Cadel Evans (BMC) has returned home to Australia from his European base and not empty handed. The 2011 Tour de France winner, who is not racing the Tour for the first time since 2005, is bringing with him exciting news on the launch of an all-new UCI 1.1 classification race in his native Victoria in February next year.
The 2009 road world champion, who finished 11th at the Tour de Suisse in June after an eighth-place finish at the Giro d'Italia in May, joined Victorian Premier Dr Denis Napthine on Thursday to unveil plans for the new cycling event in Geelong, which hosted the 2010 UCI World Road Championships won by Evans' eventual BMC teammate Thor Hushovd in front of an estimated 150,000 spectators.
"We are excited about bringing some of the world's best cyclists to Victoria for the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next year," said Dr Napthine.
"This major international cycling event will showcase to the world some of Victoria's best regional locations, including Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and the iconic Great Ocean Road."
Inspired by the European spring classics such as Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo and Liege–Bastogne–Liege, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race as it is being titled, will consist of an elite men's road race on Sunday, February 1, and preceded by an elite women's road race and mass participation ride on Saturday.
"It's fantastic news that Australia will have its first world class one-day race, honouring one of the sport's biggest legends," said Cycling Australia president, Gerry Ryan. "Cycling has seen an incredible growth on all levels and it's great to see that this also means more events for the public and all the fans to get excited about. Adding another event to the summer of cycling is a real win for everyone involved in the sport".
Besides being the race namesake, Evans, who is now preparing to race the Vuelta a España, has worked closely with former Subaru National Road Series director Scott Sunderland in the creation of this event and the planning of the course.
"This race has been more than two years in the making, and it has not just popped up overnight," said Sunderland, a former sports director for Team Sky. "It will be a fantastic event and a legacy for Cadel Evans."
Sunderland, a former pro cyclist himself, designed the course, which was approved by both Evans, and race organiser Victorian Major Events, and is working to procure teams to compete.
"We are hoping to have 18 teams at the race, and are happy to have both Orica-GreenEdge and BMC already confirmed," Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "We have to keep in mind that this race is at the beginning of the season and we do not want it to be too difficult and it needs to flow very well.
"But there will be opportunities for all riders before finishing up on the world championships circuit."
The new race is being announced just a week after the Santos Tour Down Under received a two-year extension to its WorldTour license that will see Australia's only regular UCI WorldTour event in the Southern Hemisphere since 2008 continue to host its week-long, multi-stage race in South Australia until at least 2016.
Home to the world-famous 12 Apostles, Victoria's Great Ocean Road boasts some of Australia's most spectacular coastal scenery as its backdrop. The race is scheduled to start in Geelong, travel through Evans' home town of Barwon Heads and pass by Thirteenth Beach, Torquay, Bells Beach and the rolling hills around Moriac before hitting some of what Evans calls "memorable" segments of the 2010 Road Worlds course en route to a finish along Geelong's waterfront.
"The 2010 UCI Road World Championships in Geelong highlighted just how thrilling the one day road race format can be," said Evans. "I am tremendously excited to see the race come to life and to be bringing top international cycling to Barwon Heads, Geelong and Torquay.
"I hope this race introduces more people to the sport of cycling, a sport which has given me so much joy over my life," he added. "I love this part of the world, it's beautiful country that's ideal for a one day cycling race, and it also just happens to be my home."