QUEENSLAND'S Nathan Haas will be feeling the heat in Friday's race from Ballarat to Bendigo in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Gruelling climbs test riders on crucial leg
The tour winner in 2011, Haas won Thursday's dramatic sprint to complete the 116km duel from Geelong to Ballarat.
Racing for Garmin Sharp, Haas edged out sprint stars Matthew Goss and Jonathan Cantwell to take stage and overall honours.
Victory in 3hours 4.13minutes earned a 10-second time bonus and put Haas in yellow as the tour leader.
He will start Friday's 163km trek to Bendigo, the longest in this classic, leading New Zealand's Jack Bauer by seven seconds.
Several cycling stars from central Victoria are well placed.
Eaglehawk's Glenn O'Shea is 11th in the standings and 14 seconds adrift of the tour leader.
Friday's stage, which takes in the climbs around Daylesford and then at Mount Alexander will be a great test for O'Shea and the rest of the peloton.
O'Shea's build-up to the tour included striking gold in the teams pursuit and points score at the national track championships in Adelaide.
O'Shea is on the same time as Orica GreenEDGE's Cameron Meyer and Barkers Creek's Lachlan Norris, racing for Drapac.
The Mount Alexander climb is one Norris has done many times.
Norris and Haas have both represented Australia at world mountain bike championship campaigns.
Now back with Drapac after a year racing in Great Britain, Norris and his Drapac team-mates have made a great start to this tour.
Drapac is just 10 seconds behind Garmin-Sharp in the battle for the teams award.
Bendigo's Jack Haig was best under-23 rider in the recently-contested Tour Down Under and start Friday's leg to his hometown in 20th place, 16 seconds behind Haas.
Another Bendigo ace, Darren Lapthorne is racing for Drapac and is 23rd at 17 seconds adrift of the leader.
Horsham's Mark O'Brien is 39th at -34 and Sam Witmitz is 71st at -10.05.
Tour favourite Simon Gerrans is 13 seconds behind Haas and ninth overall.