The Jayco Herald Sun Tour holds a special place in the heart of many an Australian cyclist but for Drapac Pat’s Veg rider Jesse Featonby earning a place on the start line carries a bit of extra weight.
“As soon as I could ride a bike, all I heard about were Sun Tour stories,” said the 29-year-old from Albury.
“My Dad was a part of a winning team and a time-trial stage winner, and now I will get to have my own chance.”
The 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race will be held around Victoria from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5th February 2017.
Featonby’s father Greg is a veteran of six Sun Tours and on an October day in 1988, stood on the podium as a victor in the 37km team time trial from Mansfield to Jamieson alongside Neil Stephens, Wayne Nicholls, Shane Sutton and Jean Paul van Poppel.
Having transitioned from triathlon over the last 12 months, being able to ride at the Sun Tour has proved extremely satisfying for Featonby, who claimed his maiden National Road Series win atop of Canberra’s Black Mountain.
“I spent 2016 with the goal of gaining selection in the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour. To achieve that goal with such a strong team is incredibly rewarding,” he said.
The man at the helm of Drapac Pat’s Veg ambitions, is recently retired Mark O’Brien. Now a Sports Director with the Melbourne-based development team, O’Brien was in the peloton in 2007 when the Sun Tour last went up Falls Creek and that year finished runner-up in the youth classification to fellow Victorian Simon Clarke who now rides in the WorldTour for Cannondale-Drapac and an overall winner of the race in 2014. As was his trademark during his racing career, O’Brien is not holding back when it comes to suggesting what his team wants to achieve.
“With such a youthful team coming to the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, we are incredibly excited to try to give it to the bigger, more experienced teams,” he said.
“We are sending a versatile team, with Brad Evans returning from a year with Drapac Professional Cycling to lead our boys through Victoria. We were able to do some reconnaissance of the key stages whilst staying up in Bright for our training camp, and everybody is fired up to snag a huge result in front of some of the world’s best cyclists.”
O’Brien said the team is aiming “to bring home a jersey, and be up there to fight for a stage win,” with Evans eyeing stages two and three, where a reduced bunch could be fighting for position to the finish line.
Elsewhere during the 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, with three-time Tour de France winner and defending champion, Chris Froome (Team Sky), and Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves (ORICA-Scott) headline acts, Drapac Pat’s Veg is hoping that local knowledge and the exuberance of youth, gives them an edge.
“The Kinglake stage has our Melbourne riders particularly excited as it’s an area we spend so much time training in,” said exciting young talent Cyrus Monk, who joins Evans and Mathew Ross as the only non-Victorians in the squad. “It will be great getting the opportunity to go toe to toe with some of the world’s best climbers on hills so close to home.”
All-rounder Nick Katsonis is riding his third-straight Sun Tour while former Melbourne to Warrnambool winner, Oliver Kent-Spark will be looking to make an impression by springing a few surprises.
“We will have to play to our own strengths which is opportunistic moves and positive racing,” he explained. “By doing this we will give ourselves every chance to be in the right position and capitalise on not being on the radar of the WorldTour riders.”
The 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be presented by Jayco and the Herald Sun, along with the continued support from the Victorian State Government.