This year however, things were a little different. Instead of October, the event was moved forward to February and (unfortunately) there was no stage finish into Geelong and the Barwon was not on the route - although the Moorabool was, albeit briefly. So, after Wednesday's prologue in Melbourne, the first stage got underway at 10:30am along a sparkling Geelong Waterfront - but I wasn't there to see it.
Instead of fighting with the crowds in town, I opted to catch the peloton on the outskirts just outside the neutral zone and where the racing really began. Co-incidentally, it was also the point at which the riders passed between the Moorabool River as it flows from Batesford and that earliest of squatting runs taken up by John Cowie and David Stead, now the site of Kardinia International College at Bell Post Hill.
|The entourage preceding the riders through Bell Post Hill|
|The peloton as the race got underway|
|The Peloton a Bell Post Hill with the Moorabool Valley behind|
|And then they were gone (note the attempt at an early break at the front)|
So why there you might wonder? Because this was the point at which the route crossed the Moorabool River - or to be specific, the Moorabool River West Branch. I had been there on one other occasion to snap some photos of the historic bluestone bridge which spans the river at this point.
|Bluestone bridge over the Moorabool West Branch on the Yendon-Egerton Road|
|The lead riders and their support vehicles cross the Moorabool West Branch|
|The boys from Garmin-Sharp including - I believe - the then race leader Jack Bauer|
(yellow left) and Orica GreenEDGE's Simon Gerrans (yellow right)
The next group to pass were being lead out by the UHC Pro Cycling Team and some of the African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team with a few of the Avanti boys, a couple of the New Zealand National Team and a Cannondale rider thrown in for good measure.
|Follow the leaders! The second group of riders crossing the Moorabool|
A later reading of a race report informed me that it had been the plan of Orica GreenEDGE to use the parts of the stage where wind was likely to be a problem to break the peloton apart - a plan which at that point seemed to be working.
The end result I read however was that the Orica boys couldn't manage to shake Team Garmin-Sharp and it came down to a bunch sprint for the line in Ballarat in which Garmin-Sharp rider Nathan Haas just edged out Orica sprinter Matthew Goss.