A POWERFUL interstate contingent tackles the $4000 Tour of the Ballarat Goldfields today - the first race in the Tattersall's Cup cycling series.
Riders are not only vying for honours in today's 127.6 kilometre road race, but also for a place in the elite Herald Sun Tour in October.
The top 10 placegetters at the end of the five Tattersalls Cup events over the next month will gain automatic selection in the Herald Sun Tour; which again features a team sponsored by the City of Ballarat.
Tough New South Welshman Peter Milostic will carry the number one saddle cloth and is expected to be tough to beat over the hilly course which takes in Dean, Newlyn, Blampied, Daylesford, Hepburn, Yandoit, Campbelltown, Glengower, Clunes and Creswick before finishing at Midlands Golf Club.
Karl Menzies (Tasmania), Phillip Thaux (NSW), James Taylor, Gareth Atkins (Tasmania), Garry Parsons, Tim Decker and Leigh Egan are others with experience in the Southern Hemisphere's most prestigious road classic and could be prominent today.
A field of 98 is expected to start from North Ballarat Sports Club at 10am.
Ballarat's Phillips Orr and Jon Townsend will be among others to face the starter.
Last year's Tattersall's Cup produced an enthralling battle between David McKenzie now competing on the European circuit and Brett Aitken (South Australia) for overall series honours.
Aitken was leading the series after the first four races, but succumbed to a persistent knee injury, eventually finishing second overall.
The Tattersall's Cup started in Victoria in 1996, as a three-race event, and has been supported by Tattersall's since its inception. The success of the concept necessitated the move to a four-race program in 1997, and then to the five-day format in 1998.
The cup offers $25,500. Each race is run as a separate classic with its own prizemoney. An accumulative points system operates over the five events to provide an overall champion.