The 61st Jayco Herald Sun Tour returns to the Australian cycling calendar in 2014 opening with a twilight prologue on Melbourne's Southbank Promenade. The 2.5km individual time trial begins the five day race which has been reinstated to a 2.1 UCI international level event. Racing will take place between the fifth and ninth of February with the new time slot after Tour Down Under ensuring a bumper month of premier road cycling in Australia.
American WorldTour team Garmin-Sharp are the first international team revealed for the 2014 event, with their outfit boasting an Australian flavour including 2011 Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion Nathan Haas and sprinter Steele Van Hoff.
Haas, who was victorious overall in the last year the race was a UCI sanctioned level event, is excited to return to the event that played a major role in his progression to riding at a WorldTour level.
"The Sun Tour is Victoria's biggest cycling event and Australia's longest running tour so in my mind it should always be and have always stayed a UCI level race and I am glad it is back where it should be," Haas said.
"I'm really excited to see a really tight competitive race all the way to Arthurs Seat. The prologue will create a leader on the road for the first stage but there will be so many strong teams now that it is back to UCI status that I doubt we will see a lucky breakaway on stage one."
The 24-year-old will be joined by fellow Australian Von Hoff, who was pivotal in his 2011 victory, at the 2014 Tour. The remaining four riders on the Garmin team will be announced in coming weeks as will other WorldTour teams and riders.
"The stage that goes from Geelong to Ballarat, I know those roads and the direction they are taking us and I reckon the course profile is a little bit deceiving," Von Hoff said. "It is going to be a very hard stage so it could possibly be a GC (general classification) decider because I think the break will stick and it will hurt some legs that day.
"Arthurs Seat is definitely going to be the ultimate decider because only those with strong legs will finish that off. It's a nasty little climb. I live at the bottom of that climb so I know it very well. No matter how many times I practice it, it doesn't make me any faster up that hill."
A post-work crowd pleaser, the twilight prologue will start at Birramung Marr and finish along the Southbank Promenade at Queensbridge Square on Wednesday 5th February with the first rider off the start ramp at 6:30pm.
The Tour then moves into regional Victoria with stage one journeying from Geelong to Ballarat, stage two is Ballarat to Bendigo and stage three is a lap around the Mitchelton Winery and Nagambie region.
The final and decisive day of racing will return to the popular Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula for a spectator friendly three-lap circuit of the challenging climb including a mountain top finish.
In a first for the event, the 2014 edition of the race will welcome one of Australia's most iconic mass participation rides – Amy's Ride Victoria – on the final day in the Mornington Peninsula.
Run by the Amy Gillett Foundation, Amy's Ride Victoria allows riders to test themselves on a 102km, 60km or 20km course in a safe and encouraging environment including the Arthur's Seat climb before the final stage of the tour.
Past winners of the Herald Sun Tour include the likes of 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France sprint champion Baden Cooke, Tour stage winners Neil Stephens and Simon Gerrans as well as both Shane and Gary Sutton.