Preview: Your guide to the 2017 men’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

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In just its third year, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race has been promoted to the WorldTour, the highest level of racing on the elite men’s calendar. As the name suggests, this one-day race is both a tribute to Australia’s most decorated cyclist and an event that visits one of Australia’s most famous coastal roads (albeit very briefly).

In this preview, CyclingTips’ Australian editor Matt de Neef looks ahead to Sunday’s third edition of Cadel’s Race, considering the course, the riders to watch and how the race might play out.

The course

The Cadel’s Race course remains unchanged from the original 174km route that was used for the first two editions. Designed by former pro Scott Sunderland with assistance from Cadel Evans himself, the race comprises two main sections: a big coastal loop through Barwon Heads, Torquay and Bells Beach, and a hilly circuit in Geelong which the riders will tackle three-and-a-half times.

Apart from a few easy rollers, the race is more or less flat for the first 50km through to Torquay. There are a couple of short climbs through Bells Beach, including a 1.7km climb at 5%. There are a few rolling hills up towards Moriac, through Ceres and back into Geelong but these are quite minor and aren’t likely to have too much impact on the race. It’s more likely that strong winds will play a role in this opening loop, as happened in the inaugural edition in 2015.

The profile of the Surf Coast loop.

The riders join the 20.2km finishing circuit roughly halfway through, after 107km of racing, shortly before hitting the Queens Park Road/Melville Street climb. There’s a short, punchy climb up Hyland Street after 110km which averages only 5.5% for 700m but it’s steeper than that towards the top. From the top of this climb it’s essentially all downhill to the start/finish line on the Geelong waterfront, where the final three laps of the closing circuit begin.

The cornerstone of the circuit is the extremely steep climb of Barwon Boulevard and Challambra Crescent. This ascent through suburban Geelong is 1km long at 10% and ramps up in a series of steps, the steepest of which exceeds 20%. This climb comes 6.8km into the closing lap, meaning the riders will reach it with 52.8km, 32.6km and 12.4km left in the race.

After a fast descent the riders hit the short and steep Queens Park Road/Melville Avenue climb once more again before returning to the Hyland Street climb and then back to the Geelong waterfront.

Profile of the closing circuit.

In all the riders will climb roughly 2,200m in the 174km race.

How it might play out

We’ve only got two past editions to draw on when trying to predict how Sunday’s race might play out, and those two editions ended in very different ways. In 2015, a group of eight got to the finish to contest a reduced-bunch sprint with the now-retired Gianni Meersman taking the win. In 2016, Peter Kennaugh (Sky) won solo after attacking on Challambra Crescent inside the final 15km.

Both a sprint from a small group and a solo breakaway are possible outcomes for Sunday’s race. While the peloton is likely to be largely in tact when it reaches the finishing circuits on Sunday — strong winds nonwithstanding — the short but steep climbs in Geelong are sure to thin down the peloton with each lap.

Expect the pace to be very high and for plenty of attacks to come once the riders reach the finishing circuits. It’s just of case of whether anyone can get and stay away from what remains of the peloton.

The favourites

Here are some of the riders that should be in with a shot at victory come Sunday:

Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott)

For a guy that’s won the Tour Down Under four times, Simon Gerrans sure managed to fly under the radar at the 2017 edition last week. With Caleb Ewan contesting the sprints and Esteban Chaves leading the team on the climbs, Gerrans didn’t have much impact on the race. But don’t mistake that for a lack of form — Gerrans was second at the Australian Road Nationals earlier this month, only behind Miles Scotson (BMC) who took a late flyer.

The Cadel’s Race course suits Gerrans very well — short punchy climbs with the chance of a reduced-bunch sprint. If it comes down to small group at the end and Gerrans is there, he’ll be pretty hard to beat.

Richie Porte (BMC)

After his dominant performance on the climbs of the Santos Tour Down Under last week, there can be no doubting the form Richie Porte is in. He’s great uphill and great against the clock, so if the Tasmanian can get away on his own in the last lap, he stands a good chance of adding to his tally of three WorldTour wins in 2017.

The climbs in the Cadel’s Race finishing circuit aren’t nearly as long as those at the Tour Down Under, which does work against Porte. But if the Tasmanian decides to attack on Sunday, he certainly needs to be marked.

Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe)

After a strong performance on Willunga Hill and in the stage 6 circuit race, Jay McCarthy finished the Tour Down Under in an impressive third overall. He’s climbing well, he’s sprinting well and if it comes to a small group at the finish in Sunday, the 24-year-old will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Nathan Haas (Dimension Data)

While McCarthy moved from fourth to third on the final day of the Tour Down Under, Nathan Haas did the opposite. The Canberran was understandably disappointed, but also buoyed by the terrific ride he put in on Willunga a day earlier.

