Raven’s Guide To The Australian Summer of Cycling

Even if you are freezing your arse off in the Northern hemisphere, you can still get in the mood of cycling and heat up just by watching the sweltering summers of Australia.

Is your new years resolution to watch more cycling? With the first event of the 2017 Australian Summer Cycling Calendar starting tomorrow, I figured it would be a good idea to give you guys a fly over and analysis of every stage and race of the season in Australia – and how to watch it. With a new WT event this year in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the Australian Cycling calendar just got a whole load more competitive. Instead of teams focusing on some of the gulf races or the South American races, more and more teams are coming to Australia not only due to the UCI points on offer but due to…well the great races!

In the next 5 weeks, there will be 6 events jam-packed with exciting and explosive cycling from all categories. It starts with the smaller Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic on January 1-3 and the Australian National Championships on the 4th-8th January. After that, it heats up into the major international events: the Santos Women’s Tour on 14-17 January, Tour Down Under on 15-23 January, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on the 28th and 29th of January (with the Australia Day Criterium too) and lastly the Herald Sun Tour on the 1st to 5th of February. With a wide range of events, in a wide range of skill ranges, you will see the best of women’s and men’s racing; both established and up-and-coming riders.

Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic “Bay Crits” (January 1-3)

The 2017 Bay Crits is one Criterium shorter, but that doesn’t mean it will be any less explosive! The first race of the season sees a line up of up-and-coming and experienced Aussie Sprinters which will make great preparation for the Criterium Championships the day after in Ballarat. 2015 and 2016 winner Caleb Ewan will be looking to get a trifecta of wins in the classic and take home a 3rd yellow jersey; but the likes of Sunderland, Kerrison, Clancy and Von Hoff will be there to challenge him.

Stage 1: Geelong

The 600m loop of Ritchie Boulevard along the foreshore of Geelong lit up the start of the Bay Crits last year and will be doing the same in 2017. The Start/Finish is about 200m down from the last corner of the Crit, leaving the Sprinters just enough time to lead off the final corner and peg it down the last loop. There is a slight left dog-leg turn before the end, but this shouldn’t influence much – not as much as getting a good release out of the final corner anyway. Ewan won here last year, and will be hoping to keep that winning streak going.

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Ewan wins by a fair margin over Jones (Drapac), Shaw (Avanti), Parker (SofM) and Lawless (JLT). Source: Con Chronis.

Stage 2: Portarlington

The 1.34km loop around Portarlington is much more technical than the Geelong Crit the day before. With a 90 degree right turn just after the start line, the riders will quickly need to adjust into an almost 180 degree hairpin. Two stock standard left turns take us around the back of the course before a 120 degree hairpin sets up the riders for a 200m sprint. The key point of the Crit would be trying not to crash on the first hairpin, as losing your rhythm there can ruin the rest of the Crit if you lose position in that corner as the winner of this Crit will more than likely be decided before the last corner.

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Shaw won last time the Bay Crits were in Portarlington (Stage 3 2016). Source: Con Chronis.

Stage 3: Williamstown

The 930m lap of Williamstown city center features 3 pretty stock standard left hand turns, but the first turn of the crit will be a 270 degree rotation around the roundabout at Nelson Place. The wind-up to the finish of this crit is a bit shorter too, around 160m, meaning that last corner is even more crucial for positioning. Whoever is first going into the last corner would be expected to be first under the banner.

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Ewan made it three from four at the 2016 Bay Crits with a win in Williamstown. Source: Con Chronis.

If you want to watch the Bay Crits, there will be a livestream on the SBS Cycling Central Facebook page. It will be a good watch with lots of high paced racing from the best in Australia, so if you have the time in the next 3 days, give it a watch! My pick to win the series is Scott Sunderland, his performance at the Shimano Super Crit is too good to overlook for a win here at least one of the crits if not the overall.

Australian National Cycling Championships (January 4-8)

The Australian National Championships have been held in Ballarat since 2002 (excluding 2005 and 2006) and have usually been a staple for the Australian WorldTour cyclists to warm up at – no matter what discipline. The route has stayed the same for most of those years if not all, but here is a recap anyway.

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Porte is out with injury and won’t be contesting Nats in 2016. Source: Con Chronis.

