Copyright: Team ISOWHEY Sports SwissWellness

For West Australian professional cyclist Anthony Giacoppo, the Port of Portland-Fulton Hogan Tour of the Great South Coast holds a special place in his armory of big-race victories.

Giacoppo, 31, won the inaugural tour in 2012 and was on the way to a repeat triumph in 2013, after winning three early stages, before a bout of acute tonsillitis forced his untimely withdrawal.

Hamstring injuries, further tonsillitis attacks and a pre-tour skin-erasing crash in Europe in 2016 sidelined him from the next three Great South Coast classics, but he begrudgingly watched them all from the relative comfort of his team vehicle, driven by the doyen of Australian road cycling managers, the Tasmanian Andrew Christie-Johnston.

“It got to me a bit last year on the long stage which started and finished in Port MacDonnell, the South Australian fishing township,” he recalls. “We were driving along behind the peloton and I was thinking: ‘This stage would really suit me – flat, wide-open countryside subject to crosswinds, and a fast finishing stretch with plenty of room.’

“It reinforced how much I enjoy the Great South Coast Tour and its spectacular course. It’s a bloody hard race, with its criteriums, multiple intermediate sprints on the road stages and hill climbs, but it suits the all-rounder rather than the one-trick pony.”

Giacoppo is hoping to unleash as many tricks as he can to win the sixth five-day Great South Coast Tour, over a gruelling 500-kilometre course in South Australia and Victoria from July 26-30.

He will ride in the seven-man Isowhey Sports Swiss Wellness team, managed by Christie Johnston who will be striving for an amazing fifth victory in the tour under the banner of a variety of previous and current sponsors, including Praties, Genesis and Avanti. The stocky Tasmanian’s ability to procure major funding for his 17-man cycling contingent is as brilliant as his on-road success.

While Giacoppo was Christie-Johnston’s initial Great South Coast winner, he followed with the outstanding Victorian road sprinter Brenton Jones in 2014, then the New Zealander Patrick Bevin, and Bendigo’ s Sam Crome last year.

Giacoppo has won 40 professional races in Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea throughout his illustrious cycling career and has an incredible record in the national criterium championship, winning the title in 2012 and recording minor placings in four subsequent years.

But the Great South Coast classic ranks high on his list of achievements because it was his first tour win: “It’s right up there,” he says. “It’s a huge thrill to win international races overseas, but an event like the Great South Coast Tour is close to me because we stay in nice hotels and there is an air of comfort about the whole thing.

“And, if we happen to win a stage, Andrew usually shouts us a bottle of great red from the Coonawarra over dinner. That’s a real bonus.”

Giacoppo is pleased that the Heywood to Casterton stage has been reintroduced into the 2017 tour: “That stage would not be out of place in the Tour de France,” he asserts.

The Tour of the Great South Coast is scheduled to kick-off with a traditional criterium at Mount Gambier’s Vansittart Park on Wednesday, July 26, and end with a waterfront criterium in Portland on Sunday, July 30.

The six-stage race will also take in stages at Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake, Port MacDonnell, Heywood, Casterton and Cape Bridgewater.

The event is a key race on Cycling Australia’s Subaru National Road Series calendar and is backed by the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant in South Australia, and the Glenelg Shire Council in Victoria.