Nathan Earle is looking to emulate Richie Porte's 2008 Tour of Tasmania victory in what will be his last Subaru National Road Series (NRS) tour before he goes on to ride with Team Sky next year. Coming off a victory at the recent National Capital Tour, and cementing his overall Subaru NRS lead, Earle is optimistic about his chances.
"I've wanted to win the Tour of Tasmania ever since I first raced it in 2006," said Earle. "After winning the Tour in Canberra I'm feeling pretty confident, my form is good and I'm climbing well but I'm nervous at the same time.
"Also, this will be the last tour I'll do in Australia for a while and it will be my last tour with the team, so a win would be a way of saying thanks to the guys and a nice way to leave on a high."
In the eight day race starting today with a 17km team time trial to the summit of Mt Wellington, Earle's Huon-Genesys team start as favourites, but Earle is cautious of being too confident.
"It's definitely the toughest Tour of Tasmania I've seen for a while and it's also the longest. We have to be smart with how we race it because any silly mistakes early on will leave the team with nothing left to give for the rest of the week."
Earle makes reference to tactical errors made by his team last year that saw them lose the race lead on stage two to then Budget Forklifts rider, Mark O'Brien. Lachlan Norris riding for Drapac Cycling took the overall win last year, with Earle finishing third.
Huon-Genesys have fielded a strong climbing squad this year, including the return of climbing specialist Ben Dyball after a stint in Italy racing for Swiss team Velo Club Bellinzona. Dyball scored the biggest result of his career mid-way through 2013 when he won the prestigious Mt Fuji stage at Tour of Japan. Having lead the Tour of Tasmania for a day last year -after being part of the final Huon-Genesys quartet to win the opening stage up Mt Wellington- Dyball will be a handy addition to the Huon-Genesys squad providing he can overcome jet-lag.
Drapac Cycling return in defence of their 2012 title with a number of options including Darren Lapthorne, Bernard Sulzberger, Will Walker, Floris Goesinnen, and Robbie Hucker. Having lost over two and half minutes to the Huon-Genesys team in the opening stage team time trial last year, the Drapac team counter attacked over the following days with a bevy of smart and tactical racing to take the overall title. With the team also set to go Pro-Continental next year, any riders not yet signed on will be looking to prove their worth.
Budget Forklifts, the team that laments being "underestimated and under-rated", also field a strong squad to take it up to Drapac and Huon-Genesys with the team expected to excel on the longer more undulating stages. Budget played their cards well in the second stage at the National Capital Tour by stacking the break of the day in their favour and will be looking to do the same this week.
One rider who knows how to beat the Huon-Genesys team is the Kiwi, Michael Torckler, quest riding for CharterMason Drapac Development Team having finished his American stint with Bissell Pro Cycling. Having won the Tour of Borneo in 2012 ahead of Nathan Earle and his Huon-Genesys team, Torckler recently won the KOM jersey at the Tour of Utah and will be one to watch this week.
Lining up beside Torckler will be climbing specialists Matthew Clarke and Jason Spencer along with strong guest rider Nick Bensley. With these key four riders the CharterMason team stands to upset their bigger name rivals on not just the opening hill climb team time trial, but for the entire eight day race.
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