Preview: Five things to know about the women’s Cadel Evans Road Race

by Simone Giuliani

The women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is the last blast of the Australian summer of racing before the international riders return back to winter in Europe and the United States, hoping they are one step ahead of many of their rivals who have yet to launch into the road season.

In the 2017 edition there is more racing, with a curtain raiser criterium that brought the competition into Melbourne on Australia Day and ended in a battle of the powerful sprinters, with Kirsten Wild (Cylance) just taking the win in a photo finish with Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini).  Saturday it’s onto the 113 kilometre women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, named the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, which will see the strongest field yet contest the hilly UCI 1.2 ranked race. Plus, in a big step forward fans of women’s racing will get a rare chance to watch in real time even if they can’t make it to the event which starts and finishes in Geelong, as it will be broadcast live.

Here are five of the things you should know about the elite women’s event at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race:

1. An evolving event

Just two years ago when it started out, the women’s Cadel Evans Road Race was dominated by domestic teams with a couple of international one’s thrown into the mix. It evolved with a shift to a UCI classification of 1.2 in 2016 but this year the race has completed the transformation into a truly international event that will provide a rare showcase of top level women’s road cycling to the nation’s sporting fans.

The field, like last week’s Santos Women’s Tour, is mainly made up of UCI women’s teams this year, with just a few domestic ones added into the mix, but there is an added bonus at this event. It will be easy for those who can’t make it to the location on the day to see all the action, with the live broadcast of the women’s races. With the continued forward momentum we can only hope that the next step forward is a Women’s WorldTour ranking, which would bring the women’s event into line with the men’s.

2. The course

Saturday’s main event runs on a loop that starts in the coastal city of Geelong, just over an hour from Melbourne, at 11.45am AEST. The 113 kilometre course, which takes in views of the iconic Bells Beach, has enough hills to provide plenty of launching points for attacks and the past two years the field has splintered before the finish. Both previous editions of the race have been won with a solo run to the line, Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) in 2016 and Rachel Neylan (Orica-Scott) in 2015.

3. Contenders

If you have been even vaguely following any of Australia’s summer racing you will know that Orica-Scott is the team to beat. The only Australian registered UCI women’s team has taken a clean sweep of the Australian Road National’s elite women’s titles as well as delivered a stage victory and taken the overall win at the Santos Women’s Tour. And the hardest thing for the other team’s to grapple with is that Orica-Scott don’t have just one potential winner but many in a team that is in form to put its best foot forward on home soil.

Last year’s winner, Amanda Spratt, is coming fresh from her Santos Women’s Tour victory, which was set up with a determined performance that carved out an almost insurmountable lead on the first hilly road stage of the tour. Then there is Katrin Garfoot who took out the Road Nationals and Annemiek van Vleuten who looked set to take out Olympic Gold in Rio before she had that horrible crash.

However, the other teams aren’t going to hand over the prize easily and they also now have the benefit of having worked together through the Santos Women’s Tour, integrating new team mates and reminding their bodies and minds what racing is all about following a training break.

For Canyon-SRAM there is Tiffany Cromwell who never seems to be far from the top end of the field in the Australian summer of racing, then there is team mate Alexis Ryan who had the confidence boost of having the team working for her in the final stage of the Santos Women’s Tour to help her claim back the young riders jersey. We also shouldn’t forget Lisa Brennauer, a former world time trial champion, who grabbed the last podium spot at Race Melbourne Thursday.

From Ale Cipollini Carlee Taylor is always one to watch out for on the hills and it would be foolish to overlook Janneke Ensing after her second place overall in South Australia. Then there is multi-discipline rider Peta Mullens (Hagens Berman-Supermint and Dani King (Cylance) who finished third last year.  If it comes through in a reduced bunch a couple of the fields top sprinters have shown they aren’t too shabby on the climbs either. Hosking and Wild didn’t  just sprint it out for the flat Race Melbourne win and the Santos Women’s Tour crits, but also on the hilly stage 3 of the South Australian race. In fact Hosking secured fourth place at the Cadel Evans Race last year even after working hard to pull her then team mate King toward the front of the race.

4. Tune in

I may have mentioned that we are going to get live coverage of the women’s race in the introduction but it is worth repeating. It’s all too rare that we get to watch the women’s racing broadcast in real time, in fact looking back the last time we got live coverage of an international level women’s cycling event on Australian shores was the World Championships back in 2010. So lets tune in in droves as we want to make sure everyone wants to do it again and again and again. You can find the full Deakin Elite Women’s race Saturday live on Channel Seven from 11.30am and also streaming live. Plus it will also be broadcast on Eurosport in Asia and Europe.

5. Other ways to follow

There are also other ways to follow the race, one of the best is to get down to either the Melbourne crit, or road race in and around Geelong to watch in person. Of course we will also be bringing you coverage on Ella CyclingTips so stay tuned to the site, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep a track of what it going on. Also follow #DeakinWomensRace #CadelRoadRace and #RaceMelbourne.

Then you can tune into CyclingTips after for extensive coverage of all the men’s racing.

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