Preview: 2023 Tour of Tasmania (NRS)
The AusCycling 2023 National Road Series finale rolls away tomorrow at the Tour of Tasmania.
Over five days of racing, the Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour (men) and Roll Cycles Tour of Tasmania (women) puts the best of the Apple Isle on full display, starting from the NRS men’s prologue up Bourke St in Launceston on Wednesday.
The NRS women get their show on the road on Friday for Stage 1, which finishes on the cracker that is the Poatina climb in all its pain and glory, after road repairs deemed the full climb inaccessible last year.
Can Rhys Robotham (Team BridgeLane) defend his 2022 title? And can anyone stop Emily Watts (Team BridgeLane) from claiming her third NRS tour win on the trot?
The men’s Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour will be raced over five days, starting with a prologue on Wednesday, followed by three road races and the Stage 4 criterium in Devonport.
The women’s Roll Cycles Tour of Tasmania joins the action on Friday in Longford for Stage 1 and race on the same routes as the men through to Sunday’s criterium.
- Prologue: Bourke St, Launceston (550m)
A watt-dropping short 550m burst up Bourke St featuring 62m of climbing, an average grade of 11.9% at a maximum gradient of 15.3%. The course is narrow and very steep, providing many spectator opportunities to get a first glimpse of the riders in this year’s Tour.
- Stage 1: George Town to Kayena (112km)
A lumpy, scenic route south through the East Tamar, crossing the Batman Bridge and on to Beaconsfield, before finishing up in the renowned wine regions of the West Tamar. The route change offers a stunning display of the Tamar Valley and an exciting sprint finish to set the stage for tomorrow’s big climb.
- Stage 2 (women’s Stage 1): Longford to Poatina (71.5km)
A flat, quick 50km kicks off the stage as the peloton looks to keep breaks in check before the punchy hilltop finish. After road repairs rendered the full hill climb inaccessible in 2022, the full Poatina climb is back! Promising huge buzz and a thrilling finish, this stage is a true test of grit.
- Stage 3 (Stage 2): Penguin/Gunns Plains (133.3km/107.3km)
Get ready for an exhilarating stage as riders take on the infamous Gunns Plains climb not once, but twice. Offering an exciting challenge for all riders, this route is sure to break up the peloton and create a gripping breakaway or selection to fight for the stage win.
- Stage 4 (Stage 3): Devonport Criterium (54km/36km)
A high-speed, 1.7km circuit around the panoramic Devonport Bluff as riders test what’s left in the tank after the previous days of intense racing. Looping the Devonport Oval and Bluff area, the criterium will challenge the sprinters and serve as the final showdown in Tasmania.
Series powerhouse Team BridgeLane come to Tasmania stacked with climbing talent but without Tristan Saunders, who has already wrapped up the 2023 overall NRS title, and Cycle Sunshine Coast winner Alastair Christie-Johnston, who is a late withdrawal due to illness. For the boys in blue it’s honestly a case of next one up this year, such is their level of depth. Robotham is the defending Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour champion and could be marshalling an unspeakable number of attacks from his fellow climbing teammates Luke Burns, Matt Greenwood, Zac Marriage, Ben Metcalfe and James Panizza.
ARA Skip Capital welcome Kane Richards back into the NRS fold after a big season abroad in Europe and Asia and their other major threat will likely come from Declan Trezise. Both have been in winning moods lately, with Richards winning a Tour of Southland stage last week in New Zealand and Trezise winning Stage 3 of Cycle Sunshine Coast and the Australian Open Criterium at the Noosa Triathlon festival last weekend. The Toowoomba product is taking a big leap in his career during the second half of this season after a GC and mountains classification win at tours in China, and a stage win at Tour de Kyusha in Japan a month ago.
Cycling Development Foundation Kiwi Boris Clark has been strong over the last two NRS stops, with a Tour of Gippsland second-place overall finish behind Saunders and two second-place stage finishes to his name across Gippsland and Cycle Sunshine Coast. The tall 28-year-old was at it again last week across the ditch at the Tour of Southland, securing a TTT prologue win, a second-place to Richards on Stage 6 and third overall. His form warrants status as a GC threat.
Ben Carman (Criterion BEx Racing) can never be counted out for a stage win on any profile. The same can be said for CCACHE x Par Küp’s Marcus Culey. CCACHE x Par Küp have also added Grafton to Inverell runner-up Max Campbell to the team for Tassie. The Brisbanite loves a breakaway and won the KOM classification at Tour of Southland last week.
There’s some handy names racing as individuals as well this week, headlined by former WorldTour rider and Tour de l’Avenir stage winner Alexander Evans. Other names to watch here are Oceania junior road race champion Will Heath, 2023 Santini National Junior Road Series winner Levi Hone, Cycle Sunshine Coast top-10 overall finisher Kobe Henderson, and Cohen Jessen, a dual-discipline ARA Australian Cycling Team member at the Glasgow 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships.
Emily Watts (Team BridgeLane) enters the Roll Cycles Tour of Tasmania with Tour of Gippsland and Cycle Sunshine Coast overall wins in her bag and the overall NRS win already secured. The 22-year-old will be hungry to make it three NRS overall wins in a row in Tasmania and it will be hard work for the rest of the women’s peloton to stop her. Her teammates Keely Bennett, Haylee Fuller and Mia Hayden have all tasted wins throughout the NRS year and Gina Ricardo is as dependable as they come. And just for good measure, BridgeLane have picked up Cycle Sunshine Coast stage winner Amanda Poulsen as a guest rider after her impressive results in Queensland a fortnight ago.
ARA Skip Capital have also brought a strong team to Tasmania, led by sprinters Georgia Whitehouse and Chloe Moran, who will both fancy their chances in the final stage criterium. Young talents Lauren Bates and Lucinda Stewart can provide good depth if the bunch stays together for the fast finishes. The team’s GC hopes will fall on climbers Rachael Wales and Alisha Wells. ARA Skip Capital’s trump card is national U23 road race champion Ella Simpson, who has found a new home on the team recently after a tough debut season in Europe. She finished 10th overall at Cycle Sunshine Coast.
Lucie Fityus (Cycling Development Foundation) finally broke through for her maiden NRS stage win during Stage 1 of the Cycle Sunshine Coast and then did it again on the last stage. Confidence is king and she could add another in Tasmania. Her 18-year-old teammate Mackenzie Coupland will be the big GC threat from the team on paper with her climbing pedigree on the super important Stage 1 finish in Poatina.
Butterfields Racing’s Katelyn Nicholson continues to impress and has now reeled off two GC podiums at the last two NRS stops. Expect more of the same in Tasmania.
And of course Ruth Corset will be dangerous on that final Poatina climb on Stage 1. The former national road race champion could throw a real spanner in the works of every team’s plan if she goes long and has a good day.
Watch daily highlights
AusCycling will have daily highlights of the 2023 Spirit of Tasmania Cycling Tour and Roll Cycles Tour of Tasmania. Follow AusCycling Road & Esports on Facebook and subscribe to the AusCycling YouTube channel.
Feature photo: Con Chronis