SOUTH Gippsland will have the chance to get up close and personal with two-time Tour de France winner and reigning champion Chris Froome when Stage 3 of the 2016 Jayco Herald Sun Tour hits the region in February.
The 146km stage – the longest of the tour – will start in Traralgon and move through Churchill, Boolarra, Mirboo North, Dumbalk and Leongatha, on the way to the coast before riding through Cape Paterson and Wonthaggi to the finish at Inverloch.
The Herald Sun Tour is Victoria’s best-known and Australia’s longest-running professional road cycling race and the 2016 Tour from February 3 to 7 will attract attention nationally and internationally.
The race begins with a Prologue event in Melbourne’s CBD, before heading to Healesville and then Moe for Stages 1 and 2.
On Saturday, February 6, the riders tackle the Traralgon to Inverloch route.
The tour has not visited Gippsland since 2008, when Stage 1 travelled from Traralgon to Inverloch.
Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing is excited about the international event.
“As many Gippslanders already know, our region is a sensational place for road cyclists of all abilities, and it’s the perfect backdrop for a world-renowned cycling event like the Herald Sun Tour,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity for our communities to showcase Gippsland and to welcome racegoers and cycling fans from all over the nation and the world.
“International sporting events such as this mean better business for our local bakeries, cafes and accommodation, and this all is great news for the Gippsland economy.”
The Bass Coast Shire Council will work with organisers to ensure the event runs smoothly.
Events coordinator Frank Angarane said the council is looking forward to the tour.
“We’ll help facilitate activities in Inverloch. We’ll try to help with bicycle user groups to have activities at the start and finish – at this stage it’s pretty early in planning for what’s going to happen there,” he said.
“We’ll be working with organisers to see how we can maximise the benefit to Inverloch.
“South Gippsland and all of Gippsland is really popular as a cycling route due to the terrain and the landscape here. We’re very positive about these types of events here.”
The economic boost is not the only benefit to the region, with the high calibre of athletes providing inspiration for local cyclists.
Leongatha Cycling Club coach Tony Smith said the tour will expose young local cyclists to what is possible.
“We’ve never had the reigning Tour de France champion race in Australia so it will be pretty big,” he said.
“We will see some Victorians competing there and we might see one or two Gippslanders, but I’m not sure on that.
“They get a chance to have a chat to riders after the stage has finished and our juniors will get a chance to see them go through town.
“It’s the start of the season, so the cyclists are happy to race in Australia because its extreme conditions in Europe at that time of year.
“They’ll come out and race the Tour Downunder and the Herald Sun Tour then head back overseas, because after that, the European season starts.”
Down at Inverloch, the burgeoning cycling fraternity couldn’t be happier about hosting Froome and the finish of Stage 3.
Local extreme cyclist, Col Boyd, said last week there was a lot of support and a lot of interest in the race coming to town, headed by Chris Froome.
He said on Gippsland ABC Radio last week that the area was ideal for cyclists and it would be a chance to raise the profile of the sport locally.
Tour de France winner riding to Inverloch