THE cycling fever that usually hits Warrnambool in October will be experienced earlier in the year as well following the introduction of the Tour of the South West.
The inaugural two-day, three-stage tour will be held April 28 and 29, with Cycling Victoria (CV) running the event in conjunction with Warrnambool City Council.
CV communications manager Paul Lumsden highlighted the region’s strong cycling culture.
“It had a lot to do with the Melbourne to Warrnambool, which is obviously held in October,” he said of the introduction of the tour.
“(The council) wanted to hold a race in the middle part of the calendar, six months prior to that. It has fit in quite well.”
A major drawcard of the event is that it caters for a range of cyclists, offering A, B and C grades, with women incorporated into the latter.
“At this stage we’re keeping it fairly simple with the three grades,” Lumsden said.
“We’ve capped it at 240 entries.
“We’re about halfway at the moment, which is positive.
“Entries close on Sunday and we’re expecting to be full on Sunday.”
The A grade is shaping up to be a quality field, featuring a number of the country’s top young riders.
“The Victorian Institute of Sport is sending quite a few riders and Tim Decker is bringing quite a few riders from the South Australian Institute of Sport as well,” Lumsden said. “We’ve also got a couple of professional teams — search2retain and Budget Forklifts.
“They’re probably two of the top three teams in Australia.”
The tour consists of a road race and individual time trial on Saturday week, with both starting and finishing at Wangoom Recreation Reserve.
The following day there will be a criterium around the Warrnambool cemetery, with category placegetters and overall king of the mountain and sprint king winners to be announced after the finale.
Warrnambool City Council will close roads for each of the stages. “People can base themselves around Wangoom on the Saturday and around Proudfoots on the Sunday,” Lumsden said.
It is planned that the tour will be an annual event.
Lumsden is confident it will continue to grow in years to come, with organisers expected to introduce more grades, such as masters.