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by Matt de Neef
January 15, 2020
Photography by Tim Bardsley-Smith, Cor Vos and Matt de Neef
The international women’s racing calendar is about to get underway in Adelaide at the 2020 Santos Women’s Tour Down Under. Here’s what you should know before tuning in (and yes, you can actually tune in and watch the race this year).
The race will comprise four stages.
The WTDU starts on Thursday and runs through until Sunday. That final stage will be held just before the Schwalbe Classic, the curtain-raiser criterium that kicks off the men’s Tour Down Under.
It’s probably the least selective course we’ve seen since 2016.
Normally there’s at least one proper uphill finish to help shape the general classification. This year there isn’t. Here’s how each stage looks:
Stage 1 takes the riders 116.3 km from Hahndorf to Macclesfield and while it features a few lumps and bumps along the way, it seems most likely to end in a bunch sprint.
The profile of stage 1.
Stage 2 runs 114.9 km from Murray Bridge to Birdwood and looks like it could also end in a bunch sprint. That said, there is a climb that peaks 11 km from the finish that could provide a nice launch pad for a late attack.
The profile for stage 2.
Stage 3 is 109.1 km long and goes from Nairne to Stirling. This is the closest thing to an uphill finish that this year’s race has. The stage concludes with three laps of a circuit that ends with an 8 km uphill drag to the line. It’s not an overly steep finish — an average of around 2.5% — but it is tough enough that it should split the race, particularly with three ascents to tackle. The tour will likely be decided here.
The profile for stage 3.
Stage 4 is a 42.5 km circuit race around Adelaide. It’s a different circuit to the one that’s been used in recent years, but it too should end in a bunch sprint.
On stage 4 the riders will complete 25 laps of this 1.7 km circuit.
Mitchelton-Scott will be expected to win the race overall.
They’re the home team, with riders that are in form for the Aussie summer, and, to top it off, they’ve got the strongest team on the startlist. They also start with the big favourite.
Amanda Spratt has a great chance of winning her fourth title in a row.
‘Spratty’ has owned this race for the past three years. In all three of those editions she won a stage to take the ochre jersey then never let it go. It’s not hard to imagine a similar situation this week.
Spratt on her way to winning the 2018 edition.
While Spratt would likely prefer a more selective parcours, she’s still the red-hot favourite. She’s coming off an impressive win at the Aussie Road Nationals on Sunday and has shown that she’s again in terrific form at this time of year.
Watch for her to go it alone late in the lumpier stages to try and take the overall lead.
Spratt isn’t Mitchelton-Scott’s only option.
After winning at Nationals Spratt said “whether it’s me that’s in the ochre jersey or one of my teammates, I’ll be just as happy.” And Spratt does have several teammates that are capable of winning the race as well, particularly Lucy Kennedy.
Like Spratt, Kennedy would much prefer a hillier course, but she’s more than capable of going it alone regardless. She has to be marked whenever she attacks which will allow Spratt to sit back and wait, before launching an attack of her own (if Kennedy gets caught). Or perhaps its Spratt that goes first, with Kennedy biding her time for a counterattack. Either way, Spratt and Kennedy are likely to cause headaches for their rivals.
Lucy Kennedy won stage 2 (and the overall) at the 2019 Women’s Sun Tour.
Keep an eye on Grace Brown as well. She was very strong in Sunday’s Nationals road race, setting Spratt up for the win. Brown won into Stirling last year and while this year’s finish is harder, she could well feature again.
Mitchelton-Scott will have plenty of challengers.
They might be expected to win, but Mitchelton-Scott won’t take victory without a fight. There are quality riders all through the startlist that will be looking to challenge the home team.
Brodie Chapman (FDJ) didn’t really get the chance to stretch her legs at Nationals and you can bet she’ll be keen to animate the Women’s Tour Down Under. She’d probably like a hillier course too, but she’s shown on numerous occasions that she can be aggressive, with great success, on just about any terrain. Note that her teammate Lauren Stephens was second overall two years ago and could also be a significant threat, particularly when the road goes up.
Sarah Gigante (Tibco) had a frustrating Nationals road race. She missed the early move and then was marked out of every attempt she tried to make to bridge across. Her win in the Nationals time trial shows she’s in sparkling form and it’s hard to imagine this talented young all-rounder not impacting the race in some form.
Gigante on her way to victory in the time trial at the Aussie Road Nationals.
Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer) is another rider that missed out on showing her impressive form in the Nationals road race, even though she did finish fourth. A very strong all-rounder as well, Herfoss is flying at the moment and should be able to mix it with the very best this week.
Rachel Neylan (UniSA-Australia) was third at last year’s WTDU and could well feature again in some capacity. Just keep an eye out for the 37-year-old veteran.
Chloe Hosking will be the favourite in the sprints.
Of the race’s four stages, three could conceivably end in a bunch sprint. For each stage that does, Chloe Hosking (Rally) will be the favourite.
Hosking is one of the fastest sprinters in the world and she’s working into some nice form. She won two of three stages at the recent Bay Crits and the Australian criterium title last Wednesday. It will be a surprise if Hosking doesn’t win at least one stage.
Hosking winning stage 3 of the Bay Crits earlier this month.
Hosking will certainly have some competition though.
Lotta Henttala (nee Lepisto – Trek-Segafredo) isn’t in peak form at the moment but she is a quality sprinter nonetheless. She’ll be worth watching in a bunch sprint.
Arlenis Sierra (Astana) might have won Cadel’s Race solo last year, but she’s also got a very fast finish. She can be dangerous in a bunch kick and shouldn’t be underestimated. Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) has a handy kick and has beaten Hosking before, while Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb) also has the potential to challenge on the sprint stages.
And then there’s a host of Australians who could be in the mix in the sprints. Rising star Ruby Roseman-Gannon (UniSA-Australia) was second in the Nationals criterium title behind Hosking, and second on two stages at the Bay Crits. Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott) was third in the Nationals crit and has a very strong finish. Lauren Kitchen (FDJ) should never be underestimated, and Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) is also a dangerous rider on the verge of a big result.
Beyond the outright contenders and sprint hopefuls are a number of exciting riders to keep your eye on.
US champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) was second on the Stirling stage last year and will likely animate the race in some way this year too. She loves getting in a move, and can be very dangerous when she does.
Winder winning a stage of last year’s Setmana Ciclista Valencia.
Jaime Gunning (Specialized Women’s Racing) won the U23 women’s title at the Aussie Road Nationals last week and has been on an impressive trajectory in recent years. She’d likely prefer a hillier course, but don’t be surprised to see her well within in the top 10 overall.
After her silver medal at Nationals on Sunday Justine Barrow (Roxsolt-Attaquer) also deserves a mention. In her own words she loves it “when the road goes up” so she’ll have fewer opportunities at this year’s WTDU than normal, but she’s clearly on excellent form and will likely be keen to use it.
Every stage will be livestreamed and the final stage will be live on TV.
Thanks to a promotion to the UCI 2.Pro category, this year’s WTDU will be streamed live for the first time. The final stage will also be live on TV.
You can catch the livestream via the Seven Network’s 7Plus platform and the final stage on 7TWO as well. You can find broadcast times for all stages at the Women’s Tour Down Under site. For Twitter coverage be sure to check out @tourdownunder and the #tourdownunder hashtag.