The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be held from October 14 to 21, will be disputed by 14 professional teams of seven riders each and will run for a total of 665.5 kilometres, not including the opening 1.7 kilometre circuit race in Bendigo, which will be part of the 'Bendigo on Wheels' celebration but not count towards the overall classification.
The first day of the Tour on the open road offers something for every rider and spectator. The Tour peloton sets out from Bendigo through the beautiful gold fields country with the hill climbs coming early including the steep slopes of Mt Alexander. The stage gradually flattens out for the 141.9km run through Heathcote and into the lakeside town of Nagambie. A small breakaway managed to hold a gap over the main field in 2006 on this stage, and in 2007 we expect the sprinters to bring it all together for a mass sprint finish.
The Tour returns to the Mitchelton Winery for a morning of festivities to send the 14 professional teams of seven riders each on their way on day two. This stage, 145.6km through the Strathbogie Ranges and two difficult climbs, will surprise some riders, and you can expect a struggle from the sprinters to get back into the peloton as they storm towards a fast downhill finish in Mansfield.
The third road stage, a 139.5km journey from Mansfield to Beechworth is a ride through some of the finest countryside in Australia. Riders will tackle an early hill climb up the Tolmie Road before a long technical descent into King Valley. A steady and long climb brings the peloton to the preserved gold rush town of Beechworth.
Stage four presents the moment of truth and the queen stage of the Tour. It's just 116.5 kilometres from Beechworth to Falls Creek, but 40 kilometres are uphill. A fast descent from Beechworth towards Bright, then the riders face the sharp climb up Tawonga Gap followed by another fast descent into Mt Beauty before the 30-kilometre climb to Falls Creek. There may be snow, and there will be a battle royale as the contenders for the Yellow Jersey take the initiative.
The sprinters will get another shot at glory on the long, flat, 110.9-kilometre run from Mt Beauty to Wangaratta on stage five. Expect the breakaways to go early on the final road stage of the Tour, and expect the teams with the leading sprinters to get the train going to bring it all together before the finish.
The Tour returns to Melbourne for the final two stages and a weekend of cycling-centric activity. The penultimate test is the race of truth, with one rider at a time against the clock in the individual time trial. In 2006 the Tour’s top three were just one second apart after the time trial, and in 2007 a technical and picturesque course is offered around Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens which should produce another tight finish. With the start and finish close together and a course that is expected to travel alongside the famous Tan, this is a great chance to see the leaders attempt to take control.
A flat and fast final stage circuit race in Melbourne concludes the week-long Tour in Victoria. For pictures of the launch check out the photo gallery.