With the National Road Series (NRS) all set for the Tour de Perth to open proceedings again in 2014 from March 26, Western Australia will also be treated to Velofest, a celebration of cycling next week.
The four day NRS event returns with a few amendments from last year to open up the possibilities of the general classification to more than just time trialists after Joe Cooper (Huon Genesys) romped to victory after his impressive race against the clock on Rottnest Island last year.
The Tour de Perth begins with an twilight criterium in Fremantle, followed by a decisive hilltop road race at Kalamunda. Stage three will see riders tackle a 19km individual time trial on Rottnest Island although due to new rulings, no time trial bikes are allowed in the 2014 NRS. The stage race will conclude with a road race around Perry Lakes.
There are 155 riders down as starters spread across 19 teams which, including three Asian teams, Pro-Continental outfit Drapac Pro Cycling and six Western Australia based teams.
As the driving force behind the event, Craig Smith-Gander told Cyclingnews that as the opening race of the NRS, there is a level of pressure that comes with opening the NRS season.
"I don't think it’s something we explicitly feel [pressure on being the first NRS event of the year] but you do have to set the standard and because we are remote, on the other side of the country, it is in some ways kind of easy to be forgotten and dismissed. To put an event on over here, you have to run it to a high standard as you don’t want to give people excuses not to come," Smith-Gander said.
"If you’re putting on a good race, people come to it, if you have good prize money and you look after people in terms of transport, transfers accommodation and that stuff, then they’ll want to come to your event and they’ll look beyond the additional cost and time fact of flying across the continent."
Woodside remain the naming sponsors of the race and the CFO, Lawrie Tremaine, told Cyclingnews what the commitment means to ensuring Perth can attract international cycling teams.
"Woodside is excited to be a part of a world-class cycling event. It's great to see the city of Perth on the international cycling stage. Our support of the Woodside Tour de Perth helps bring a unique experience to Perth's cyclists. We support cycling programs because it is an opportunity to help Western Australia continue to grow as a vibrant and healthy place to live and work.
"Woodside's contribution to Velofest is a part of our broader social investment strategy."
"I'm definitely looking forward to trying to defend my title," said Cooper who won the Oceania time trial championship last month. "But at the end of the day, if my teammates are riding stronger or make the crucial move, we'll go all in for the person who's got the best chance to bring home the win.
"The day before the time trial will probably be super aggressive and we'll have to follow every single move. I'll have to make sure I get up the last finishing climb with the leaders at Kalamunda and then hopefully I can come out with a good ride on the island again."
While Drapac are making the most of the upgrade to Pro-Conti's ranks which will see them race the Tour of Turkey in a few weeks, the Australian team are committed to having a presence in the Australian domestic calendar. According to Western Australian Directeur Sportif Henk Vogels, the team should be the beneficiaries of plenty of local knowledge.
"I think it's going to be a harder race [when compared to 2013]," Vogels said. "They are roads that I grew up on as a 10 and 11 year-old boy and I used to do my club races up around Pickering Brook which is the climbing stage in the hills [Stage 2], Kalamunda]. Also, the addition of the very steep climb at Perry Lakes [Stage 4] is also going to be crucial – these elements will play a key role in the make-up of the race."
Travis Meyer, who spent the last two years with Orica-GreenEdge, returns to his home race with Drapac. "I'm really looking forward to heading back to the Tour de Perth," Meyer said. "It was sort of the race where it all started for me when I was younger and I had a win in the elite race in 2009 so it's a race that's pretty exciting for me and I always really enjoyed it.
"To be racing at home and especially with the NRS field that we've got nowadays, it's going to be a really hard tour, but I'm really looking forward to it."
Race director Matt Poyner is expecting exciting racing with teams to battle for early supremacy in the NRS which runs until October, stating that: "I think there are a lot of bragging rights based on this tour over the top of any other in the year" and told Cyclingnews there are several young exciting WA talents to watch out for.
He also offered some tips for riders to keep on eye on.
"Sam Wellsford, the junior world team pursuit champion is riding with the Giant Satalyst team. Michael Storer, who won the U19 Oceania time trial is riding for the naming sponsor Woodside wildcard team which will be made up with a majority of WA Institute of Sport athletes so as far as young guns go, there the two to look out for in terms of a WA perspective."
Running concurrently with the Tour de Perth is WA's cycling festival, Velofest, which will take over the streets of Perth next week. Velofest is made up of nine different races, appealing to professional, semi-professional, masters, para-cyclists and amateur cyclists.
Velofest also aims to bring cycling onto the radar of motor vehicle drivers and highlight the importance of road safety, rider awareness and rider safety. The chosen charity partner for Velofest is the Amy Gillett Foundation – their sole purpose is to reduce the incidence of death and injury of bike riders.
The 2014 Woodside Tour de Perth will run from Wednesday 26 to Saturday 29 March and will include the following teams:
Arbitrage - Wormall Civil
Team NeilPryde (Japan)
Total Sport Neilpryde (Hong Kong)
Team Directasia.com (Hong Kong)
African Wildlife Safaris
Avanti Racing Team
Charter Mason Giant Racing
Data Symantec Racing Team
GDT Racing Team
health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
Satalyst Giant Team
St Georges Skoda
Team Budget Forklifts