The Jayco-Herald Sun Tour is back. It kicked off with a 2.5km prologue in Melbourne on Wednesday evening. Jarrod Partridge captured the action and Nick Squillari offers his observations…
Click the photo below to begin a slideshow…
Observations from Melbourne’s Southbank
– By Nick Squillari
Dumplings. Man alive, I love them. Only there seemed an inordinate amount of pedestrians around the Melbourne CBD this evening – hampering my mission to track down the Asian delights.
“So what is going on here?” a business attired man asks the blonde. Well played. It was pretty clear what was happening – the start of what is constantly one of the most underrated races of the year. He left without her number, and I was still without dumplings, but for everyone along the course for the prologue of the 2014 Jayco-Herald Sun Tour it was worth the sacrifices.
The shift up to a UCI ranked 2.1 race meant the romance of local riders competing against some of the world’s best was lost. However the sight of WorldTour riders shredding the South Yarra broadwalk (and every associated Strava segment with it) against a Flinders Street backdrop felt a fair price to pay. There’s no doubt the caliber of athletes played an enormous role in securing the 2.5km route through the heart of the CBD. Riders may have needed to use Casino dining establishment facilities, but that only added to the atmosphere. One moment you’re making dinner small talk, the next you’re making way for a rider in what looks like a onesie and some helmet that could have been straight from a Daft Punk clip. Dedicated domestique or WorldTour race winner, it did not matter. Onlookers knew they were watching athletes in the truest sense of the word.
The Tour Down Under is a spectacle, no doubt about it. However for mine, the ‘Sun Tour’ is fast evolving in to a peoples race. Excusing the cliché, there is a level of intimacy that even the Tour Down Under (with all the famous rides back to Adelaide with the pros) is not able to offer. Orica-GreenEdge riders, minutes after finishing their ride (and complete with ‘pursuitors cough’) on their bikes going back through the crowd. No mobbing of them. No fanfare. Respectful distances kept. Which given the depth of the crowd at certain points, was impressive.
By the end of the race it was our neighbours across The Ditch who took first and second. Quick rider start intervals kept it gripping to the end. With Tasmania’s Will Clarke clinging on to third and Simon Gerrans showing his terrific summer form, like T-1000, refuses to die. By the end, every major player held good times. And a few dark horses like Felix English (in form his national cricket team could only dream of) showed they need to be accounted for.
For a race that somehow continually gets forgotten by broader media – through either constant date changes or, in this case, lost in the post-TdU hangover – the Sun Tour looks set to again entertain. Fortunately a point that the sports savvy Melbourne crowds poignantly had not forgotten.
Tomorrow the race heads down the road to start in my home, Geelong. If only it could bring a dumpling house with it.