The 2017 Subaru National Road Series (NRS) continues this weekend with one of the country’s most iconic events, Amy’s Otway Tour, in Lorne, Victoria.
The two-day Tour – part of the popular Amy’s Gran Fondo weekend – will get the heart started on Saturday afternoon with a criterium on Lorne’s foreshore punctuated by the 20% gradient ‘Amy’s Wall’.
Stage two on Sunday morning will see the peloton cover 120 punishing kilometres and four categorised climbs through the Otway Ranges before taking in the picturesque Great Ocean Road.
The event will see host of the country’s best return to the domestic scene including 2017 Subaru NRS rankings leader Shannon Malseed (Holden Women’s Racing) and Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dream Team) who are fresh from their European stint with the High5 Australian Women’s Development Team.
“This season has been really successful for Holden so far – we have won multiple tours with multiple riders which shows our versatility and overall strength as a team,” said Malseed, who celebrated her first UCI podium at Tour de l’Ardeche and returns to the Subaru NRS to race for her Holden Women’s Team still holding the rankings lead despite missing the recent Tour of the King Valley.
Kennedy (High5 Dream Team), who will arrive in Australia less than 48 hours after her memorable overall victory in the Tour de l’Ardeche, has an added motivation for this weekend’s Tour as the incumbent Amy Gillett Scholarship holder.
“It is an important race for me as the scholarship holder, so I’ll be giving whatever I have, whether that be in support of my team mates or my own results,” said Kennedy, who will form a strong High5 Dream Team with 2016 Tour champion Rebecca Wiasak.
The Tour will also feature 2017 Tour of King Valley winner Macey Stewart (TIS Racing) and Lizzie Williams (Specialized Women’s Racing).
“I’m feeling excited to be back racing with my old local team Specialized. This is where my comeback to cycling all began in 2014 and I have fond memories of it,” said Williams who returned this week from her US season with Hagens Berman Supermint Pro.
Stewart, the Subaru NRS’ most recent Tour winner, is aiming to continue her good form and to hold on to third overall.
“The competition is going to be next level for sure, but I’m trying to head into the tour like I did King Valley, wanting to do well but not expecting to,” said Stewart who won Tour of King Valley in August.
The men’s Subaru NRS peloton make its debut with Victoria’s Mathew Ross (Drapac Pat’s Veg), who sits third overall on the elite and on top of the Young Rider’s rankings, to head an exciting and focussed young outfit which sits second overall.
“The form has been great not just for myself but our team as a whole, we have shown our strengths in all aspects of racing so far,” said Ross who finished runner up in the 228km epic Grafton to Inverell in May.
Keen to ensure they stay on top of the team’s rankings, the depth-filled Isowhey Sports Swiss Wellness program has named a quality line up including former Melbourne to Warrnambool champion Nathan Elliott, former WorldTour rider Tim Roe and Perth’s Michael Freiberg who enjoyed two stage wins at the Tour of King Valley.
“Amy’s put up a challenging course especially with a 10km climb straight out of the blocks, for the bigger riders like myself this will pose the biggest obstacle of the race,” said Freiberg, who will provide valuable support to the team’s climbing specialist across the tough course.
While their names don’t currently feature on the current Subaru NRS rankings, two riders to watch this weekend are the Victoria duo of Lionel Mawditt (Inform Tinelli) and Rowan Dever (Oliver’s Real Racing).
The pair have already etched their names onto the event’s honour roll, with Mawditt recording the fastest time at the 2016 Amy’s Gran Fondo in a field of more than 5000 participants, edging Dever by just two seconds to win the men’s 19-34 age category.