By Rod Morris in Launceston
Tattersall's Cup leader Robert McLachlan can expect plenty of pressure in this week's Jayco Tour of Tasmania (Australia), which starts in Launceston on Wednesday, August 17. McLachlan performed well in the recent Tour of Gippsland, winning four of nine stages, but finishing 33rd overall because of a chain mishap in Stage 6. With the top 10 riders in the Tattersall's Cup earning automatic starts - plus financial incentives - for the Tour of Queensland in late October, this week's tour will be hectic.
In a change from previous years, when the series was based around one-day races, this year's Tattersall's Cup features three tours, climaxing with the Tour of the Murray River from August 31-September 4. The Tour of Tasmania will include nine stages, encompassing 428.3 km and including 61 intermediate sprints and 14 hill climbs. The tour will start at the Launceston Silverdome and head on a short but testing 49.8 km stage towards Grindelwald, and in the afternoon, riders will be tested further with a 93.9 km stage from Grindelwald to Bridport - the longest stage of this week's event.
Thursday's schedule of the tour will include a criterium in Scottsdale and a 41.2 km stage from Scottsdale to Lilydale. On Friday, riders will be challenged severely from Deloraine to Sheffield, a 54.9 km stage which includes the infamous "Heartbreak Hill."
There will be little respite for the field with an afternoon kermesse around the streets of Sheffield. Day four will include a criterium in George Town and a 47.5 km "sprint" from George Town to Beauty Point and the tour will conclude on Sunday afternoon with a 34 km criterium in Launceston around an area known as the Brickfields Reserve.
A field of 84 riders has been attracted for the tour, including McLachlan, who represented Australia at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the recent winner of the Tour of Gippsland, Gordon McCauley of New Zealand, Australian champ David McKenzie, Athens gold medal Olympian Peter Dawson, ace Victorian Robert Tighello and top NSW rider Peter Milostic.
But if the mainlanders and the New Zealand visitors think they are going to get everything their own way, they'd better think again. 20 Tasmanian riders are amongst the entries, including Matt Goss who was added to the field only yesterday. Goss, a winner of two junior world track medals last year, upstaged a class field in December when he won the third annual Launceston International Classic. He has just returned to Australia from an extensive overseas campaign, including a bold showing in the Tour of China.
Joining Goss to carry the Tasmanian flag will be the Sulzberger brothers, Bernard and Wesley, who finished fifth and ninth respectively in the Tour of Gippsland, Matthew Rice, who scored two third placings in the same event and Caleb Manion, who will be extra keen to atone for a fall in the opening tour a fortnight ago.