The Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Australia's oldest stage race, kicks off on Wednesday in Melbourne, with sixteen teams of six contesting the five-day long race with Simon Gerrans entering the race in almost career best form. Having claimed his second national road title in Buninyong ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Team Sky), Gerrans then won a record third Tour Down Under title.
Prior to the big three races of the early year, Gerrans signalled his intentions of a big summer that would result in him heading to Europe as national champion and with two overall race wins to his name, all before mid-February.
The 61st edition of the race begins with a 2.5km twilight prologue along the banks of Melbourne's Yarra River. The race leaves then Melbourne and heads off on a scenic tour of country Victoria concluding with a tough triple ascent up Arthur's Seat in the Mornington Peninsula.
"The course that the organisers have put together this year is fantastic, it should be one of the most spectacular Jayco Herald Sun Tours yet," Orica-GreenEdge Sport Director Matt Wilson said. "With the way the course has been designed, I am expecting it to be a very open and unpredictable race."
"There are just four stages and a prologue," said Wilson. "In a short race like this, the win will come down to a matter of seconds rather than minutes, which means that every second counts out on the road. We've been clear about our objectives: we want to win the general classification and hopefully take some stages along the way."
GreenEdge will field an in-form squad for what is the team's final race on home soil and will be keen to make it three from three to cap off an already successful start to 2014.
"I've been a part of this race many times, but the team we are sending to this year's edition is probably the strongest that I've seen line up here," said Wilson.
"It's a diverse group with a lot of options. As a WorldTour team in a domestic race, there's pressure on us to do well, and we're going in with big ambitions. I expect some strong competition not only from Garmin, Drapac and Cannondale, but also from the domestic teams like Avanti.
"Obviously Simon Gerrans has excellent form, so he's a great chance for the overall, but the whole team is strong. We have Matt Goss who will be on the hunt for stage wins. Cameron Meyer was fourth at the National Championships and Simon Clarke was one of our key riders at Tour Down Under, so they're both in great shape. Mitch Docker and Damien Howson will be there in support roles, and we'll be relying heavily on them."