The series, facilitated by Cycling Australia, takes teams around the country in a series of races that will unearth and showcase the best of Australia’s domestic talents.
With the competition attracting international attention, the series has been a platform for burgeoning cyclists, helping to launch the pro careers of riders like Nathan Haas and Steele Von Hoff.
But apart from offering a pathway for developing cyclists, the series also provides a playground for the domestic cyclist and tough competition for those with higher ambitions.
Remembering what happened last year...
The departures of Nathan Haas and Steele Von Hoff from the domestic circuit, as well as the injection of some serious firepower from Drapac, search2retain and Budget Forklifts made for a far more open and competitive Subaru National Road Series in 2012.
Mark O’Brien (Budget Forklifts) took hold of the series’ lead early with an impressive trifecta of overall wins in Mersey Valley, the Santos North Western Tour and the Tour of Toowoomba, before the NRS hit its winter break in July.
As the terrain switched from the hillier parcours of April, May and June, to the flatter criterium style of August and September, the focus shifted from the climbers to the sprinting all-rounders.
A resurgent Will Walker (Drapac) jumped into the spotlight at the Tour of Gippsland after Anthony Giacoppo (Genesys) and Luke Davison (Budget Forklifts) sensationally marked each other out of the race.
Giacoppo made amends in the Tour of the Great South Coast, which also ushered in Neil van der Ploeg (search2retain) as a star of the future. Davison meanwhile took a haul of stages in the Tour of the Murray River to catapult himself into the series lead.
With big points on offer in the final few rounds however, the title was far from decided. Drapac did its best to keep a breakaway over the famous Razorback Hill in the one-day Goulburn to Sydney race, with Darren Lapthorne, Lachlan Norris, and Nathan Earle (Genesys) giving an early glimpse of their form for the Tour of Tasmania.
No success, as Budget’s Mark O’Brien turned super-domestique for Davison to keep the race together. The series leader then consolidated his lead with a classy sprint.
The Tour of Tasmania, arguably the biggest prize on the calendar, with an honour roll including Cadel Evans, Richie Porte, and Nathan Haas among others, saw a fierce battle between Norris, O’Brien and Earle, end in the former’s favour.
Floris Goesinnen (Drapac) dominated Melbourne to Warrnambool which meant the NRS title would come down to the wire, with a fatiguing Giacoppo needing only to finish sixth or higher to take the series in the final race, Grafton to Inverell.
The West Australian’s long season got the better of him however and Davison was crowned champion in absentia.
Genesys Wealth Advisors was the most consistent team throughout the year and picked up the team’s prize.
The women’s series went to returning Queenslander Ruth Corset, who climbed to success early in the year at the Santos North Western Tour and was never dethroned. Two trackies, Annette Edmondson and Ashlee Ankudinoff, carved up the second half of the year but lacked the points to vie for the overall title.
The 2013 Subaru National Road Series will pass through every Australian state, branching into two new locations with the introduction of the Tours of Adelaide and Perth, and the relaunch of the Canberra Tour. Men’s and women’s series have been expanded, both in terms of the length and sheer number of events.
Click here for the full NRS calendar.
While the points system has been revised making all events valued equivalently by the NRS (details further on), the calendar is punctuated by several headline events dictated by their history, relative difficulty, and the number of teams that are likely to take part.
Tour de Perth (WA) 11-14 April
In its inaugural year the Tour de Perth has yet to show its mettle, but with the backing of Woodside Petroleum, and with ambitions to become a 2.1 Tour in the next 12 months, the race will be strong contested.
Tour of Toowoomba (QLD) 9-12 May
Though relatively young, Toowoomba has developed a reputation as one of the best-organised races on the domestic calendar. Launched with a fairly traditional stage race format, the race was a breath of fresh air on the historically criterium-heavy series.
National Capital Tour (ACT) 20-22 September
One of the fixtures of the women’s calendar, the race has been run successfully alongside the men for many years. Showcasing the best of the nation's capital the race takes advantage of the best of ACT while benefiting from a central location.
Tour of Tasmania (TAS) 29 September - 6 October
Depending on who you ask the Tour of Tasmania is considered the hardest stage race, rivalling the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, on the Australian calendar. The state’s mountainous terrain, unpredictable weather and often ‘dead’ roads rewards the strongest riders.
Melbourne to Warrnambool (VIC) 12 October
The second oldest cycling race in the history of the sport. First run in 1895, it is only surpassed by the Belgian monument, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It’s also an epic. Total time in the saddle is usually around a marathon seven hours, with the near 300km parcours not for the faint-hearted.
Grafton to Inverell (NSW) 26 October
Distance is one factor in the Grafton, but the rolling hills around Glen Innes after the gruelling climb to Mount Gibraltar make this race tough. The race recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and despite being continually plagued by financial uncertainty is one of the most prestigious races to win on the Australian calendar.
From teams on the brink of going professional, to rag-tag crews of friends who've fronted up the registration money to be part of the NRS, the Australian series caters for a wide range of levels and aspirations. The top tier teams such as Drapac, Budget Forklifts and Huon Salmon-Genesys are kitted out with vehicles, equipment sponsors, and have significant cash backing. As such they're expected to control the domestic racing when they're present.
A second tier of teams including Euride/SASI, search2retain p/b health.com.au and GPM-Data#3 are all pushing to challenge the likes of the top-three for supremacy, and have all bolstered rosters and war chests for the 2013 season.
Target-Trek, Satalyst, Team TDU, African Wildlife Safaris, Charter Mason and Suzuki-Bontrager are also worth looking out for. The key thing to remember with the domestic series is that with a variety of budgets and abilities taking part in each race, not every team is aiming to stand on the final podium. The series is as much a development ground as it is a competition.
The NRS criteria dictates each event may accept three international teams. With the depth and organisation of the series continually improving the series is beginning to attract international riders. As New Zealanders come to realise the quality of racing just across the ditch expect to see Kiwi riders and teams popping up. The Azerbaijan development team Synergy-Baku has also signaled its intention to compete in some of the series.
Points and rankings
Whereas the 2012 points system saw the allocation of points based on different classifications of events, which was hard to understand and did not reward true effort, the point system for the 2013 series has been streamlined.
Events will be awarded points based on the type of event - either a multi-stage tour or a one-day race.
Stages give 3,2 and 1 point respectively for teams and individuals, while one-day events such as the Goulburn to Sydney or the Melbourne to Warrnambool from 1st to 6th. Seven points for a one-day event win with 5,4,3,2 and 1 for the remaining places for both teams and individuals.
The same points system determines the team classification, with the points being allocated based on the first three registered riders across the line.
Additionally, all registered NRS teams starting an NRS race with at least four riders will received one point towards the team classification.
In addition to online coverage of all events, SBS will have a regular show dedicated to airing the highlights of the series
The show, nine episodes in total, will feature the highlights of each of event from both the men's and women's series.
The shows will air on Sunday afternoons from 4pm on SBS ONE. Each show will also be repeated the next day and be available online.
Click here for the broadcast schedule.