Two-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome (Team Sky) is convinced that he and his teammates will have a battle on their hands to claim overall victory in the 63rd Jayco Herald Sun Tour, starting tomorrow evening in Melbourne.
For audio from today’s press conference click here.
For images from today’s press conference click here.
Speaking on the eve of his second appearance at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, having last competed at Australia’s oldest stage race in 2008, the Kenyan-born Brit said his own form was an unknown quantity ahead of what will be his first race of the 2016 season.
“It’s been almost five months now since my last race so I’m not too sure what to expect,” he said. “Training has gone well throughout the winter and I’ve had a good block of training down in Adelaide with some of the guys from the Tour Down Under.
“This week will be a good test for me to see just where I’m at,” Froome said at a media activity at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Team Sky took the win at last weekend’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race through Peter Kennaugh and with the British road champion in-form, the team’s chances for General Classification honours are further bolstered by Colombian Sebastian Henao, Italian Salvatore Puccio and Brit Ian Boswell.
“I think we’ve got a great team here, a strong line-up of guys who can be competitive throughout the race. With any luck we could be looking at the overall victory,” Froome suggested.
Froome said that the diverse talent on offer at the Sun Tour will be a highlight of the event.
“That’s something that’s actually quite exciting about coming down here. Racing against guys who I don’t really know because they’re not over on the WorldTour and I don’t know their names,” he said. “It could be an interesting week to try and keep track of everyone and see who we’re really up against.”
Australian UCI WorldTour outfit ORICA-GreenEDGE, winners of the 2014 and 2015 Jayco Herald Sun Tour through Simon Clarke and Cameron Meyer (both of whom are no longer with the team) as well as last year’s Team Classification has split goals but are always a threat on home soil.
Sprint sensation Caleb Ewan has been near-unstoppable throughout the Australian summer of cycling so far will be looking to add to his two Sun Tour stage wins, spearheading one half of the team’s two-pronged attack.
“I’d like to get at least one stage win here… There’s quick guys here so it’s not going to be easy,” the 21-year-old said.
“I’m pretty confident coming here. I know I’ve got good form and my speed’s there so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get another win here.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE also have 2015’s Youth Classification winner Jack Haig (he was also third overall in 2014) and Damien Howson who was fifth overall last year in contention for the Sun Tour’s yellow jersey.
Ewan said he was un-phased by the team’s twin ambitions for the race.
“This is a race where you can pretty easily do both, especially when there’s only really one sprint stage – the guys will be happy to help me do that,” he said. “As long as I return the favour on some of the harder stages which I’m willing to do.”
2011 Sun Tour runner-up Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo) returns to the event wearing the green and gold bands as current Australian Road Champion while Avanti IsoWhey Sports headline a strong line-up of domestic teams looking to cause an upset.
Bobridge said the chances of Trek-Segafredo as well as his own, were finely poised ahead of his bid to better his 2011 runner-up placing to Nathan Haas.
“There’s been a lot of racing already and every stage has been tense. I’m looking forward to the week – we have a fresh team here, which has changed from [the Tour] Down Under. I think we’ve got a good mixed bag for every day and also for the General Classification.
“I’ll take it day-by-day but I’ve got good shape and I think the terrain will be good.”
Pat Lane, a bronze medallist to Bobridge at the national championships and a key animator in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, knows a fair bit about what it takes to elevate a teammate to the podium at the Sun Tour having been instrumental in Calvin Watson’s 2013 overall win. The young Victorian will no doubt be in the thick of the action again this week.
Race director and three-time winner of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour John Trevorrow said he was proud of an event that continues to give young Australian cyclists a chance to test themselves against the established names of the peloton.
“The Sun Tour has always been about giving as many local riders a platform to compete,” he said.
“As we have seen many times, the local teams are hungry for success and like nothing more than giving it to the internationals, they can make a mark and put themselves under the noses of the WorldTour teams. It can be a big stepping stone,” Trevorrow said.
“The Jayco Herald Sun Tour holds a special place in the heart of so many Australian cyclists because of that. For spectators, it’s those rising stars and lesser known names that make the race exciting for everyone – whether you watch cycling all the time, or just a little bit. There is always a reason to cheer a rider on and a story to be fascinated by.”
The 2016 JaycoHerald Sun Tour will be presented by Jayco and the Herald Sun, along with the continued support from the Victorian State Government.
For a full route description and overall tour preview click here