Preview: Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

A final weekend of racing in Australia awaits before most riders make the long journey back to the colder climes of Europe

Clock13:00, Thursday 25th January 2024
Sarah Gigante will start the race after her win at the Tour Down Under

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Sarah Gigante will start the race after her win at the Tour Down Under

Fresh off the back of the WorldTour curtain raiser at the Santos Tour Down Under, the attention of many riders in the women’s peloton will now turn to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Saturday, also known as the Deakin University Elite Women's Road Race. Now entering into its eighth edition, the race will bring to an end the early-season block of Australian racing and provide one last chance for riders to enjoy sunnier climes before they head to the UAE Tour and the European road season.

The one-day race has traditionally attracted a strong start list, usually made up of riders from the Tour Down Under making the short journey across to Geelong. As a result, it boasts an impressive line-up of winners across its seven editions, including Annemiek van Vleuten, Amanda Spratt and, most recently, Loes Adegeest.

A similarly impressive roster of riders will take to the start line for the eighth edition of the race with the aim of taking an early-season, confidence-boosting victory, but who will triumph? Here’s everything you need to know about the race.

The course

As the name suggests, the route of the race is centred around the Great Ocean Road which runs between Torquay, near Melbourne, and Allansford, although the riders will only cover a small section of it within the race's 143km route. This is one of Australia’s most sought-after tourist hotspots, but there won’t be any time to enjoy the stunning seaside vistas on what is set to be a fast and challenging day of racing.

Starting at 12:35pm local time, riders will roll out from the seaside town of Geelong and immediately head inland to tackle rolling farm roads where the day’s breakaway is likely to escape. After 50km, proceedings will veer onto the Great Ocean Road which, barring any crosswinds, shouldn’t cause too many problems and should provide a little respite before the race is likely to be decided on a tricky finishing circuit around the streets of Geelong.

Tackled by the peloton twice, the 16.5km finishing circuit contains the Challambra Crescent climb where there will be a chance to take points for the coveted KOM title. It’s also likely to be decisive in the race for the victory, providing a perfect launchpad for attacks.

A fast descent follows that takes riders to the finish line on the Geelong seafront.

Contenders

Four of the seven editions of the race have been won by lone attackers, while two were contested by a handful of riders, and there has only been one bunch sprint. The race is likely to follow a similar pattern again in 2024 and favour punchy riders who are capable of forging a race-winning move or mustering a strong sprint after an attritional day of racing.

Having won the women’s Tour Down Under with a ruthless display of climbing, Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) is clearly in top form and is likely to be one of the contenders. The Australian also has one-day pedigree, taking her only other pro victory – barring the Australian National Championships – at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classic. Teammate Ally Wollaston is also a danger in a sprint from a larger group.

Lidl-Trek boasts a strong line-up, including Amanda Spratt who is a former winner and has finished in the top-three at the last three editions.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) is a rider who favours punchy courses and managed a stage win at the Tour Down Under, while the team can also call upon Grace Brown and Évita Muzic — although defending champion Loes Adegeest is absent from the race.

Elsewhere, Canyon-SRAM’s hopes will likely be pinned on Neve Bradbury or Soraya Paladin, although Chloé Dygert could also be a wildcard on her season debut. Liv AlUla Jayco can call upon Australian national champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon, who finished seventh last year.

Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) has also made a strong start to the season, including a victory at the Geelong Classic, and could be a threat.

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