The inaugural Santos North Western Tour kicked off on June 21 in Narrabri, the home of Santos’ Operations Centre in the heart of ENSW's CSG activities.
Stage 1 was a prologue featuring a ride down the town's main shopping street. Santos ran a Best Decorated Business competition and several local stores got into the swing with race-themed window displays. The second stage was a criterium around Narrabri, with substantial crowds enjoying both the race and the hospitality offered by Santos as well as the local Lions and Rotary Clubs.
On Day 2, the Tour started in Coonabarabran before winding its way more than 100km through the countryside to finish at the Siding Spring Observatory high in the Warrumbungle Mountains. One of the highlights en route was the little town of Tooraweenah (pop. 372), where it seemed all the locals turned out and schoolchildren lined the streets as the riders came through.
On Saturday the riders raced from Coonabarabran to Gunnedah, the site of Santos' original NSW office and home of many of Sam Crafter's Community Relations team. This leg also incorporated an annual community race, so all in all more than 400 riders finished in picturesque Wolseley Park in the heart of Gunnedah. That night SBS host of Cycling Central, Mike Tomalaris, hosted a dinner at the Town Hall for about 200 Cyclists and guests.
On the final day of the Tour teams raced from Gunnedah to Tamworth. The women's stage was won by Ashlee Ankudinoff, but the overall Tour winner was Ruth Corset, of the Pensar-Hawk racing team.
The finish of the men's race was decided by a Dash for Cash by one member from each of the 25 teams, due to safety concerns for the full 150-strong pack’s ability to fit within the closed section of the road. It was a dramatic finish, with Joe Lewis from the RBS Morgans team just edging out the rest of the riders. Mark O'Brien from the Budget Forklifts team retained his overall lead to follow up his recent Tour of Toowoomba win and become inaugural SNW Tour champion.
Overall, the event more than lived up to expectations, with outstanding riding and community participation delivering a great experience this year and promising even bigger and better things from tours to come. Race highlights can be seen on SBS's Cycling Central Program on Sunday, 1 July at 5pm.
Community relations, Community wellbeing, Health, New South Wales