This week the award-winning cycling event L'Etape Australia heads to the NSW South Coast for the first time, to give amateur bike riders (and some experts) the closest experience they might get to riding in the Tour de France.
It's a first for Kiama after four successful years in the Snowy Mountains, with thousands of competitors plus their friends and family expected to descend upon the area across Friday and Saturday.
Spectators are being encouraged to wave yellow flags or wear yellow in support of the riders.
Cycling celebrities to look out for include Anna Meares, Simon Gerrans, Mark Renshaw, Stuart O'Grady, Matt Keenan (commentator), David McKenzie (commentator) along with Steve Waugh and Adam Goodes.
About 4000 competitors will take part from around Australia - with 83 per cent from NSW, according to Destination NSW. It's expected to boost the local economy by around $2.5 million in total.
The event was originally planned for November 2020, but was rescheduled in August due to COVID-19.
WHAT IS IT?
The L'Étape Australia Race is the ultimate cycling challenge, with a 136km mountainous route based on a similar format to a genuine Tour de France stage.
For those who wish to immerse themselves in the atmosphere and experience L'Étape Australia without the added pressure of the tough climbs, The Ride (80km) and its 1237m of elevation is the perfect option (with e-Bikes also allowed).
On Friday, March 19, participants and spectators can head to the L'Étape village set-up at Coronation Park in Kiama. A valid ticket must be presented to access the village.
On Saturday, March 20, 4000 riders will take part in The Race and The Ride across Kiama, the Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands. The event village will also be open until 3.30pm.
THE RACE 136km - Riders start in Kiama then head out through Saddleback Mountain then along Jamberoo Mountain Road.
They then continue out past Robertson then take a left turn to Avoca then on to Fitzroy Falls.
The course then heads through Kangaroo Valley onto Moss Vale Road, then to Beaumont, Berry, Shoalhaven Heads, Gerringong and back up to Kiama.
THE RIDE 80km - Riders start at Kiama but head south to Gerringong, then down Crooked River Road to Shoalhaven Heads.
The course then heads through Berry, around to Moss Vale Road and down near Bomaderry, then swings past Coolangatta and back up to the finish line at Berry.
The race on Saturday, March 20, will see both the Illawarra Highway (Hoddle Street) and Jamberoo Mountain Road closed for most of the day, with parts of Moss Vale and Sheepwash Roads affected as well.
See map above.
Key roads along the course will begin closing from 4am on Saturday. Roads progressively reopen as riders complete the stages of each course. Local access will be managed by traffic control and police at designated points along the course when safe to do so.
- Kiama - sections of Manning St, Terralong St and Blowhole Point Rd closed until 8.30am. Note sections of Manning St will close from 1am until 5pm for event start/finish areas. Managed access across Manning St via Barney St crossover point.
- South Kiama - sections of South Kiama Drive approaching Princes Hwy closed until 9am. South Kiama Dr and Saddleback Mountain Rd closed until 5pm.
- Princes Hwy between Kiama and Gerringong - Contraflow traffic arrangements will be in place until 10.30am with one lane of traffic maintained in each direction on the Princes Hwy using the northbound lanes with a speed limit reduction of 40km/h in effect. All southbound lanes will be closed.
- Berry / Berry Mountain - Queen St, Kangaroo Valley Rd and Prince Alfred St closed until 11am. Sections of Station Rd and Alexandra St closed until 2pm for ride finish area. Managed access across Queen St via Alexandra St and across Kangaroo Valley Rd at Huntingdale Park Rd crossover points. A section of Alexandra St will close from 1am for event finish line set up.
- Gerringong / Gerroa - Fern St, Crooked River Rd and Gerroa Rd closed until 9.30am. Managed access across Fern St via Belinda St crossover point.
- Shoalhaven Heads / Coolangatta - Coolangatta Rd closed until 2pm, Bolong Rd eastbound lanes closed until 1.30pm. Access westbound on Bolong Rd from Shoalhaven to Bomaderry maintained.
- Kangaroo Valley - Moss Vale Rd, Cambewarra Lookout Rd and Tourist Rd closed until 12.30pm. Access to Kangaroo Valley via Berry from 11am to 12.30pm, and from Moss Vale via Fitzroy Falls after 2pm.
- Fitzroy Falls / Barrengarry - Nowra Rd closed until 2pm.
- Avoca - Sheepwash Rd closed until 2pm. Managed access to Illawarra Hwy for Burrawang/Avoca residents via Wildes Meadow Rd and Walkers Rd.
- Robertson - Illawarra Hwy closed until 3.30pm. Managed access across Illawarra Hwy at Meryla St and Caalong St crossover points. Hoddle St eastbound lanes open between Caalong St and The Old Rd. Access to Burrawang via Illawarra Hwy/Sheepwash Rd roundabout to Church St.
- Travel between the Southern Highlands and Wollongong via Macquarie Pass and Tourist Dr while Illawarra Hwy is closed.
- Jamberoo - Allowrie St and Jamberoo Mountain Rd closed until 5pm. Managed access to and from Jamberoo via Churchill St under stop/slow conditions. Access across Allowrie St at Minnamurra Lane crossover point.
- Bomaderry / Cambewarra - Cambewarra Rd, Moss Vale Rd and Railway St closed until 12.30pm. Bolong Rd eastbound lanes closed until 1.30pm. No access from Bomaderry to Shoalhaven via Bolong Rd. North and south travel across Princes Hwy at Moss Vale Rd maintained.
