MELBOURNE – Victoria’s searing heat and high bushfire danger have forced today’s opening stage of the Jayco Herald Sun cycling tour into Bendigo into a time change.
Organisers have brought the event – to be raced between Sunbury and Bendigo – to start at 9.30am.
The 147km first stage was scheduled for the middle of a day in which temperatures in the region are tipped to soar into the mid-40s, with high winds also forecast.
Race director John Trevorrow said event organisers believed the decision was necessary for the health and safety of competitors.
“Our biggest priority is the safety of the riders and we made a decision as an event to move the stage earlier to avoid the harsh heat of the afternoon,” Trevorrow said.
“Due to the forecast weather, we have worked early to liaise with all the influential parties including the police, emergency services, the host towns of Sunbury and Bendigo and the chief commissaire of the race to make the change and benefit everyone.
“If the weather goes above 41 degrees then the race could be stopped under the regulations, so we want to do everything we can to avoid that risk.
“It’s unlikely to get that hot early in the day, but we will have to wait and see, given the forecast in Bendigo is for temperatures in the mid-40s,” Trevorrow added.
The opening stage takes in Sunbury, Macedon, Kyneton, Redesdale, Strathfieldsaye and Bendigo’s southern suburbs.
The stage is expected to finish at the Tom Flood Sports Centre in Barnard Street about 1.30pm.
Your guide to today's race
Stage 1: Sunbury-Bendigo 147.7km
Start: Rupertswood Mansion, Sunbury
King Of The Mountain 1 start: Mount Macedon-Mount Macedon Road 10.15–10.25am.
King Of The Mountain 1 end: Mount Macedon Road summit 10.25–10.35am.
Sprint 1: Newham-Woodend-Lancefield Road
Sprint 2: Strathfieldsaye – Bendigo-Redesdale Road 12.45–1.10pm.
King Of The Mountain 2 start: One Tree Hill – One Tree Road 12.55–1.20pm.
King Of The Mountain 2 end: One Tree Hill – Edwards Road 12.55–1.25pm.
Finish: Tom Flood Sports Centre, Bendigo
THE BENDIGO BOYS
56 SHAUN McCARTHY (Team Budget Forklifts)
Will race in the Tour for the first time. Fought back from a broken hip sustained on a training ride in 2012 to earn a place in the great race.
The 26-year-old from Heathcote will be keen to race well in today’s opening leg from Sunbury to Bendigo.
61 DARREN LAPTHORNE (Drapac Cycling)
A national road champion in 2007, Lapthorne is one of the most experienced campaigners in the Drapac Cycling team.
The 29-year-old has won stages in various tours close to home and abroad, and his hill-climbing prowess will be to the fore at Macedon, One Tree Hill and Arthurs Seat.
64 ROBBIE HUCKER (Drapac Cycling)
Joined the Drapac team last August and will compete in the Jayco Herald-Sun Tour for the first time.
The reigning national under-23 mountain bike champion, Hucker’s strength on the hills will be a huge plus for Drapac.
124 LACHLAN NORRIS (Jayco VIS Apollo)
Victorious in last year’s Tour of Tasmania, Norris has the hill-climbing ability to stay with many rivals.
A multiple national champion and Australian representative in mountain bike racing, Norris has excelled in his road racing stint with Drapac and will soon the British-based Raleigh team.
THE BIG GUNS
3 SIMON GERRANS (Jayco Australia)
Knows what it takes to win this tour, having done so twice before.
A stage winner in the Tour de France, Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain, Gerrans is surrounded by a powerful team.
4 MATTHEW GOSS (Jayco Australia)
The sprints are where the Tasmanian star will be tough to beat.
Was the first Australian to win the Milan-Sam Remo classic in 2011 and is hot favourite to be the sprint king in this tour.
6 STUART O’GRADY (Jayco Australia)
Although in the twilight of his career, the 39-year-old is still powering on.
Has racked up 15 consecutive starts in the Tour de France and won gold in the madison at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Won the Herald-Sun Tour in 1998 and his brilliant career includes teaming with Brett Aitken to win the Bendigo International Madison in 1994.
13 GREG HENDERSON (Grays On-Line NZ)
Brings a wealth of tour experience to the New Zealand squad.
The 36-year-old has won a scratch final at the world track championships.
Based in Melbourne, Henderson has raced strongly in this week’s Bay Criterium series.
31 KRISTIAN HOUSE (Rapha Condor Jlt)
King of the Mountains in last year’s Tour of Britain, so the climbs in this classic will not faze him.
Knows Bendigo well, having used the city as a training base for some of his previous campaigns “down under”, and has raced in the Bendigo International Madison track classic.