John Trevorrow pulled off a coup in 2016, attracting Team Sky and Chris Froome to the Jayco Herald Sun Tour where the three-time Tour de France winner took the overall win with a storming ride up Arthurs Seat to conclude the race. For Trevorrow, having Froome at the Herald Sun Tour raised the profile of the race and provided a base for the Briton to successfully defend his Tour title in July.
Froome recently told Cyclingnews that "doing the Sun Tour worked well" and that he could also add the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race to an Australian racing programme to start his 2017 season as he targets a fourth Tour victory.
The route, teams, and riders for the 2017 edition of the Herald Sun Tour will be announced in just a few weeks along with confirmation of Froome's appearance or non-appearance. Ahead of the announcement for the 64th edition of the race, Cyclingnews spoke with race director Trevorrow to find out what to expect at the UCI 2.1 race to be held 1-5 February.
"I can't tell you too much as the route isn't finalised but we are very close to finalising it," a tight-lipped Trevorrow told Cyclingnews. "We can start talking about the route when we have it signed it off with councils. The major partner of the Herald Sun Tour is the Victorian state government, which is Tourism Victoria, so they have a lot to do with which areas the race goes to but not the exact route. This year's race was such an exciting race and a wonderful route. I've tried to replicate that and I am pretty happy with how it is going and how it is looking in terms of providing the same platform for the guys to do what they do."
The 2016 edition of the race saw Team Sky rip it to pieces on stage 1 into Healesville with Peter Kennaugh and Chris Froome finishing one-two, 17 seconds ahead of the peloton. While the end result was Sky stamping its authority on the race and ending almost every other rider's opportunity for the race win, Trevorrow explains that more than any other stage, it provided serious food for thought in the planning process for 2017.
"What really worked this year was the first day and I really want to try and replicate that. The stage in Healesville turned out to be a ripper with Chris Froome and Peter Kennaugh getting away and set the scene for the next four days. You don't want to make the race that hard that it is over on the first day but you want it to be a bike race. I think we are replicating that," he said.
Unable to confirm if Heasville will return in 2017 or any other potential stage starts and finishes, Trevorrow did confirm the race will begin with the Melbourne prologue held along the banks of the Yarra in the CBD. He also hinted at longer stage lengths in 2017 in response to the Team Sky riders adding up to 100km in 'training rides' after the stages in 2016. However, the race will remain at five days in 2017 with Trevorrow adding, "in a perfect world, I would like it to be one day longer. That would be great and something we're working on from 2018 with sponsors and working through the process," he said
"It made me realise that we need a little more distance so we are looking at increasing the stages a little bit," he added of the lessons learned from 2016. "I thought the mix was pretty good with a couple of tough intermediate stages and we'd like to do that again and also give the sprinters a chance and the tough men a chance. Keeping the mix right is what it's all about and keeping it on interesting terrain. You get out on flat open roads and normally it's boring unless the wind goes in the right direction."
In 2014 and 2015, the race ventured into western Victoria before it's finale at Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula. The race concluded at the climb once again in 2016 after the race had visited the eastern side of the state. The success of the race this year saw the Gippsland and the Latrobe City councils propose an immediate return. However, they could be waiting "three or four years" as Trevorrow explained the remit of the race is to showcase as much of the state as possible. He also stated that an Arthurs Seat finale isn't necessarily a guarantee for 2017.
Finding that balance is a problem confronted by race organisers the world over and complicating the task for Trevorrow is that excursions into the high mountains of Victoria, an area he'd love the race to visit, would be a bridge too far for riders who are riding their first race of the year.
"I would love to have something like Mount Buller, Falls Creek, and Mount Hotham, but the problem is that they don't suit the race at that time of the year," he said of the climbs which featured in the race when it was held in October. "The WorldTour teams that come down wouldn't want to be climbing a 20km climb in February so I don't think it suits the racing as much as I'd love to go up them. I just think they don't quite fit. The next step down, up to 10km, I am fine with that. Because it's not something like the Tour Down Under, which only slightly changes each year, we have a very diverse state and we have to visit different parts of the state. It's a balance of finding a new part of the state that can still provide exciting racing terrain. It is getting that mix and that balance which is the true test."
Trevorrow rules out a return to the October time slot, adding that it's place on the calendar in February attracts a strong line up and compliments the Australian summer of racing.
"I think February gives us a race when people are excited for the new season and can test themselves out. It's unlikely that Chris Froome would have raced like he did if it was October, but he is a professional so maybe he would," he said. "It would be hard to get in there in October though. It works well in February with a month of fantastic racing in Australia with the Tour Down Under, I love the event and have only missed one in all its years, and the Cadel Evans race has gone WorldTour which sensational. Then there is also my little baby, the bay classic, so we have a wonderful five weeks of racing in the summer of cycling as we call it and I think it's pretty special."
The full route of the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be announced later this month along with the teams and a preliminary start list.