Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Matt de Neef
January 31, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
The Australian summer of cycling continues in Geelong this weekend with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race for elite women and men. Here’s everything you need to know to best enjoy these one-day WorldTour races.
It’s the sixth edition of the event.
“Cadel’s Race” began in 2015 as a way of preserving the legacy of Aussie great (and Surf Coast local) Cadel Evans. The men’s and women’s races have both grown in stature over the years and are now an important part of the Australian summer racing calendar.
The women’s race has been promoted to WorldTour level for the first time.
The women’s race started out in 2015 as a National Road Series event. It was given a UCI 1.2 ranking the following year, promoted to UCI 1.1 in 2018, and is now the first race on the 2020 Women’s WorldTour calendar. Not only that but it’s the first and so far only Women’s WorldTour event in the Southern Hemisphere.
The men’s race started at UCI 1.1 level, was promoted to UCI 1.HC in 2016 and has been part of the WorldTour since 2017.
The women’s race will be held on Saturday and the men’s will be on Sunday.
The women’s race kicks off at 12:20pm AEDT on Saturday while the men’s race starts at 11:10am the following day.
The women’s course is mostly the same as last year.
The opening kilometres of the race remain unchanged from previous years: an easy run down to Barwon Heads and then down the coast to Torquay. On their way back to Geelong though the riders will take some different backroads to the ones they took in years past, but this change is very unlikely to affect the outcome.
Note though that the race now includes even less of the Great Ocean Road than it did in the past — a grand total of just 3 km in 2020.
Profile of the women’s race.
The altered section between Torquay and Geelong does make the women’s race slightly longer — 121 km vs 113.3 km of last year — but the basics format is still the same: a big opening loop followed by a partial lap of the circuit used in the men’s race (itself based on the 2010 Road World Championships course).
The women’s race does include the Geelong finishing circuit’s two noteworthy climbs though: the very steep Challambra Crescent (1 km at 10%) and the very short but punchy Melville Avenue. From there the race heads back down to the Geelong Waterfront for a flat and fast finish.
The men’s course has been changed too.
As with the women’s race, the men’s race takes a slightly different route from Torquay to Geelong this year. The race is extended from 164 km to 171 km as a result, but as with the women’s race, the slight course change shouldn’t have any real bearing on the race.
The course used by both men and women. Note the circuit around Geelong — the men do 3.5 laps while the women just turn left once they enter the circuit and do half a lap.
As in previous years, the men’s race comprises the big opening coastal loop, followed by three-and-a-bit laps of the 17 km Geelong finishing circuit. In total there are four ascents of the brutal Challambra Crescent climb and the same of the Melville Avenue ascent.
The women’s race tends to be won solo or from a small group.
Of the five editions of the women’s race so far, three were won solo, one was won from a group of five, and one was won from a group of 21.
A small group or solo winner is again the likeliest outcome this year. The lumpy loop down the Surf Coast will serve to thin out the field and the tough climbs through Geelong will ensure that only the strongest have a shot of winning.
Expect to see the favourites wait until the Geelong part-circuit before making their move. There are likely to be plenty of attacks in those closing kilometres.
Mitchelton-Scott is probably the team to beat in the women’s race.
You just get the feeling that Mitchelton-Scott will really want to win this one. They were outfoxed last year by Arlenis Sierra, finishing second and third; they missed out on the overall win at Tour Down Under last week (for the first time ever); and they weren’t able to win at Race Torquay either.
Spratt winning the 2016 edition as national champion.
We can probably expect the Australian team to make the race very hard, particularly in the closing kilometres, with Aussie champ Amanda Spratt, Lucy Kennedy and Grace Brown all being strong options for a late attack. Spratt is one of the big favourites. She won solo in 2016 (the last time she was Aussie champ, incidentally) and will almost certainly go on the attack somewhere in or around Geelong.
Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), Liane Lippert (Sunweb) and Brodie Chapman (FDJ) have a great chance as well.
It’s not hard to imagine the Tour Down Under winner (Winder) and runner-up (Lippert) featuring late on Saturday. Both are in terrific form, both climb well, and both have a strong finish. Look for both to come to the fore on the Geelong circuit, just like they did in the lumpy final kilometres on stages 2 and 3 of the Women’s Tour Down Under.
Brodie Chapman, too, is in imposing form and will likely animate the race at some stage. She almost won solo on stage 1 of the Tour Down Under, then did win solo at Race Torquay on Thursday. This course suits her too.
Chapman won Race Torquay solo. Could she try similar at Cadel’s Race?