Like McCarthy, Haas climbs very well and has a fast finish. He’s finished third and sixth in the first two editions of Cadel’s Race and should be aiming for another podium this week. It’s worth noting that Haas has had a little trouble getting the better of Simon Gerrans in sprint finishes in the past so if both arrive at the finish together Haas will likely be the underdog.

Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac)

WorldTour rookie Brendan Canty missed the Tour Down Under due to illness but he’s recovered now and has brought good form into 2017. He managed to get away on his own at the Australian Road Nationals, albeit a lap earlier than he meant to, and might be tempted to get away in Geelong as well.

Like Porte, Canty would probably like the climbs of Cadel’s Race to be longer, but he’s still good on the steep ramps that feature in the closing circuit. Worth noting: Canty took part in the inaugural Cadel’s Race in 2015 when he was racing for now-defunct Continental outfit Budget Forklifts. He finished in the chase group alongside the likes of Porte and Cameron Meyer that day, less than 10 seconds behind the leading group. He’s improved out of sight since then.

Other contenders

Beyond the big favourites, there are several riders that could post a good result if things fall their way:

Luke Rowe (Sky)

Luke Rowe has done both editions of Cadel’s Race so far and performed well in both. He was fourth in the first edition (in the winning group) and 13th last year (in the group that finished just six seconds behind his teammate and winner Peter Kennaugh). If the race comes together for a sprint at the end, Rowe is a genuine contender.

Danny van Poppel (Sky)

Speaking of contenders from Sky in a bunch sprint, Danny van Poppel deserves a mention. The Dutchman is coming off good form at the Tour Down Under where he went second, fourth, third and fourth in the race’s bunch sprints. With Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) not in attendance this Sunday, van Poppel’s chances of victory increase significantly.

The big question for the Dutchman is whether he can get through the hilly finishing circuits with the leaders. If he can, and he’s in the mix at the finish, he’s a very good chance of winning.

Leigh Howard (Aqua Blue)

Leigh Howard was second in last year’s edition of Cadel’s Race, winning the bunch sprint behind Peter Kennaugh. It’s unclear what sort of form Howard is in — he hasn’t raced so far in 2017 — but he’ll one of the riders to watch in the new Irish Pro Continental team, Aqua Blue Sport.

Like many others, Howard will need it to be a reduced sprint in order to win, but that’s a distinct possibility.

Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)

Esteban Chaves is another rider that would prefer the climbs of Cadel’s Race to be longer (like at next week’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour) but that doesn’t mean he should be discounted on Sunday. Like Porte, if Chaves can get away late he’ll be hard to catch.

Others to keep an eye on

These riders mightn’t necessarily win on Sunday, but they’ll be worth keeping an eye on at the very least:

Chris Froome (Sky)

Chris Froome isn’t a noted one-day rider and this course doesn’t suit him terribly well. But in his first outing at Cadel’s Race, there will still be plenty of eyes on the three-time Tour de France champion. Will Froome just roll around and save himself for the climbs of the Sun Tour? Or will we see him on the move in the closing circuits around Geelong? It will be interesting to find out.

Miles Scotson (BMC)

It might be that Miles Scotson is cast in a supporting role on Sunday, like he was at Tour Down Under. But if not, and he’s given the freedom to try a late move, he needs to be marked. Just ask those that were with him in the lead group at the Australian Nationals road race a few weekends ago …

Jack Bauer (QuickStep Floors)

The New Zealand national time trial champion finished off the Tour Down Under in style with three straight days in the breakaway and three conseuctive Most Aggressive Rider awards. If the past week is anything to go by Bauer will be looking to get away at some point during the race. Perhaps he’ll have more luck in Geelong than he did in Adelaide?

The weather conditions

If the current forecast can be believed, it’s going to be a stunning day down on the Surf Coast for Sunday’s race. There’s likely to be a maximum temperature of 25ºC, only a little bit of wind and almost no chance of rain — perfect conditions for bike racing.

How to follow the race

If you’re in Australia, you can catch the entirety of Cadel’s Race live on Channel 7 and 7HD from 11am AEST. This will include live on-screen data from some of the riders. It’s worth noting that the elite women’s race will also be broadcast live, on Channel 7 — a first in 2017. Coverage starts at 11:30am AEST on Saturday.

The race will also be livestreamed via the PLUS7 smartphone and tablet app.

If you’re following the race on social media, check out the #CadelRoadRace hashtag on Twitter. And of course, be sure to stay posted to CyclingTips for post-race coverage.

Who’s your pick for the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race?

Click through for the startlist for the 2017 Cadel’s Race. Head over to our sister site, Ella CyclingTips for a preview and further coverage of the elite women’s race.

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