km
Stage 2 – Friday 5th February – Yarra Glen to Moe – 144km
Stage 3 – Saturday 6th February – Traralgon to Inverloch – 146km
Stage 4 – Sunday 7th February – Arthurs Seat Finale – 122km