Criteriums (January 4)

The week starts off with the Criteriums. The Criterium is a 1.1km circuit of Sturt St in Ballarat; with one end at Lyons St and the other at Lydiard St. A completely flat circuit, this will undoubtedly finish in a bunch sprint, unless by some miracle the wonder-trains of Orica-Scott (or Orica in the women’s) or IsoWhey can’t wheel in a break; which in itself would be a saga.

The women’s criterium is 30 laps of the 1.1km circuit, so 33km. Last year, Sophie Mackay stunned the field in a surprise win; and she will be hoping for 2 out of 2 even though all eyes will be on her. Previous champs Kimberly Wells and Sarah Roy will be hoping to take back their jerseys; but a strong contingent from the newly-promoted U23’s including Malseed, Roper and Mundy will throw up the mix. My prediction for this is Wells to grab her 3rd title, the uncontracted Colavita rider had some strong performances in 2016 including winning the Victoria Park Crit in the Santos’ Women’s Tour and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau and will be hoping to reclaim her title.

The men’s criterium is 40 laps, which is 44km. Last year, Caleb Ewan demolished the rest of the field and took his first crown – more than likely the first of many for the Orica sprinter. While Steele Von Hoff is getting older, the ex-One Pro Cycling still has it in him to take the title, although this year I see him as more of an outsider. In the men’s peloton, the young guns are to not be discounted. Scott Kerrison took the U23 criterium last year and has won multiple sprint stages on the NRS and in international UCI events in 2016 – he will be looking very strong. Brenton Jones has been on the podium twice in the past 3 years and will be hoping for an elusive victory. Scott Sunderland is on form after winning the hotly contested Shimano Super Crit ahead of Ewan, Von Hoff and Renshaw to name a few. My pick for the men’s criterium is Jesse Kerrison, he dominated the U23 field last year and I can see him taking the win as a dark horse from underneath the noses of the big riders.

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Ewan will be looking to defend his 2016 title in the Criterium. Source: Con Chronis.

Time Trials (January 5)

The time trials of the Aussie Nats are straight down Buninyong-Mt Mercer Rd, and to be expected of that general area, there are some hills that would favour the undulating time trial specialists.

The Women’s Time Trial is 29.4km; 14.8km one way before doing the route in reverse. Katrin Garfoot was a medalist at the Doha Worlds Time Trial and should be heading in as favourite to defend her title from 2016. 4 time champion Shara Gillow will be aiming for number 5 on a course she has raced and won many times before; while new comer Lisen Hockings will be coming off a great debut season in the NRS (at 38 nevertheless) where she specialised in the time trials to try and nab one away from the big names. My pick for the time trial is Katrin Garfoot, taking Bronze at Worlds should be a big enough boost to her form for her to blitz the field in Ballarat and defend her title.

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The shorter Women’s Time Trial is no less harsh. Source: Cycling Australia.

The Men’s Time Trial is 40.8km; 20.4km one way before turning around. The field this year will be one-man weaker with Richie Porte out with injury trying to get fit for the TDU, which leaves reigning champion Rohan Dennis one length ahead in a two-horse race. Durbridge and Hepburn (both former champs) will be looking to spoil Rohan’s party, but without a major mechanical or crash (which, to be honest, isn’t a far stretch of the imagination given his luck) I can’t see anyone topping Dennis. So…my prediction for 2nd place is Miles Scotson. Coming off a medal in the U23 time trial in Doha will give him confidence and being signed to BMC (is it something with being an Australian TT Specialist and being signed to BMC – Porte, Dennis and now Scotson?) will give him the motivation to prove himself here to set up the rest of his year riding in Europe for BMC.

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The extra climb in the middle of the time trial will add an extra degree of difficulty to the Men’s Time Trial – but will boost Dennis’ chance of victory. Source: Cycling Australia.

Road Races (January 8)

The Queen race of the week, the Road Race, is going to be a cherry on the top of what is a great week in Ballarat. Both the men’s and women’s peloton do a 10.2km lap of Buninyong, summiting the infamous Mt. Buninyong and finishing on the main street. It has been known to be a climbers circuit, but don’t be surprised to see it finish in a fast finish from the puncheurs coming off the back of Buninyong and forcing a bunch sprint.

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Spratt will be looking to defend her 2016 title in the Road Race. Source: Con Chronis.

