For a few years now, the girls’s racing on the Tour Down Underneath has had the appear and feel of Girls’s WorldTour occasion – high groups, high-level organisation, stay protection and prize cash that matched the boys’s occasion. This 12 months because it returns to the UCI calendar after two years of absence, it has lastly bought the classification to replicate that actuality.
The ladies’s Santos Tour Down Underneath, with the Schwalbe Traditional because the curtain raiser on Saturday, January 14, will ship Australia’s first-ever Girls’s WorldTour stage race from Monday, January 15 to Tuesday, January 17 and its lifted standing – and factors on provide – to assist present a continued incentive for high tier groups to make the journey to Australia in January amid what’s changing into an more and more loaded calendar of ladies’s racing.
It has been a 12-year construct towards the highest tier for girls’s racing on the Tour Down Underneath, which began in 2011 with a sequence of ladies’s avenue criterium races received by Chloe Hosking. The subsequent 12 months it grew to a few races, after which in 2015, the annual girls’s race turned a part of the Nationwide Highway Sequence earlier than securing 2.2 standing in 2016 and a pair of.1 standing in 2018, and that was additionally the 12 months that the ladies have been supplied prize cash that equalled the boys’s.
From then, the transfer as much as Girls’s WorldTour standing below the guardianship of long-term race director Kimberley Conte solely appeared a matter of not if however when. In 2020 it reached 2.Professional stage however for 2021 and 2022 COVID-19 intervened, and with borders shut, the worldwide racing was cancelled however decided to maintain the momentum rolling, the organisers saved the racing going, delivering a Nationwide Highway Sequence race with the trimmings of a top-level worldwide race.
Now with the borders re-opened, the primary Girls’s WorldTour Santos Tour Down Underneath has practically arrived. Conte has moved onto different challenges, so it is going to be below the stewardship of the workforce of Stuart O’Grady, Annette Edmondson and Carlee Taylor that the race, which takes riders from the coast to the climbs, performs out.
Three-time winner Amanda Spratt will return, however as an alternative of heading into the problem with Australia’s solely WorldTour workforce to again her, she’s going to instead be lining up with the would possibly of Trek-Segafredo behind her, a formidable workforce that has already confirmed its energy on Australian soil even when outnumbered after Brodie Chapman swept up the Australian street title.
Add in Grace Brown on the head of FDJ-SUEZ with the dash of French rider Clara Copponi thrown into the combination, the formidable Jayco-AlUla duo of Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Alex Manly plus New Zealand’s Georgia Williams, who’s now using with EF Schooling – Tibco SVB however is oh so conversant in the roads of South Australia after having spent most of her profession throughout the Australian Girls’s WorldTour squad now often called Jayco AlUla.
Stephen Farrand and Simone Giuliani will likely be in Adelaide to cowl the race for Cyclingnews, gathering all of the essential information, rider response, race evaluation and the brand new 2023 bike tech.
A stage for the sprinters, puncheurs and climbers
After the curtain raiser occasion of the Schwalbe Traditional on Saturday, January 14 – the place each the ladies and men race for one hour and one lap over the 1.35km Victoria Sq./Tarntanyangga circuit in central Adelaide – the street phases which can determine the general standings start. It could be simply three phases, however in addition to squeezing within the metropolis, the coast and the climbs, the brand new trio of race administrators have plotted out one stage for the sprinters, one for the puncheurs and one for the climbers to offer as many riders an opportunity to bid for the rostrum as potential in addition to preserve the GC battle evolving.
Stage 1: Glenelg to Aldinga, 110.4km
It is time to head to the seaside for stage 1 on Sunday, January 15, which given the temperatures are forecast to be round 30°C, is sure to be a well-liked place. Whereas the boys’s race has usually completed beachside, the 110.4km stage’s shoreline end is new territory for the ladies’s race. The primary stage of the tour is one for the sprinters, beginning in Glenelg, working its manner via the wine area of McLaren Vale, onto Willunga – however not up the long-lasting climb – after which sweeping via to Aldinga seaside earlier than looping round via Willunga and previous the coast once more earlier than ending on Snapper Level, Aldinga. It is not a pancake flat day, however there may be nothing that ought to bother the sprinters an excessive amount of with the most important ascent of the day, Chaffeys climb with a mean gradient of 5.9%, coming at little greater than 30km into the racing. There will likely be Queen of the Mountain factors out there there, plus dash factors on provide at 53.8km and 93.2km in Willunga, however in fact, the dash the place everybody will likely be trying to make the actual mark will unfold in Aldinga.
Stage 2: Birdwood to Uraidla, 90km
Birdwood has served as a venue for the stage end of the final two editions of the race, with Spratt taking a solo win there in 2020, however this time on Monday, January 16 it’s the place the riders will likely be lining as much as set off for a brief however difficult stage 2. Do not let the 90km distance idiot you, this will likely be no simple day of racing. It’s marked out as one for the puncheurs because it ventures into the Adelaide Hills. The primary climbing problem comes at North East Ridge, quick at lower than a kilometre and averaging 5.9%, however the part with a most gradient of 15.6% will ship some ache. Will probably be a extra sustained effort, nevertheless, when the race reaches Mount Lofty, which may even be the centrepiece for the boys’s ultimate stage later within the week, however the distinction is that the ladies will deal with it simply as soon as however from a distinct route. Climbing the again means tackling the steeper gradients, with the 6.1km climb delivering a mean gradient of 4 % however with stinging sections and a most of 14.4%. Given it is a climb that summits simply ten kilometres from the end, it is usually probably to offer an excellent launching level and manner for the general contenders to start out stretching these gaps.
