Santos North Western Tour heads inland

This will be the first year New South Wales has held a round of the Australian National Road Series in a tour format. For the past two seasons Goulburn to Citi has been a two-day event while this year it will return to its single-race format.

NSW has been overlooked over the years for numerous reasons but the organisers of the tour have worked hard to expose the regional areas of the state to one of the country’s top cycling events. The tour will pass through six regional areas including Narrabri, Warrumbungle, Gilgandra, Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains and Tamworth.

The four-day and five-stage race will also incorporate the third round of the women’s Suburu National Road Series with 2010 national road race champion Ruth Corset (Pensar - Hawk) set to line up.

Race Director Kurt Polock spoke to Cyclingnews about the opportunity to hold a multi-stage race to be run in conjunction with the Keegan Downes Memorial Sundownwer Handicap and Gunnedah to Tamworth Open events. This popular weekend of racing will be run for the 35th year and has been a regular feature in the NSW Cycling calendar.

"Santos was interested in coming on board because of their local mining interests and we were able to develop a multi-year partnership," he explained.

Polock has planned for the event to continue for a number of years to come and is confident the tour will be included in the National Road Series in 2013.

"We’ve committed to the next three years and it’s an exciting time for NSW and cycling in Australia."

The tour has a familiar format to the remaining NRS tour events with a combination of a prologue, criterium and three road stages. The opening day will be have a short prologue in the morning and a criterium will follow in the afternoon.

"The course for the prologue won’t produce any large time gaps but the course has some technical apects," Polock said. "No one will be eliminated from the criterium while time penalties for lapped riders will be used. Those hoping to perform well in the general classification will ensure they are not time-gapped at the finish."

The most feared area for the riders will be stage 3 when the race passes through Warrumbungle twice before climbing up to the top and finishing at the Siding Springs Observatory. The hilltop finish is not as steep the climb used at the Tour of Toowoomba but with an elevation gain of 650m over 15km and pinches of 15%, it will define the general classification for the coming days.

Stages 4 and 5 will leave plenty of opportunities for breakaways with rolling hills littering the final day days.

"There’s a little bit for everyone but it will be a tough tour," said Polock.

There’s over $25,000 in prize money to be won spread across the men’s and women’s tour and includes an additional Young Rider jersey to the General, King and Queen of the Mountain and Sprint Classifications. The leading team will also wear yellow-coloured numbers on their jerseys for each stage.

The next round of the Suburu National Road Series is the Tour of Gippsland from 1-5 August.

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