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by Matt de Neef
January 25, 2019
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (or just “Cadel’s Race” for short) is the first one-day event on the 2019 men’s WorldTour. This Sunday’s race is the fifth edition and if previous outings are anything to go by, it’s sure to be an intriguing and hard-fought contest. Here’s what you need to know about the race, including details about the course, the riders to watch, and how it might pan out.
The course for the 2019 men’s Cadel’s Race remains unchanged from last year. Starting and finishing in the Victorian city of Geelong, the race covers 164km and features two distinct sections.
The first is a long coastal loop that takes the riders out to Barwon Heads (Cadel Evans’ Australian home town) before heading down the coast through Torquay and Bells Beach before swinging inland, north, then east back towards Geelong. After roughly 105km, the course reaches its second and final phase: nearly four laps around a finishing circuit in Geelong.
This 17km finishing circuit is modelled on the loop used in the 2010 Road World Championships road race and features the same main climb: Challambra Crescent (1km at 10%). There’s another climb on the circuit too — Queens Park Road/Melville Avenue — after which it’s a 6km mainly flat and downhill approach to the finish line on the Geelong waterfront.
Given the riders enter the circuit just before Challambra Crescent, they’ll tackle that brutal ascent four times in the final 64km. Likewise with Queens Park Road/Melville Avenue.
The finishing circuit around Geelong. That sharp peak in the middle is Challambra Crescent.
We can learn a lot about how Sunday might unfold just by looking at previous editions. Of the four races held so far, three have been won from a reduced bunch (eight, 23 and 24 riders) and one was won solo. A reduced bunch sprint seems the most likely outcome again this year, but a solo winner or small group sprint is also a possibility.
As these past results suggest, it’s a very selective course. The opening 105km shouldn’t trouble too many riders but the finishing circuits around Geelong are another story. Expect the pace to ratchet up each time around the circuit, with more and more riders dropping out of contention in the process.
There’s likely to be a breakaway that gets clear early and that gets swept up near the start of the finishing circuit or maybe somewhere around that circuit. Once that happens, expect there to be plenty of attacks as riders try to thwart the plans of the fast-finishers.
Challambra Crescent, as used in the 2010 Road Worlds, is the perfect launchpad for a late attack.
There are plenty of riders on the startlist for Sunday’s race that are worthy of your attention. Some are five-star favourites, others are outsiders, others will be worth watching for other reasons. Here’s a selection:
Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) – McCarthy won last year’s race in a reduced bunch sprint and goes into Sunday’s race as one of the danger men again. He looked some way off his best at last week’s Santos Tour Down Under but the same was true last year and yet McCarthy was able to triumph in Geelong. Don’t discount the Queenslander.
Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) – Impey was third last year the week after winning the Tour Down Under. He won TDU again this year and comes in as a big favourite for Sunday’s race. On paper it’s a race that suits him perfectly — lumpy parcours, short pinchy climbs, likely reduced sprint finish. Much like the Corkscrew Road stage of Tour Down Under …
Don’t be surprised in the slightest if Impey becomes the first rider (male or female) to win the TDU/Cadel’s Race double.
Impey won the Corkscrew Road stage of TDU on his way to becoming the first male rider to win back-to-back Tours Down Under.
Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – The Italian champion won just about everything last year and very nearly won Cadel’s Race as well. The 29-year-old sprinter has shown that he can get over the late hills in good position and will be the favourite if he’s in the lead group on Sunday. He comes in with good form too — he won a stage at the Tour Down Under last week and was the best sprinter at Race Melbourne on Thursday.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) – Most European pros don’t bring great form to the Aussie summer races but Luis Leon Sanchez certainly has this year. He was fourth overall at Tour Down Under off the back of a very consistent week’s racing. He climbs well, has a fast finish, and reads a bike race as well as anyone. Look for him to be in the mix when it counts.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) – Ewan hasn’t finished at Cadel’s Race before — he DNFed his only two appearances (2015 and 2016) — but maybe this year will be different. He’ll certainly have fire in his belly — he left the Tour Down Under last week without a stage win for the first time in four years, a frustration exacerbated by his controversial relegation on stage 5.
The big question will be whether Ewan can stay with the bunch over Challambra Crescent four times. Consider Ewan an outsider, but one that can well and truly get the job done if he’s there in a reduced group at the end.
Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) – Haas has been in the mix at Cadel’s Race a handful of times — he’s finished third, sixth and seventh — but is yet to crack the code. He’ll be best suited to a small bunch finish, and will be worth factoring in if that eventuates and he’s there. Note that Katusha-Alpecin also has Ruben Guerreiro who is similarly good uphill and also packs a fast finish.
Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) – If this race was a little later in year, Valgren would be one of the favourites. It’s probably a little too early in the year for him to be at his best, but he’s worthy of consideration nonetheless. Look for the Dane to get away late, either alone or in a small group, like he did to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Amstel Gold Race last year, respectively.
Michael Woods (EF Education First) – Despite the steep climbs late, the men’s Cadel’s Race hasn’t proven friendly to climbers. Woods will likely need to go it alone on Challambra or Queens Park/Melville if he’s going to win, but as we’ve seen, the race can often come back together thereafter. Either way, expect the Canadian to try something late.
Woods loves steep climbs, as seen with his stage win at the Vuelta last year. Will we see him attack on Challambra?
Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) – The Italian is starting Cadel’s Race for the first time and in some ways it’s a surprise it’s taken this long. The hilly parcours and tough finishing circuit make it the near-perfect for the 29-year-old. He showed some good form at TDU last week and should be there if it comes down to a reduced bunch on Sunday.
Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) – Gibbons was one of the breakout riders of last week’s Tour Down Under, impressing in the sprints and in the hillier stages. He’s unlikely to win the race, but if his performance last week is anything to go by, the South African could be in for another strong ride.
Michael Freiberg (Korda Mentha Real Estate – Australia) – The newly minted Australian champion controversially missed out on Tour Down Under but gets his chance on the WorldTour stage at Cadel’s Race. The finishing circuit is probably a little too tough for someone of his size, but we would have said that before the Nationals as well.
Either way, keep an eye on Freiberg — he’ll be keen to put on a show given how motivated he is to make it to the WorldTour.
What impact will newly minted Aussie champion Freiberg be able to have?
The men’s race will be broadcast live on Channel 7, 7TWO and the 7plus streaming service. Broadcast times vary depending on your location — check out the Cadel’s Race website for details.
If you’re following the race via Twitter or Instagram, keep an eye on the hashtag #CadelRoadRace.
Who’s your pick for the 2019 men’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race? How will it be decided?