The ninth round of the Subaru National Road Series (NRS) is kicking off today in Canberra with a new-look tour set to excite proceedings. In years past the previously named Canberra Tour has been a victim of its own popularity with bunches of riders proving too large for race permits provided by the ACT police and as such its future has remained in doubt.
The heritage of the Canberra Tour in Australian circles is not to be underestimated, whether at junior or senior level, riders who have excelled there in the past include but are not limited to: Rohan Dennis and Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp), Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano), Cameron and Travis Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) and Jack Bobridge (Belkin).
With an invigorated parcours, renewed government support and a rolling road closure assured by Police it appears all parties have come together to support the new look event. The tour now consists of four stages over three days; a 20km out and back time trial on Friday, a 120km hill top finish road race on Saturday, an undulating 82km circuit race on Sunday morning and a final criterium to finish on Sunday afternoon.
Canberra local and recent Tour of Murray Victor, Tom Palmer, will be missing the support of his Drapac team as they are absent for the event, but remains enthusiastic as he tackles the race as a guest rider with Canberra Cycling Club.
"I love the community here and I look forward to a great event. If a result from me can be a part of that, to have a local rider on the podium, then that would be awesome.
"To have the first edition of the tour raced and supported at a high level would be fantastic, I'd like to see it keep going for years to come," said Palmer.
Palmer will be a strong contender for the final stage criterium that will be raced in front of Australia's Parliament House, but is not expected to challenge for overall honours that will likely be decided on the stage two hill-top finish.
Saturday's hill top finish was originally intended to finish on the 11km, 5 percent climb up Corin road to Gibralter Creek. A last minute rock fall, however, has forced a change in route that sees the stage extended out to 120km and will now feature a shorter final climb of around 6 kilometres at an estimated 8 percent.
Riders expected to challenge on the queen stage are Huon-Genesys pairing of Nathan Earle and Jack Haig who also both sit first and second respectively in the overall NRS standings.
Budget Forklifts will also present a strong challenge for overall honours bringing Tour of Gippsland winner, Jack Anderson, and Great South Coast victor, Sam Horgan to the race. The team continued its recent success earlier in the month at the UCI 2.2 Tour of Hokkaido in Japan where they delivered Joshua Prete to third overall and also claimed second in the teams classification.
Search2retain p/b health.com.au also return from a strong outing on the Asian circuit with a third place on the teams classification at the UCI 2.2 Tour de Siak in Indonesia and will provide strong competition to the Budget Forklifts and Huon-Genesys squads.
Target Trek bring a surprise drawcard to the event with Beijing Olympian, Mark Jamieson making his return to NRS racing.
In the womens event Ruth Corset (Pensar SPM) will excel when the road turns upward and will be looking to prove national selectors wrong after she was selected in the long squad for the UCI Road World Championships but was not included in the final selection. Rebecca Wiasak (Suzuki Bontrager), Felicity Wardlaw (Bicycle Superstore) and Katrin Garfoot will all challenge Corset for the overall title in what is set to be a tight contest.