The 17th edition of the Tour of the Murray River will kick off this Sunday with a morning criterium and an afternoon road stage around the Moira Shire of Victoria. The town of Yarrawonga will play host to the opening events in the eight-day, 14-stage tour. Murray is the next stop on the Scody Cup calendar and will test the legs of the select 80-rider field over a 782.8km route.
Teams will seek to have their sprinters in top condition for the race which features 10 criterium-style circuits throughout the tour. While the stage distances are shorter than previous Scody Cup tours, it’s the double-stages on seven of the eight days that will test the resolve of every rider.
Genesys Wealth Advisers will arrive in Murray as the only team to include a maximum of eight riders, with recent Tour of the Great South Coast winner and reigning national criterium champion, Anthony Giacoppo as one of the big favourites for the overall title. Giacoppo will be joined by former winners Joel Pearson (2010) and Pat Shaw (2011) along with recent signing and Tour of the Great South Coast double stage winner Brenton Jones.
"There’s always going to be inter-team rivalry and you always want to beat the other guys," Giacoppo said.
"The overall series [win], that’s what you’re looking for at the end of the day."
Budget Forklifts and Drapac Professional Cycling will be two of the other teams to watch over the eight-day race. Budget brings plenty of capable riders for both criteriums and the longer road stages with Tour of Gippsland and Great South Coast double stage winner Luke Davison looking to add a couple of Murray stages to his palmares.
"We’re taking a team of sprinters, being so many crits in this race," said Drapac director sportif Agostino Giramondo.
"We’re just hoping they can be ultra-competitive, string a couple of stage wins together and see how we go from there."
The Tour’s heavy criterium-focus means teams and riders will have to remain alert, picking up intermediate sprint bonus wherever possible. With 135 sprints on offer throughout the 14 stages, bonus seconds will prove crucial for those eyeing the overall.
Day three will provide the biggest opportunity for riders not suited to the short and explosive criteriums, to show themselves. The 155.1km stage from Echuca to Rochester is essentially flat however a few short climbs in the final hour of racing may be a perfect place for an attack to go away.
Swan Hill will hold the final 60km circuit race the following Sunday and with 16 sprints on offer, the day’s result could also determine the overall winner.
Stage maps and profiles for Tour of the Murray River can be viewed on Cycling Profiles.