The 61st instalment of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Victoria's oldest and most prestigious stage race is poised to deliver five days of frenetic world-class racing with 96 riders representing 16 teams tackling five stages and a combined 561.5km in the saddle.
The race's honour roll features some of Australian and world cycling's greatest names, including 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and three former winners will be the start line tomorrow night, two-time winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), 2011 Champion Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp) and defending champion Calvin Watson (Trek Factory Racing).
Spearheaded by reigning national road race and Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans with Orica-GreenEdge, two other team's from the WorldTour, Cannondale Pro Cycling and Garmin Sharp, will also take their place on the start line in Melbourne.
As a two-time Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion, Gerrans will be chasing history this week seeking to become the first man to win the triple crown of national road race championship, Tour Down Under, and Jayco Herald Sun Tour titles in the one year, while also vying to become only the fourth man in the race's history to win the overall title on three or more occasions.
"Growing up in country Victoria, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour is probably the first race I ever saw. I remember skipping classes at school to go and stand on the roadside to watch the race go by," said Gerrans.
"It's no secret that the Sun Tour is an important race for GreenEdge and we will be racing to win.
When asked if he could win it for the third time he said "It's not going to be easy, I have a really strong team but with the strength of the international field it's not going to be easy."
Only Victorian cycling immortal Barry Waddell (five times – 1964-68), 1972 Olympian and now race director John Trevorrow (1975, 1977, 1979) and Tasmanian Graham McVilly (1971, 1973-74) have won the prestigious stage race on at least three occasions.
While the three WorldTour teams are expected to feature prominently, a further four national teams (Australia, Australian U23, Great Britain, New Zealand) and nine continental teams are also included in the 16 team strong line-up, featuring riders from 15 nations.
Among the national team contingent will be last year's champion Calvin Watson who became the youngest winner in the race's history at just 20-years-of-age.
Watson, who has signed with WorldTour team Trek Factory Racing, will race in the KordaMentha Real Estate – Team Australia colours this week, after the late withdrawal of Caleb Ewan and Brad Linfield from the Jayco Australian U23 National Team forced a reshuffle of the two green and gold line-ups and allowed the reigning champion's inclusion in the peloton.
The 21-year-old was conscious of the quality of field he will face in his title defence. "I am excited to get the racing underway tomorrow," Watson said.
"Simon Gerrans and the whole GreenEdge team is going to be really strong this year and they showed at the Tour Down Under that they are all in top condition but I'm excited to pin the number one bib on and give it 110%."
With the elevation of the race back to UCI 2.1 level in 2014, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour once again has ensured prized billing on the international cycling calendar.
"It is with great pride and pleasure that I welcome you all to the 61st edition of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, a UCI 2.1 category event, that has a nice ring to it 2.1 UCI - but it hasn't been an easy road to get that ranking back," Trevorrow said.
"It has been achieved by the tireless efforts of Tracey Gaudry, our very own new UCI Vice President and the support of the new look UCI.
"I can't wait to get tomorrow underway. We have one of the best fields ever and it promises to be an action packed five days of racing."