BALLARAT’S golden summer of cycling just keeps rolling on, with the city scheduled to play a major part in two stages of the 61st Herald Sun Tour.
The Tour, which begins today with a 2.5-kilometre twilight time-trial along Melbourne’s Yarra River, will feature two Ballarat riders who excelled at last month’s Australian road championships – Pat Shaw and Rhys Gillett.
Shaw, riding for KordaMentha Team Australia, took the sprinters jersey in the men’s criterium, while African Wildlife Safaris rider Gillett won the King of the Mountain jersey in the open men’s road race.
Gillett, 23, is racing in his maiden Jayco Herald Sun Tour and is keen to test himself against 95 other riders and 16 other teams in one of the strongest professional contingents that has contested the event in recent years.
“By the looks of it there will be quite a strong field this year with teams like Garmin Sharp, Cannondale, Drapac and the two British teams Rapha Condor and the Great Britain National Team lining up,” Gillett said.
“Orica-GreenEDGE has certainly put in an extremely strong team and Simon Gerrans is still looking very fit.”
“I’ve got my own personal objectives, which may or may not fall in line with our race director’s objectives, but any kind of result would do at a race this big.”
The first real leg of the race will take place tomorrow with a 116.1km stage from Geelong to Ballarat, before a longer 163km stage from Ballarat to Bendigo on Friday.
The Tour will continue with Saturday’s 151.1km stage from the Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie, before wrapping up on Sunday with a challenging 125km circuit around Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula.
While two-time Australian champion Gerrans is one of the leading race favourites, Gillett has named Shaw’s teammate Calvin Watson as a potential smokey for the overall honours.
“You have to look at a rider such as Calvin Watson to be a strong chance, and having a cyclist as crafty and as experienced as Pat Shaw riding for him will be a huge asset,” Gillett said.
“We’re the only two Ballarat riders in the Tour and want to put in a strong showing.
“It’s great to see the race go through Ballarat.
“It’s been built up as the home of cycling, with the nationals getting bigger and bigger each year, and the Geelong to Ballarat stage will certainly catch a few of the international teams out by surprise.”