Lotto Belisol professional Greg Henderson will lead a national team in the New Year Jayco Herald Sun Tour in his adopted home of Melbourne.
The Lotto Belisol world tour rider was keen to compete as a lead-in to the New Zealand road championships and the Tour Down Under in Adelaide next month.
The tour is Australia's oldest stage race, and has been revived for its 60th anniversary as a four-day event from January 3 to 6 on the back of the annual Bay Criterium series starting on January 1.
Henderson will lead a national team comprising London Olympian Westley Gough, 2012 Bontrager Livestrong under-23s Josh Atkins and James Oram, Tom Scully, who rode for Garmin development this year, and Node4 Subaru pro Mike Northey.
The tour is no longer a UCI-sanctioned event, meaning that Henderson, as a World Tour rider, could not compete unless it was for a sanctioned national team.
Tour organisers, keen to get the Melbourne-based star into the event, contacted BikeNZ with the offer to fully support a national team for the event.
"It is an excellent opportunity for some of our young guys to ride themselves into some form in a well-regarded stage event," BikeNZ's Bryan Simmonds said.
"We jumped at the offer. It will be great to have the New Zealand colours on show in this tour and an excellent riding opportunity in a prestigious event in this part of the world."
Henderson is excited to compete in the city where the Henderson family now lives, in the southern hemisphere summer.
"Melbourne is my second hometown and when I race around here I get as many ‘Hendys' called out as anywhere else in the world. I have a fairly big fan base here now, so I feel like it is home and I enjoy racing in Melbourne," Henderson said.
"Of course the Herald Sun Tour has such a huge prestige. It has been going for so many years. It has been on and off of late, and it is a bit shorter, which is unfortunate, but it is a very historic race.
"I will get some good legs out of it. I won't be firing on all eight cylinders but it will put me in good stead with [the nationals] a week after that."
The New Zealand team comprises a young squad who have enjoyed good success in 2012. Gough is coming back after a superb track year, winning the bronze in the team pursuit at the London Olympics and bronze in the team pursuit and individual pursuit at the world champs.
Atkins, 20, of Christchurch, won the Tour of Southland last year and was fourth in the national championships this year. He moves from the Bontrager Livestrong team to the new development squad with Omega Pharma-Quickstep in 2013.
Northey, 25, of Auckland, comes off overall victory in the Tour of Southland to highlight his first year with the UK-based Node4 Subaru professional team.
Oram, 19, of Auckland, is a former junior medallist in the world championships who will be in his second year with Bontrager Livestrong in the US.
Scully, 22, of Invercargill, enjoyed an excellent year, including finishing third in the under-23 Paris Rouxbaix for the Garmin Sharp development and a stagiaire for Garmin Sharp Barracuda at the end of the season. He has good history in Melbourne, winning the scratch-race gold medal at the world cup in 2009 and the following year won a stage of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic.
The tour begins with a 4.8km time trial in the beachside town of Williamstown followed by a 144km stage to Bendigo, a 145km stage in the Yarra Valley and final 90km stage centred on the famed Arthurs Seat climb.
- © Fairfax NZ News