New Zealand will send some of its brightest young endurance cycling prospects across the Tasman next week.
BikeNZ has entered a team in the 61st Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Victoria, Australia's oldest stage race, which has attracted several World Tour teams including Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans in the Orica GreenEdge team and Kiwi Jack Bauer who is expected to line up for Garmin-Sharp.
The New Zealand team comprises several young USA and European-based professionals including Tour of Southland winner James Oram, recent World Cup track winners Tom Scully and Patrick Bevin, Lotto Belisol development pro Hayden McCormick, fellow national track endurance squad rider Hamish Schreurs and Dion Smith, a double under-23 medallist at the recent national road championships.
BikeNZ competed in the event last year with a young team in support of Lotto Belisol professional Greg Henderson, who is recovering from knee surgery.
"We've been honoured to receive an invitation to this prestigious UCI-sanctioned event," said BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott.
"It fits with our programme right now both for our young endurance track riders and our most promising road riders, so we are delighted to accept the offer.
"We are pleased to see it back on the UCI calendar, and the stages along with the quality of competition will make it an excellent experience."
The Herald Sun Tour begins with a prologue in downtown Melbourne on February 5 with stage one from Geelong to Ballarat, stage two to Bendigo, stage three centred on Mitchelton Winery and the final stage on the Mornington Peninsula including the climb of Arthurs Seat.
Most of the riders will team up in a New Zealand invitation combination to contest the UCI-sanctioned NZCT Cycle Classic starting in Manawatu this week.