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De Bortoli Tour 2004

The De Bortoli Tour, staged for the first time in 2003, returns on July 17 and 18. Based at title sponsor De Bortoli’s picturesque winery in the heart of the Yarra Valley, the three stage tour boasts a prize list of $10,000 and has attracted an impressive entry list. 

The inaugural 2003 event attracted the largest field of any Victorian Open Road event, and with 284 entrants, the 2004 race looks set a new standard. The Tour is not for the faint hearted, and definitely favours climbing specialists, with the 102km first stage featuring a 10km mountain climb to Toolangi which the field will tackle twice; while the 112km third stage features three ascents of Pantons Gap – an 11km slog with a lengthy gravel section! Time trial specialists get their chance to shine in stage 2, a 17.5km race against the clock to Steele’s Creek. 

Matt Goold, who claimed the Victorian 100km Championship last weekend, has been given the honour of wearing the number 1 saddle cloth, and his main competition is expected to come from club mate Chris Bradford, who took out the Australian Club Road Championships in 2003.

Others to watch include New South Wales riders Klayten Smith and Nigel Dunstone, Tasmanian Stephen Rossendell and local climbing specialist Michael Tolhurst. Another who has burst into contention is former rower Domenic Gatto, who turned heads with his form on a trip to the United States earlier this month. Riding against the cream of US based professionals, Gatto finished an outstanding sixth overall in the prestigious Fitchburg Longsjo classic.

2003 Champion Kathy Watt returns to defend her title in the Women’s race. The Gold Medallist in the Barcelona Olympics fought a close battle with young sensation Lizzie Williams last year, and once again the veteran from the promoting Blackburn Cycling Club, will face off against a peleton of young challengers. 

New South Wales star Zoe Southwell proved an impressive climber by conquering the famed Baw Baw Classic in 2003, and is expected to lead the charge to dethrone Watt. Local star Jenny Macpherson is in form after a determined bid to qualify as a Paralympic Tandem pilot for Athens, and Christine Foster, aboard her distinctive bovine themed machine, also excels in the mountains. 

The De Bortoli Tour kicks off on Saturday July 17 with a 9am start from the Winery.