Nestled away 3 hours South of Perth, the little town of Nannup doesn’t scream cycling. With a population of just over 500, usually the only noise you hear around is wildlife amongst the huge Marri trees. But for one week in November, you’ll be hearing a lot of gear changes and chains spinning. 150 teams descend on the town and surrounding regions to tackle Australia’s fastest growing cycling race – the Tour of Margaret River. These aren’t just 150 teams of amateur club riders either: a truckload of international pro’s ride the race, as well as the best NRS teams in Australia.
First, a history lesson…
The Tour of Margaret River is a one of a kind race. It’s a stage race which focuses on the team, and – unlike Hammer Series – doesn’t rely on doing loops of the same circuit with points on each lap. You also get to see – or ride with – the best of the World Tour, in a small country town. I don’t think you can get more Australian with camaraderie in a rural town. It’s still only a baby race too, being held every November since 2009. Back then, there were 30 riders – all amateur. I think this South Perth Rouleurs review of the 2010 edition gives you a bit of scale on how fast the race has grown. Riders went down for the weekend to race against other local clubs, with re-hydration at the pub a must.
The race has steadily grown in size – by 2013 there were around 350 riders in the race. That year’s edition was taken out by Theo Yates – who now rides for Drapac Pat’s Veg and took out a stage of the Tour of Thailand this year. Taking a look at 2015’s edition – covered nicely in this article by Cyclist Magazine – it saw riders like Chris Hamilton, Ben O’Connor and Jai Hindley battle for the Green GC Jersey. Hamilton (Sunweb) and O’Connor (Dimension Data) are now riding for WT teams – and O’Connor recently won a stage at the Tour of Austria. Hindley is also tearing up the U23 Circuit with the World Tour Academy team, coming 3rd at the Baby Giro – as well as beating Chris Froome at the Herald Sun Tour earlier this year. Not to mention Luke Durbridge (Orica) and Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) – both World Tour pros – rode the race.
The start list in 2016 went from great to spectacular for only a ProAm race. Marianne Vos rode the Tour, and brought team mate Moniek Tenniglo along for the ride. Tenniglo won the Women’s A Grade race, while Luke Durbridge rode once again. 2017 now sees the best start list ever. The race organizers are pushing to bring big names and draw the attention of the UCI to make the race a Women’s World Tour event. It seems like every week a new amazing rider signs on.
Marianne Vos isn’t just bringing a team mate – she’s bringing a fair chunk of the WM3 Energie squad. Polish Champion Katarzyna Niewiadoma is riding, Tenniglo returns to defend her title, and Anousta Koster rounds out the WM3 Squad for the race. They are also doing a training camp around the region before and after the race, so keep an eye out for their kits on the road.
Luke Durbridge is also bringing some of his Orica friends – with Damien Howson and Mitch Docker signing on for the 2017 race. He also lured two riders from the women’s team: Dutch National Time Trial Champion and 5-time Giro stage winner Annemiek Van Vleuten plus ex-Junior World Time Trial Champion, and my personal favourite rider, Jess Allen. The Meyer Brothers return after they tore up the Ring Crits in Perth in January this year, and Cameron taking a win in Belgium a few weeks ago in the Dwars door de Vlaamse Ardennen.
Tiffany Cromwell, Emma Pooley, and many others are riding that I wouldn’t be able to list everyone’s achievements in this post. On top of those world-class riders, because it’s now an NRS event in 2017, the Tour of Margaret River will attract the likes of Isowhey, Satalyst Verve, Drapac Pat’s Veg, Veris, NSWIS and Mobius as they fight for NRS points.
2017’s route tackles the punchy climbs of the South West…
Stage 1 opens up the Tour with a 42km Team Time Trial down Mowen Road. The riders head up and down the undulating track, turning around at Jalbarragup Road. The climbs at St John Road and back into Nannup will be crucian in setting apart the teams and classifying teams in their respective divisions.
Stage 2 is a short 50km stage from Nannup to Greenhills, with a punchy uphill finish along Marinup Ford Road (which, on Strava, has been taken over by pro’s from years gone past). They follow the Brockman Highway, passing over the steep Ellis Creek Road climb, and turn onto Marinup Ford for the final stretch.
Stage 3 is the hardest stage of the Tour. The 71km stage out of Nannup see the riders head due North out of town, before looping around Balingup, flying down the Grimwade Rd Climb, and tackling the infamous “Mur du Hay”. Going up the Vasse Highway and turning onto Cundinup Kirup Road, the undulation roads around Mullayup and Balingup make for a brilliant punchy stage with an LBL style finish.
Stage 4 finishes the Tour just how it started, with a 42km Team Time Trial – this time from Balingup into Nannup. It’s a pretty flat stage in comparison to the others, although there are a few undulations as the riders carve their way through the various state forests in the area.
These 4 short, punchy, and fast stages will make up an amazing race in one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Many years were spent camping down that way as a kid, and these roads give a lot of fond memories (and beautiful scenery!). For a look at profiles, here is a link to the Race Info.
I’ll be there!
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to cover the Tour of Margaret River this year. There will be content on here every day, and I might try and sneak some rider interviews in. I’m also getting a new camera to take some nice photos while down there. I cannot thank the race organizers enough for the opportunity to cover this great race, and if you are down there over the week let me know!
The Tour of Margaret River is more than a cycling event for Western Australia. It’s a near-on month long festival of the sport, and with such talented riders coming along for the ride, it means everything for the growth of the sport in the state. I’m so hyped for November – it’s one of the best races on the calendar and this year looks like the best edition yet.
~The Cycling Raven