The Tour of Tasmania's reputation as one of Australia's premier cycling events continues to grow, with the race now attracting significant international interest.
In a huge boost for the sport and a tick of approval for the whole state, the Russian national cycling team has signed up to compete in the 2011 race from October 4 to 9.
Held over a gruelling 542.7 kilometres spread across the state's stunning landscapes, it is the ninth event on the National Road Series Calendar and the fourth and final race of the Scody Cup.
Russia's full squad of eight riders has not yet been announced, but four members of its UCI Track World Championships team in March – which won the silver medal – have already been confirmed by race organisers. On that occasion it was the Australian team that took gold.
The important link thought to be a driving factor behind the coup is Russia's German-born coach Heiko Salwedel, who spent seven years working with the Australian Institute of Sport in the ‘90s and is widely accepted to have revolutionised the structure of the sport in this country.
Tour director John Craven believes the signing is a massive fillip for Tasmanian and Australian cycling.
"There are dozens of races around the world at that time of the year that Heiko could have worked towards, but he was keen on Tasmania," Craven said last Wednesday (August 17).
He added: "This speaks volumes for how the Tour of Tasmania is viewed not only nationally, but internationally."
The six-day tour will be launched with a colourful five km parade from the Wrest Point Casino in Sandy Bay to the Cascade Brewery in Strickland Avenue. Riders will then climb 1271 metres to Mount Wellington's Pinnacle lookout.
Just prior to the tour, the Russian team will also line up for the tough Launceston New Norfolk race held on October 2.