The Roar
The Roar


Froome's climbing masterclass propels Herald Sun Tour into the stratosphere

Chris Froome.(Source: Team Sky)
7th February, 2016

Tour de France hero Chris Froome has won the 63rd Herald Sun Tour.

The Team Sky leader took the overall lead from teammate Peter Kennaugh after claiming the fourth and final stage of the race with a scintillating display of climbing up the hairpin bends of Arthurs Seat.

Forced to chase down a dangerous Joseph Cooper (Avanti Isowhey Sports) late in the race to protect his team’s grip on the general classification, Froome eventually put in an attack of his own that was never going to be caught.

Cooper, the 2015 New Zealand road race champion, had started the day just 55 seconds down and in tenth place overall, but when Froome upped the cadence on the final climb, he was unable to follow and was soon swallowed by the peloton.

Froome eventually crossed the line 17 seconds ahead of Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge) with Jonathon Clarke (United Healthcare) at 21 seconds in third place.

Kennaugh, who had led the race since day two, finished seventh at 32 seconds, enough to keep him on the podium and give Team Sky a memorable one-two on general classification.

Local riders Howson at 1:01, Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo) at 1:04 and Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEdge) at 1:14 rounded out the top five.

While it might appear that Team Sky dominated the race, a quick glance at the individual stage winners highlights a surprising diversity.


The prologue was won by Tasmania’s Will Clarke (Drapac), Stage 1 went to Kennaugh who hails from the Isle of Mann, and Stage 2 went to Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), the brightest sprinting prospect this country has seen since Robbie McEwan.

Stage 3 went to a red-headed bloke with a beard, American John Murphy (United Healthcare), and the final stage went to Kenyan-born Froome.

That’s enough variety to keep the race interesting while Froome’s masterclass of climbing was the icing on the cake.

But Froome’s display on Arthurs Seat was not to everyone’s taste. Post race there were a few quiet rumbles about him selfishly stealing the leader’s jersey from his friend and teammate Kennaugh. They were soon drowned out, though, by those singing his praises.


And to think that UCI president Brian Cookson was disappointed that Froome chose to ride in this race and not the Tour Down Under. The Tour Down Under is of course a World Tour event while the Herald Sun Tour is ranked a lowly 2.1 on the UCI’s scale of importance.

It is understandable that the UCI want the world’s best riders in the world’s most highly rated races, but it is just not possible for all elite riders to be ready for all of the top ranked events all of the time. Each has his own goals for the year and as such each has his own individual program.

For a rider like Froome, who aims to peak in July for the Tour de France, racing big events in January (such as the Tour Down Under) just doesn’t make any sense.

Alberto Contador, one of Froome’s main Grand Tour rivals, has yet to push a pedal in anger this year, while Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali have only taken part in the Tour de San Luis, a race that has a UCI rating of 2.1, the same as the Herald Sun Tour.

For the record they finished third and fourteenth respectively on general classification, still someway off finding their best form.

What Cookson and his buddies at the UCI have to realise is that pro-cycling is so much more than just their precious World Tour.


The Herald Sun Tour may not be the most prestigious race in the world, hell, it isn’t even Australia’s most prestigious race anymore, but what it offers to riders and fans is integral to the continued success of the sport.

As I stated in my article on Saturday, it is grassroots racing at its best, a proving ground for young riders and developing teams to test themselves against elite riders such as Froome and Kennaugh and world-class outfits like Team Sky.

But not only that, the race is very marketable. The parcours is always interesting. Visually it can be stunning. Those who watched the coverage of Stage 1 as the race weaved its way to Healesville will struggle to find a more beautiful location for a bike race.

The battle between local riders and the internationals is always intense. Teams like Avanti Isowhey are never shy in taking it up to more highly fancied opposition and drama is never far away. That sort of thing is so easy to promote.

Sports fans love a contest and that is what they get with the Herald Sun Tour.

That is why the hairpin bends of Arthurs Seat are packed tight with screaming supporters. That is why the start and finishing areas are crowded with curious onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of a famed international or acknowledge a local boy having a crack at the big time.

Sometimes the results can be predictable, Caleb Ewan winning a sprint for instance as he did in Stage 2. Sometimes the results can be unpredictable, like when some bloke with a beard upstages the hottest new talent in cycling! But there is always a contest.


In the Herald Sun Tour and races like it, that contest is made all the more special because it often becomes a David and Goliath type battle. Oftentimes Goliath wins, but sometimes he doesn’t.

It doesn’t really matter which one triumphs because in the end the sport wins. It gets more fans, youngsters are inspired to take up cycling and those who are already knocking about on domestic teams get a chance to test themselves against the very elite.

So you see, Mr Cookson, it isn’t all about the World Tour after all.