For other strong opportunists, consider Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer — second at Race Torquay), Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo — third at Race Torquay) and Sarah Gigante (Tibco).
There are quite a few contenders if it ends in a reduced bunch sprint.
Chloe Hosking (Rally) will be the favourite if it comes to a sprint. She won here in 2018 and has shown several times in recent years that she can get around hilly courses like this. She’s arguably the best sprinter in the world right now and has a good chance of taking a second Cadel’s Race title.
For other strong sprinters in a reduced bunch, consider Lotta Hentalla (Trek-Segafredo), Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb), Arlenis Sierra (Astana) — who can also win solo, as she showed last year — Lauren Kitchen (FDJ) and Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM).
Hosking won the opening stage of the recent Women’s Tour Down Under.
The men’s race tends to end in a reduced bunch sprint.
In five editions of the men’s race, one was won by a solo rider (Peter Kennaugh in 2016) and the rest were won in a reduced bunch sprint (groups of eight, 23, 24 and 33 riders). A reduced bunch sprint is the most likely outcome again this year, but a solo winner or small group sprint is also a possibility.
As past results suggest, it’s a very selective course. The big coastal loop 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 plenty of late attacks and more and more riders dropped each time. Can a late move stick this time? Or will the sprinters have their day again?
There’s a bunch of sprinters that could win the men’s race.
Elia Viviani (Cofidis) is the defending champ and a strong chance of a repeat victory. He had a frustrating Tour Down Under, courtesy of a crash on stage 2, and will be looking to snag his first win for Cofidis.
Note that Viviani has Nathan Haas on his side too. Haas has been third, sixth and seventh here in the past, and is a great option if Viviani isn’t in the right move.
Viviani winning last year’s edition ahead of Caleb Ewan and Daryl Impey.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was second behind Viviani last year and is arguably the rider to beat. He’s coming off two stage wins at the Tour Down Under and while he didn’t finish Race Torquay, it seems likely that was to rest for Sunday as much as anything else. Ewan is a big chance.
And then there’s Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep). The Irish champion has slotted into his new team nicely and already has two wins for the year: a stage at the Tour Down Under and Race Torquay on Thursday. The biggest question is whether he’ll be able to hang on over the steep climbs around Geelong. If he can, he’ll have as good a chance as any.
Bennett won Thursday’s Race Torquay from a reduced bunch.
It’s a course the all-rounders can excel on too.
Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe), Gianni Meersman and Nikias Arndt have all won here in the past, proving that you don’t have to be a pure sprinter to take victory. McCarthy is the only one of the three on the startlist for Sunday and he’ll be in the conversation again (and will be looking to bounce back after a frustrating Tour Down Under).
Perhaps chief among the fast-finishing all-rounders on the startlist is Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott). His team will be pushing for a very hard race, to drop the sprinters and to give the South African a chance of dashing to the win after being third the past two years. It would be the home team’s first ever win at the race.
Impey’s teammate Kaden Groves is worth a look too. He’s a very fast finisher who should be able to climb well enough to be there at the end if it’s a reduced bunch sprint.
Impey was third the past two years. Can he take the win this year?
Speaking of fast-finishing all-rounders, don’t rule out world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) either. He’s got a strong sprint after hard races and was a promising seventh at Race Torquay. Watch for the rainbow bands late.
There’s some wild weather forecast for the women’s race.
The Bureau of Meteorology suggests there’s a 95% chance of rain on Saturday, likely while the women’s race is on. Not only that, but it looks like there could be thunderstorms in the area too. There’s likely to be a bit of wind around — a 15 to 20 km/h northerly shifting to a 20 to 30 km/h southwesterly — which might open the way for potential crosswinds at times. Add to that a top of around 30ºC and you’ve got a pretty challenging day on the bike.
It’s likely to be a more pleasant day for the men’s race with a forecast top of 23ºC. A west to southwesterly breeze of 20 to 30 km/h could be strong enough to create some crosswind carnage on the way back towards Geelong, if enough teams are keen.
Both races will be live on TV and streaming online.
You can catch the women’s and men’s races live in Australia via 7TWO and the 7Plus streaming service. Coverage of the women’s race begins at 12:30pm AEDT on Saturday while the men’s broadcast begins at 10:30am on Sunday. The race will also be streaming live via the InCycle YouTube channel.
For broadcast information in other regions, be sure to check your local guides.
If you’re following the race via Twitter, keep an eye on the hashtag #CadelRoadRace and the official Cadel’s Race account. And of course, stay posted to CyclingTips for coverage from both races.
Who’s your pick to win the women’s and men’s Cadel’s Race this weekend?