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Timbercorp Tour of Gippsland, Victoria, announced

The route for the Gippsland Tour in Victoria, a stage race running from August 1 through 5, has been announced. Even though it's scheduled for only five days, there are eight stages total, as three of the days are split off into double events. The total distance of the race is 601.7 kilometres, and the week features a total of 27 climbs. In the mix of circuit and road races, the amount of of sprints outnumber the KOM's by a ratio of more than two to one, for a total of 68 spots where the fast men can gain points.

Englishman Tom Southam, a former British under 23 road time trial champion, will travel to Australia for the race and give it some international flair. Southam, 26, first visited Australia in 2002 as a member of an elite U.K. training squad which based itself in Bendigo. Southam clearly likes the country as he is now married to an Australian and has applied for a permanent resident visa. The Brit also has secured a contract with the Drapac-Porsche team.

"It's an excellent team and I've been very lucky," said Southam, who twice finished second in the British open road championship. "I have not tested myself in a full-on Australian road race, so the Tour of Gippsland is very important to me at this point. "I just don't know how I'll go. If I can't do well on general classification, I at least want to win a stage."

The field will be 63 riders strong and will include Victorian Zak Dempster, who resides in Bendigo and trains with Southam. He's from the South squad, managed by former world track champion Rodney McGee.

The Tour is the opening round of the 2007 Timbercorp Cup (formerly Tattersall's Cup), first held in 1996. The cup series will continue with the Australian Cycling Grand Prix at Ballarat from August 17-19, the Tour of the Murray River (August 26 – September 2) and the Tour of Tasmania (October 2-7).

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