The Women’s Road Race is 10 laps of the circuit, 102km in total. Amanda Spratt – the reigning champion – will be hoping to make it 3 titles for her while Orica team-mate Gracie Elvin will be her rival on the road on Sunday. While Elvin’s preparations have been hindered due to Emirates misplacing her bike when flying home for training, she should still be a formidable opponent in the race. Runner-up in 2016, Ruth Corset will be wanting to taste glory in 2017 while 2015 winner Peta Mullins will be wanting her title back. However, I don’t think you can go past Spratt to win this race, her form in 2016 has been outstanding winning the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and having top 10’s in GC in the Aviva Women’s Tour (5th), Santos’ Women’s Tour (7th) and the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (2nd).

The Men’s Road Race is 8 laps longer, totaling 183.6km. Again with Richie Porte out of the race, there is one less big name for the others to worry about. However, this doesn’t mean there is any less talent. Reigning champ Jack Bobridge won’t be defending his title in 2017 after retiring in 2016; but Simon Gerrans will be hoping for his 3rd title in 2017 to equal Robbie McEwan’s record. The Dimension Data Trio in Hass, Morton and O’Connor will be a very strong force to reckon with – and I think Lachlan Morton has a huge chance of winning. Grand Tour legend Adam Hansen will be contesting, the work horse of Australian cycling is an outside chance of taking the title. Brendan Canty of Cannondale will be another big favourite for donning the Green and Gold after a 2nd place at the Oceania Road Race in 2016 and winning the Youth Classification in the Tour of Oman. My pick for the win this year is Lachlan Morton; on his return to the World Tour in 2017, it would be nice to see him wearing the Green and Gold and he certainly has the skills to do it.

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Mt Buninyong is the big feature of the Road Race. Source: Cycling Australia.

The Road Races will be broadcast on SBS Viceland from 1pm on wards, with streaming of the Criteriums and Time Trials available online.

Santos Women’s Tour (January 14-17)

The inaugural Santos Women’s Tour in 2016 saw Australian Katrin Garfoot win one stage (into Mount Torrens) and come 2nd (into Adelaide) to wrap up GC. In 2017, a different route has been used; one that is much more competitive, hilly and enjoyable to watch! Although the formula of 2 criteriums and 2 road races stays, the 2 road stages look very exciting and appealing to the climbers. While no teams lists have been released yet, we can make some general observations as to who the stage will favour (I do know that Jessica Allen of Orica will be racing however, as she told me when we were riding together last week!).

Stage 1: Hahndorf to Meadows (106.5km)

The opening stage of the Women’s Tour in 2017 looks to be an exciting one. Starting off in Hahndorf, they hit a small climb heading into Meadows before starting on the 80km-odd circuit just east of the famous Willunga Hill. They head out toward Strathalbyn before heading back into Meadows. The key point of this stage will be the Paris Creek Road climb into Meadows; with the course being mostly uphill for the last 15km, anyone who gains an advantage on the climb will probably be able to hold it heading into Meadows.

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The Paris Creek Road climb into Meadows looks to be a stunner for a great finish. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 2: Adelaide to Adelaide (32.2km)

The first criterium sees a 2.3km city circuit of Adelaide around Park-15. Nothing truly remarkable to say about the stage, other than the finish is on a slight downhill so it will be a high speed finish. It will undoubtedly be a bunch sprint, but don’t be surprised if a break heads out to try and grab those Sprint jersey points on Laps 4, 8 and 12.

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Small undulations on the 2.3km circuit, but nothing major. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 3: Tanunda to Lyndoch (92.4km)

The Queen stage of the Women’s Tour, the riders head North out of Tanunda towards the Barossa Valley before completing a 25.2km circuit of Lyndoch. The two sprint points in Lyndoch will be of some refuge to the riders after the Whispering Wall climb, but this stage is made for a breakaway. The key point of the stage will be the second ascent of Whispering Wall – while we could see a breakaway on the first ascent, they will more than likely be caught before the next sprint point, whereas after the second ascent anyone determined for the stage will spiral down into Lyndoch. I can’t see this finishing in a bunch sprint as the Whispering Wall climb is quite a brutal one, and what’s even worse is the Williamstown hill after it which will ruin the legs of most the riders.

