By Rod Morris
Peter McDonald, winner of the recent Fishers IGA Tour of the Murray River, will carry an 11-point lead into the final leg of the Timbercorp Cup National Cycling Series with him next month. The 35-race series will be concluded with the 11-stage Tour of Tasmania from October 2-7 where McDonald can expect some hot challenges to come from his nearest rivals, Grant Irwin (Qld) and Patrick Shaw (Vic). McDonald won the 13-stage Tour of the Murray River in grand style, claiming two stages, the Moama to Barham road race and the Loxton Criterium.
Earlier in the series he won the criterium in the Australian Grand Prix at Ballarat. The Timbercorp Cup replaces the Tattersall's Cup, which originated in 1996 and has been the stepping stone for many young Australian cyclists on to the world stage. The first ten riders in each stage are awarded a sliding scale of points, while the leading 15 riders in each tour can also take bonus points. Cyclists are offered start and finishing points to further boost their tallies.
Defending champion of the Timbercorp Cup is Tasmania's Wesley Sulzberger, who recently finished fourth in the Tour of Ireland, and he is now preparing for the Tour of Britain. This week he was named into the Australian Under 23 team for the World Championships in Germany. McDonald has amassed 171 points from the 24 completed races of this year's Timbercorp Cup and is only marginally ahead of Irwin, who has won four races, including the Bairnsdale Criterium, which was the last stage of the Tour of Gippsland and three stages of the Tour of the Murray River, the Kerang Criterium, Kerang to Cohuna road race and the Merbein Criterium.
Irwin also finished second to McDonald in the general classification in the Murray River tour. Third on the points tally – with 140 - is Victorian Patrick Shaw, but as yet he has not been on the podium. Instead he has consistently been in the top ten with a best effort of fourth in the Bairnsdale Criterium.
The six-day Tour of Tasmania will be unlike the Murray River tour which was suited to sprinters. Instead, it will be the hill climbers that should emerge. Mountainous road stages, particularly on the State's North-West Coast will test the very best climbers. The Tour of Tasmania will start in Devonport on October 2 with a 21-kilometre criterium and conclude in Launceston on October 7 with a 34-kilometre street race criterium around the Brickfields Reserve.
Timbercorp Cup leaderboard (after Tour of the Murray River) – 1 Peter McDonald (NSW), 171 points 2 Grant Irwin (Qld), 160 3 Patrick Shaw (Vic), 140 4 Nicholas Sanderson (Vic), 79 5 Zakkari Dempster (Vic), 71 6 Ben Mather (Tas), 70 7 Chris Jory (NSW), 68 8 Robbie Cater (NSW), 65 9 Leigh Howard (Vic), 65 10 Cameron Hughes (Qld), 62