All eyes will be on the orange train of Genesys Wealth Advisers at the Tour of Tasmania with their near full-strength line-up set to take on the demanding six-day, 10-stage event.
The Tour of Tasmania marks the final round of the Scody Cup and the eighth round of the Australian National Road Series with the locally-based Genesys outfit holding a commanding lead over their rivals in both competitions.
While Nathan Haas appears to be unstoppable at the top of the NRS points ladder, it's his teammate Steele Von Hoff who leads the charge at the top of the Scody Cup rankings on 271 points courtesy of the 12 stage wins he's so far collected at the Tour of Gippsland, Tour of Geelong and Tour of the Murray, with Jayco-2XU's Ben Kersten next best on 169 while Genesys' Pat Shaw rounds out the top three on 165.
Fourteen teams will be on the start line for the opening teams time trial, run over 18.1 kilometres from Hobart's iconic Cascade Brewery to the top of Mount Wellington with a three-way battle set to explode with outfits from Australia, New Zealand and Russia ready to fight it out for overall honours through some spectacular and demanding terrain.
Patrick Jonker, Jayco-2XU sports director is particularly enthusiastic about the 543 kilometre tour.
"It's exciting just thinking about all the possible outcomes over such a tough, beautiful course," he said.
"I love the concept of starting the race with a teams time trial up Mt. Wellington. It's never been done anywhere before [in the NRS]. It's going to be all about discipline."
Local knowledge could well be a factor in this final Scody Cup event of 2011, with a host of Tasmanian riders playing key roles in their respective teams including 2009 winner Bernard Sulzberger (V Australia), Campbell Flakemore and Nathan Earle (Genesys), Mark Jamieson (Jayco-2XU) along with the all-Tasmanian line-ups of Pure Tasmania – Deloitte and Ride.net.au/Hobart Wheelers.
Jamieson's teammate Jai Crawford, who is making a guest appearance for the team at the Tour, knows just how tricky Mount Wellington can be.
"I know Mt Wellington really well because I live here in Hobart and I use the mountain for a lot of my training for the efforts that I do," he told Cyclingnews. "The other stages I've ridden over before so it will be good having a bit of local knowledge."
Meantime Haas explained that he is hoping that the familiarity that Flakemore and Earle have of the gruelling climb pays off.
"Knowledge on this climb is something that is very important," he said. "There's not an equal gradient anywhere and they certainly know the places where you can actually back off and not lose as much time relative to another section if you lose speed."
Following the innovative teams time trial, the tour will then visit New Norfolk, Hamilton, Bronte Park, Westbury, Deloraine, Ulverstone, Gunns Plains, Penguin, Burnie and West Mooreville before finishing with a 12-lap road race at Devonport's Mersey Bluff, starting at 1230pm, on Sunday, October 9.
While it's his first NRS race of the season, Crawford said that the inclusion of the Russian National Team led by triple Olympic medallist Alexi Markov, should throw a spanner in the works.
"Genesys have obviously been very strong looking at the results this year but I think Tassie will be a bit different with the Russian National Team who are very strong," he explained. "I've raced against those guys at the Tour of China and also at the Tour of Qinghai Lake earlier this year so I expect them to be extremely good."
Other riders to watch include Bikebug's Chris Jory, Plan B's Brad Linfield and Sam Davis, Jayco-2XU's Kiwi Josh Atkins and Ben Hill while Anthony Giacoppo gives Genesys another option.
The Jayco-2XU squad heads into the Tour with arguably their strongest team of the season with Trek-Livestrong pair of Atkins and Dale Parker joining Jamieson, Crawford, Ben Hill, Nick Dougall, James Hepburn, and Trenton Day.
"It's going to be a big battle and we are the underdog," Jonker admitted.
"Fatigue could become a major factor. Some of the stages are really difficult but we have some bloody good climbers."
However, Haas believes that his rivals new strength just might be their weakness.
"What we've seen with team like Jayco-2XU is that they go in with a team of superstars but they haven't been able to gel together because they haven't had that time together or that direction with a common goal as much as our team does," he said. "That's been the key to our success."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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