The seasoned Ballarat professional cyclist Patrick Shaw admits that the Port MacDonnell stage of the past two Lakes Oil-Fulton Hogan Tours of the Great South Coast have been “a day out for relaxing and taking in the pleasant scenery.”
Not so in 2016 – courtesy of a progressive initiative by the District Council of Grant which will host the entire second day of the five-day Subaru National Road Series race, to be held from August 10-14.
The new format will see the tour’s longest stage (137.6kms) start and finish in the quaint South Australian coastal village of Port MacDonnell, proudly promoted by the Grant council as “Australia’s Southern Rock Lobster Capital.”
Port MacDonnell is uniquely situated at 28kms South of Mount Gambier, 450kms South-East of Adelaide, and 450kms West of Melbourne. It has 1000 permanent inhabitants and, like Patrick Shaw, most of them will spark up when the 511-kilometre Tour of the Great South Coast comes to the region on Thursday, August 11.
The wide expansive waterfront at Port MacDonnell was the scene of two hectic stage finishes in 2014 and last year, but both races commenced at the West Gambier sports ground because some unsealed roads prevented a full tour of Grant council territory and a start-finish at the coastal fishing headquarters.
Over the past three years, the Grant council has methodically re-built and bitumenised nine kilometres of Meyers Road, a previously unsealed section of virtual gravel track which will enable next month’s tour stage to start and finish at Port MacDonnell, but also pass through Allendale East, Pelican Point, Carpenter Rocks, Blackfellows Caves, Blue Lake Golf Links, Donovans, Brown Bay, Riddoch Bay and Race Course Bay.
The challenging trek will begin at 11 a.m. and will incorporate six intermediate sprints and a hill climb before concluding around 2.30 p.m., depending on weather conditions – a factor well at the forefront of Shaw’s thinking.
“The big out-and-back loop has added a new dimension to this stage and cross-winds could have a huge influence on the outcome,” he says.
TOUR OF THE GREAT SOUTH COAST August 10 – 14
“To be quite honest, I’ve enjoyed the Port MacDonnell stage over the past couple of years because at times it felt like a recreational ride and you could hide in the bunch or thereabouts. I doubt whether that will happen this year. At some point, we are likely to get the full blast of the winds.”
Ballarat-based Shaw, 30, will be the most experienced cyclist in the race, having ridden in all four previous Tours of the Great South Coast. He will line-up for the Avanti-IsoWhey Sports team which has a wonderfully- successful record in the event, winning with the West Australian Anthony Giacoppo in 2012, Victoria’s Brenton Jones in 2014 and the New Zealander Patrick Bevin last year.
Shaw’s biggest wins include the Tour of the Murray River, Tour of Gippsland, Launceston to New Norfollk Classic and the 2010 Scody Cup.
He plans to retire from top-level racing at the end of this year, but is hoping for another major victory before then.
“I still want to add to my list of wins,” he declares. “The Tour of the Great South Coast would be nice. It’s a race that has punished me a lot over the years. I crashed twice last year and still finished fifth. Maybe this year.”
The Tour of the Great South Coast will start with a traditional criterium in Mount Gambier’s Vansittart Park at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 10, and end with a waterfront crit in Portland on Sunday, August 14.
The race will also take in Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake area, Penola, Casterton and Cape Bridgewater. Entries close on July 31.