Stage 3: Adelaide to Campbelltown, 93.2km
The ultimate deciding stage is unequivocally firmly slated as one for the climbers, taking in 1,773 metres of vertical ascent throughout 93.2km. And for the primary time, the ladies’s race will tackle the powerful Corkscrew Highway climb. Stage 3 begins within the coronary heart of Adelaide, heading out to Cudlee Creek, Lobethal and the stage 2 begin location of Birdwood earlier than looping again to Gumeracha and heading again towards Adelaide and the brutal climb, which might nicely determine the race. The ascent of Corkscrew street tops out simply 7.5km from the ultimate end line, and it’s a 2.3km ascent that has the potential to do some severe injury, particularly after a day the place the street has served up a daily dose of quick however leg taxing ascents. It could attain a most elevation of simply 499m, however its common gradient of 9.2 % and a most of 24.4 % is sure to have many riders trying forlornly for extra gears. Those that like their climbs quick and sharp will then be hitting the highest and hoping to take care of their benefit via the downhill run to the tip in Campbelltown, to allow them to safe a stage victory and maybe even the ochre jersey of the race chief as nicely.
This can be a global occasion, however there isn’t a doubt the Australian riders in any workforce entered clamber to get a place on the beginning listing to allow them to get the uncommon alternative to race on dwelling soil, with their household and mates cheering on. Then if their workforce doesn’t occur to be coming, there’s a scramble to safe a spot on the Australian workforce. Add the 2 Australian-based groups which have managed to safe a spot, the brand new continental squad Group BridgeLane and ARA Skip Capital, and the beginning listing is nicely over a 3rd Australian.
It needs to be no shock then that the Australian riders closely populate the ranks of the favourites. Firstly it’s arduous to go previous three-time winner Amanda Spratt. Her latest seasons haven’t been the best, with no victories in sight since she took out stage 2 of this race in 2020, however now that she’s addressed her Iliac artery endofibrosis and had time to get better, plus has the impetus of a brand new workforce in Trek-Segafredo, there may be each likelihood this might be a renaissance for the rider from New South Wales who has twice stood on the elite street race World Championship podium. The 35-year-old was clearly in good type on the Australian Highway Championships, prepared to leap on the strikes as her new teammate Brodie Chapman set off solo to take victory after which dash to 3rd place. On that word, too, with the brand new Australian champion by her aspect, that will likely be both wonderful assist or one other robust choice to chase outcomes for the workforce.
They’re sure to have a struggle on their fingers, nevertheless, as Australia’s solely Girls’s WorldTour workforce Jayco AlUla have all the time gone all out to take victory at their dwelling race – the three titles of Spratt, who spent 11 years with the squad are testomony to this. Ruby Roseman-Gannon, who swept up the title within the Santos Competition of Biking final 12 months, the home substitute occasion for the cancelled Tour Down Underneath, is a primary candidate for the workforce, however so is Alex Manly, who proved her GC energy by taking victory on the Lotto Thüringen Women Tour in 2022.
Then there may be Grace Brown, who was a large menace on the beginning listing of the Australian Nationwide Championships street race and secured second place even when she was lining up with no single teammate, Along with her FDJ-SUEZ workforce behind her, she is a presence that looms even bigger and be careful on the sprinters’ phases for her teammate Clara Copponi, who final 12 months swept up her first Girls’s WorldTour win on the Girls’s Tour and can make sure you be trying to find the following one.
EF Schooling Tibco-SVB’s Lauren Stephens will likely be one to look at for the general, with the rider from the USA having come fourth in 2020 and second in 2018, whereas her teammate Krista Doebel-Hickok will likely be one to look at on the climbs, as will her teammate from New Zealand Georgia Williams, a daily on the race together with her former Jayco workforce. The brand new ZAAF girls’s workforce may even be one to look at, with Australian riders Danielle De Francesco and Lizzie Stannard placing on a transparent present of energy and type with their repeated assaults within the Australian Championships street race, whereas the Australian nationwide workforce will likely be lining up with a powerful group of riders, their regular commerce groups absent, from former Australian champion Nicole Frain to seasoned skilled Rachel Neylan, who got here third general in Adelaide in 2019.
There are solely six Girls’s WorldTour groups on the roster in 2023, and whereas it might have been good if extra had made the journey to Australia, the flip aspect is that – in contrast to within the males’s occasion – meaning there may be additionally room for Australian groups exterior the highest tier past the nationwide squad to seek out room on the beginning line, offering a uncommon alternative for up and comers to make their mark.
ARA Skip Capital will likely be lining up together with the brand new Australian UCI squad, Group BridgeLane, which was partly supported by crowdfunding in a bid to extend the alternatives for the nation’s feminine cyclists as they try to bridge to the European skilled peloton. Riders to look at from BridgeLane embody Emily Watts, who received the primary stage of the Santos Competition of Biking final 12 months, and Keely Bennett, who got here second in a stage of the Bay Crits earlier this month, standing on the rostrum between Roseman-Gannon and Chloe Hosking.