Upon the unveiling of the 2015 Jayco Herald Sun Tour route in Melbourne, the Victorian premier Dennis Napthine announced a three-partnership between the state government and Australia's oldest stage race to secure its future for the next three years.
The 62nd edition of the race will feature a twilight prologue on the banks of the Yarra river in Melbourne's CBD on Wednesday February 4 with the race scheduled to finish on Arthurs Seat on Sunday, February 8. The final stage of the 2014 race to Arthurs Seat was cancelled due to the threat of bush fires and extreme weather, resulting in Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) claiming overall victory.
"I am pleased to announce the Victorian Government will extend its funding for a further three years to 2017 which is a reflection of its importance to our State as a great sporting event and also a fantastic economic generator for our regions in particular," Napthine said at the launch of the race in Melbourne.
"The Jayco Herald Sun Tour is one of the highlights of Victoria's world renowned major events calendar and this year will feature such iconic places as Mt Macedon, the historic goldfields around Bendigo, and the Mornington Peninsula.
"The Tour receives global media coverage and follows a route that promotes Victoria's spectacular tourist attractions, generating economic benefits for Melbourne and regional Victoria."
Naming rights sponsor Jayco have also committed to the race for a further three years. A decision that took Tom Salom, chairman of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour organising committee, by surprise but one he believes will see the race continue its growth since it was awarded a UCI 2.1 status at the end of 2013.
"Last year with a new date and an opening prologue in the city centre the event reached new heights. In 2015 we aim to build further on those foundations with the strong support of the Victorian Government, with Jayco back on board as a co-naming rights sponsor, and the continued recognition as a UCI 2.1 level event," Salom said.
"The 'Sun Tour' has been part of our DNA for over 60 years. It has created new generations of Australian cycling champions and is unique in that it combines the best international riders with the best teams and riders in Australia which contributes significantly to the development of our rising cycling stars," Salom added.
The announcement of Jayco's support by Gerry Ryan's - Jayco founder, Orica-GreenEdge team owner and former Cycling Australia president - was a welcomed surprise by race organisers.
"I am very proud today to announce not only will we be the sponsors for 2015, but we also extend our sponsorship for the next three years," Ryan explained.
Orica-GreenEdge have been confirmed as the first team for the 2015 race with defending champion Clarke and two-time winner of the race, Simon Gerrans, on hand to launch the race and confirm their appearances.
"It's a fantastic way of setting up my European season, to start the year in good shape off the back of some great racing in Australia," Gerrans said who finished the 2014 season as the third ranked rider on the UCI WorldTour.
"This is where I came from and this is where it all started for me. I think it's important to give back to these races and give these young kids and cycling fans that watch us every year on the television the opportunity to see us in the flesh and see what we do," said Gerrans, who won back-to-back titles in 2005-06.
Clarke, whose stage 2 victory set up his overall win in 2014, is looking forward to returning to the race and is confident of defending his title.
"The idea of a twilight start in the city centre, getting all the people just knocking off work to stop by to have a look is a great idea. To put the cycling to the people and showcase professional cyclists to the people of Melbourne is great," Clarke said.
"Defending a title is always a bit of extra pressure, but we have a great team with Orica-GreenEdge and we will field another good team and we will be ready to defend," Clarke added.
2015 Jayco Herald Sun Tour route
The 2015 edition of the race will start with the 2.1km prologue along the banks of the Yarra River at Federation Square, finishing alongside Southbank Promenade at Queensbridge Square.
The peloton will then undertake the longest day of the race, a 152km journey from Mount Macedon via Hanging Rock to heartland of Victorian cycling, Bendigo to complete stage 1.
Stage 2 is a shorter 120km rendezvous that will see riders begin at the Bendigo Velodrome, pass through the Heathcote-Graytown National Park before crossing the Goulburn River into Nagambie. Robert-Jon McCarthy took a surprise sprint win in the hometown of Black Caviar as riders misjudged the finish line in 2014 and he upstaged his WorldTour rivals.
The third stage of the race will showcase the Nagambie Lakes Wineries as riders loop around Mitchelton Winery, where the stage will begin, before heading back to Nagambie where the 148km stage will finish.
The fourth and final stage, a 125km affair, returns to Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula where the overall title is likely to be decided. With the start yet to be finalised, the race organisers have confirmed that the stage will feature a three lap circuit of the gruelling climb.
Past winners of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour includes 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and 2003 Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke.
62nd Jayco Herald Sun Tour
Prologue - Wednesday 4th February – Melbourne Southbank – 2.1km
Stage 1 - Thursday 5th February – Mt Macedon to Bendigo – 152km
Stage 2 - Friday 6th February - Bendigo to Nagambie – 120km
Stage 3 – Saturday 7th February – Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie – 148km
Stage 4 – Sunday 8th February – Arthurs Seat Finale – 125km