- Saddleback Mountain - Fountaindale Rd / Saddleback Mountain Rd until 5pm.
For more detailed information visit Livetraffic.com.
Special event clearways will be in effect on key roads along the course in Kiama, Berry, Robertson and Jamberoo between 1am and 5pm to provide additional lane capacity for the cyclists.
Participants encouraged to travel by train to Kiama station which will have additional services on and is just minutes from the start line.
There will be a complimentary shuttle bus service running between Berry Train Station and Kiama Train Station from 10am until 1:30pm.
All participants who are driving to use the parking at Bombo Hill Reserve. Riders finishing in Berry will be able to get the shuttle back to Kiama.
For regular buses please note that bikes are not permitted on-board.
The main parking areas will be located at Kiama Downs, Gainsborough and Bombo Hill Reserve.
There will be signage on the Princes Highway southbound to advise participants to use the approaching exit for Kiama Downs and Bombo.
From the parking areas, participants can access The Village and Start Line via bike path.
The L'Etape Village will be at Coronation Park in Kiama, offering live music, exhibitors, and sponsor marquees along with food and drink stalls for participants and spectators to enjoy.
Whilst participants are racing, loved ones will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the Tour de France experience.
The Village will be open from 10am to 7pm Friday and from 6am to 3.30pm on Saturday.
In order to remain COVID-Safe all visitors (including riders) must present a ticket upon entry to the village.
Once entering the village everyone is required to check-in via the NSW Service App.
Tickets can be obtained free-of-charge through Eventbrite. Each visitor will be skin temperature checked and anyone presenting with abnormal temperatures will be refused entry.
PLACES TO EXPLORE
- Eat: Fuel the family with breakfast from local cafés The Hungry Monkey or Penny Whistlers, before lunch at local favourites Diggies Kiama or Stacks Burger House. At sun set, reward yourself with a waterfront dining experience at Silica Restaurant and Bar featuring a menu using organic produce from the owner's own garden, authentic Vietnamese cuisine at Hanoi on Manning or modern Australian at Olive and Vine.
- Drink: For a post-ride celebratory drink, Yves offers an extensive selection of Australian and international wines and local craft beers alongside harbour views. For a drink with a side of literature, head to curated bookstore and wine bar, Bouquiniste, or Art Bar Kiama features an irresistible cocktail list with a monthly roster of contemporary art exhibitions and live music Sunday sessions.
- Play: Put your excess energy to the test and make a splash at Jamberoo Action Park, zipline through the trees at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures or take the scenic route and stroll through the Minnamura Rainforest. Finally, a trip to Kiama isn't complete without a stop at Kiama's famous blowhole.
- Stay: Relax in 4.5 star luxury at modern resort The Sebel, treat yourself to the ultimate views at Absolute Oceanfront Cottage, or take the family and make the Jones Beach Retreat your home for the weekend where you can enjoy sparkling views, shops, cafes and more, just footsteps away.
- Eat: Take full advantage of the South Coast's well-earned reputation for its fresh produce, and savour wholesome dishes straight from the lush countryside at The Hill Bar and Kitchen, Gerringong Deli and Cafe, Sea Vista Café, and just outside of Gerringong in neighbouring Gerroa, The Blue Swimmer, a popular café on the water's edge.
- Drink: Wind down post-race with an afternoon drink on the water at family owned and operated winery Crooked River Wines, enjoy beer and cider brewed on-site at Stoic Brewing, or head to the Cronin's Hotel, a well-known community icon for more than 120 years, for classic pub fare.
- Play: Draw inspiration from Fern Street Gallery, shop for unique homewares at 34 Degrees South or learn to surf with the whole family, alongside Gerringong Surf School owner and former professional big wave surfer, Rusty Moran.
- Stay: Book a luxury group stay for the whole support team at the Ocean Spray Beach House or Allure Gerroa, or get a 'front street' view of the L'Etape track and stay at Park Ridge Retreat
- Eat: Take advantage of Berry's abundant food scene and enjoy seasonal local food with a European twist at South on Albany, South-African cuisine at Savannah Café and Bar or EuroAustralian fusion at Figbird Café. Round up your trip to Berry with a visit to The Famous Verry Donut Van, and be sure to take home some sourdough from Milkwood Bakery.
- Drink: Visit Berry's famous boutique wineries Silos Estate and Two Figs Winery, head to local icon The Berry Hotel or unwind at modern favourites such as Queen St Eatery & Wine Bar.
- Play: Learn about the town's history at the Berry Historic Museum, shop for collectables at boutique stores Broughton Antiques or Few & Far, and source locally made artisan products from Flavours of Shoalhaven and South Coast Providores. For some hands-on fun, visit the alpaca farm at Silos Estate or try an arts and crafts workshop at This Old House Studio or a cooking workshop at Far Meadow Table.
- Stay: Enjoy sophisticated Hamptons-style accommodation in the heart of Berry at Lill's Cottage, stay as a group at Hayward on Parker, or get some much-needed rest and relaxation post-ride at the unique, private and ultra-exclusive, Mt Hay Retreat.
For more ideas on things to do in the region: www.visitnsw.com
DINE AND DISOVER
Most NSW residents are now eligible for $100 worth of dining and entertainment vouchers as part of the state government's Dine and Discover program.
The vouchers can be redeemed now through Service NSW, but residents will need to fill out a form to verify their identity.
CLICK HERE for your step-by-step guide on how to get your vouchers, and where you can use them.