The Roar
The Roar


Jayco Herald Sun Tour proves its relevance

Peter Kennaugh has been strong in the Jayco Herald Sun tour. (Team Sky)
5th February, 2016

The stars of Australia’s summer of cycling have come out to play at the 63rd Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

While it was Will Clarke (Drapac) who stole the show on day one, relegating whiz-kid Caleb Ewan (Orica-Greenedge) to second place in the prologue for the second year in a row, the following stages were dominated by riders who have already stamped their mark on season 2016.

Sky’s Peter Kennaugh, fresh from an attacking solo win in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race (say that five times quickly), proved that he is a rider to be reckoned with by winning a thrilling and hilly Stage 1, while Ewan added to his swag of 2016 wins by sprinting to victory in Stage 2.

Kennaugh’s win has been the highlight of the race so far. With the breakaway caught on the early stages of the day’s final climb, Team Sky, driven hard by Ian Boswell, put the remaining members of the peloton to the sword.

It was an awesome display of power that the domestic teams in the race won’t quickly forget.

Having asserted their authority, two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome surged clear of the pack, his familiar high cadence style of pedalling showing no sign of weakness despite not having cycled competitively for five months. Soon after, the irrepressible Kennaugh bridged across to his high-profile teammate in a perfect one-two move.

Then, in somewhat of a role reversal to the usual, Froome guided Kennaugh up the final kilometres of the slope, cresting Mt. St. Leonards 15 seconds ahead of the chasing trio of Ben Dybal (Kordamentha Australian Team), Jonathon Clarke (United Healthcare) and Damien Howson (Orica-Greenedge).

The three tried gallantly to ride down the two leaders, at one stage closing the margin to just a couple of seconds on the descent. But their stunning pursuit came to an end when Dybal suffered a mechanical, and the Sky pair reopened the gap and were never caught. They finished first and second on the line.


It was an entertaining day of racing, made all the better for the tactics of Team Sky and Froome’s ‘have-a-go’ attitude.

Post race he pointed out that his team had little chance of winning any sprints that might eventuate, so he thought he’d better “give it a shot” up the climb to tilt the odds in his team’s favour.

As Kennaugh stated afterward, the plan worked perfectly. Not only did they finish first and second, they also claimed the top two spots on general classification.

A day later, on terrain not as suited to them, the pair gave their all to defend their overall race positions.

With Stage 2 into Moe looking likely to end in a bunch sprint, Froome and Kennaugh broke away with Australian national road champion Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo), Jack Haig (Orica-Greenedge), Tanner Putt (United Healthcare) and the super fast Ewan. There were only a handful of kilometres remaining.

They were never going to out sprint Ewan, who won the stage, or the tenacious Putt, who came second, but it didn’t matter as neither of those two were an overall threat. But by finishing third (Kennaugh) and fourth (Froome) they blocked Bobridge and Haig (fifth and sixth respectively) from gaining any time.

In a race that some have suggested is irrelevant to the world of cycling (not naming anybody, Felix Lowe), it was an effort that showed Froome, the world’s pre-eminent stage racer, cared about the result. It was an effort that showed Team Sky, the world’s most feared Grand Tour outfit, also cared about the result.


That’s a stamp of approval right there.

While the Herald Sun Tour doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of its upmarket South Australian cousin the Tour Down Under, it is not expected to. Its UCI ranking has it sitting a couple of tiers below the top level races and it is more about grassroots racing than the very top end of the sport.

It is races like these that supply the World Tour with its next generation of riders. It is where young riders gain experience and learn about grinding it out day after day. It is where they toughen themselves up for the rigours of the next level.

Nathan Haas launched his World Tour career off the back of a successful Herald Sun Tour. In its early days an unknown MTN-Qhubeka (now Dimension Data) raced at the Herald Sun Tour. Everybody and every team must start somewhere.

Soleiman Kangangi, a member of the Kenyan Riders Downunder team, stated that it was one of his dreams to ride alongside Chris Froome in a bike race.

“It’s a great honour,” he said, “but I still want to be competitive.”

Try telling him that the Herald Sun Tour is irrelevant.


Without smaller races for developing teams and riders to compete in, the whole system falls apart. Riders don’t just materialise into the World Tour. They have all cut their teeth in smaller races, working their way up through the ranks and testing themselves out against established stars such as Froome or Kennaugh in races just like this one.

In some ways these races are even more important than the World Tour ranked events as without them where would the new riders come from?

To suggest that events such as the Herald Sun Tour are irrelevant is little more than World Tour snobbery.