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The descent into Lyndoch opens up the opportunity for a breakaway off the back of Whispering Wall and out of Williamstown. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 4: Victoria Park Criterium (1hr + 2 laps)

Well, there isn’t a hill in sight. Not a rise, and if you put a spirit level on it, it would be completely flat. While crazier things have happened on crits, I think a bunch sprint is the way to go on this one. It will be a hectic finish for the final stage, and even though the GC will be wrapped up, there are sprint points up for grabs on Laps 10, 15, 20 and 25 so they will be hot competition for the day for someone to cement their lead in the Red Jersey.

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Cav’s dream stage – not a single undulation in sight. Source: Tour Down Under.

I will be going to Stage 1 of this Tour so I am very much looking forward to it; and I think it will be a very exciting race. It won’t be televised which is a shame, but hopefully in the next few years it gets promoted from a 2.2 race into a 2.1 or even WWT event and get more publicity for Women’s Cycling in Australia! Also, Jess Allen, if you read this, I am now your biggest fan since that ride and I hope I get to see you again 🙂

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Jess Allen and I in Kings Park! For reference, I am obviously the one in Orica kit 😉

Tour Down Under (January 15-23)

The pièce de résistance of the Australian Summer of Cycling, the TDU was Australia’s only UWT event, but just because it isn’t the only one nowadays doesn’t mean it’s any less special. The one week race has a new addition this year with the People’s Choice Classic headlining the race a couple of day before the depart. All eyes will be on the battle between Gerrans and Porte, one that has been hotly contested for the past couple of years to the benefit of the former – maybe Richie’s luck can turn around.

People’s Choice Classic (50.6km)

The People’s Choice Classic is 22 laps of the same Park-15 circuit used by the women used only minutes earlier. For the short Crit-like circuit, you can’t go past Caleb Ewan for a sprint. Last year he asserted his dominance on the peloton at the TDU winning 2 stages, and this stage is tailor made for him if the Orica-Scott boys can give him a half decent lead-out. Outside of Ewan, Ben Swift of UAE Abu Dhabi would be a big contender for this stage, or Jay McCarthy of Bora – both already proven young sprinters who would be targeting this as a good prelude to the sprinters stages at the TDU. And, who could forget Peter Sagan – I don’t see him winning this classic but he could definitely target a couple of the TDU stages if not all of them!

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Flatter than Mark Cavendish’s rib cage. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 1: Unley to Lyndoch (145km)

The opening stage of the Tour Down Under is a little bit different from previous editions. Starting in Unley, the riders no longer head out to Prospect but rather to Lyndoch. And nothing says “Welcome to Australia” like a casual climb up Humbug Scrub to warm you up for the KoM. The race will probably die down, let a break go and take the sprint points, before reeling them in before Williamstown for a bunch sprint in Lyndoch. So I don’t seem so biased and say Caleb Ewan for every sprint, Ella Viviani and Peter Sagan would be a great bet for this stage. We have seen the destructive power Sagan has if he gets into a break or bunch sprint in 2016 in Le Tour – especially Stage 10 (where he came second fiddle to Matthews) and Stage 11 with Froome and Bodnar. Viviani for Sky would be their main focus for these sprint stages and after podium performances at the flat Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours in 2016 he could do it in the descent into Lyndoch.

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One of the only stages where you can’t see a breakaway staying till the end. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 2: Stirling to Paracombe (148.5km)

In what is basically a reverse of last year’s course from Unley to Stirling, the riders this time instead start down in Stirling, completing 6 laps of the approximately 20km circuit before heading out further into the hills for a mountain top finish in Paracombe. Being one of two mountain top finishes of this year’s TDU, I can see Richie Porte trying to make himself the King of Paracombe as well – his form on mountain top finishes at the TDU is amazing as seen by his crazy climbing up Willunga Hill. Brendan Canty of Cannondale cannot be discounted having already proven himself on the hills last year riding for Drapac; and my wildcard in Thomas De Gendt breaking away from everyone like his performances in the TDF in 2016 seems likely – although he might be targeting the KoM points more than the stage win if worst comes to worst as Soudal will probably be riding for Valls.

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Stage 2 2016, but in reverse. Kinda. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 3: Glenelg to Victor Harbour (144km)

The stage from Glenelg to Victor Harbour sees the riders leave the beaches of Glenelg (where they would rather be on a piping hot Adelaide day) and head towards the beaches of Victor Harbour (where they would also rather be)…but they have 144km of racing to get through and an ascent of Sellicks Hill first. The riders fly down Main S Rd basically all the way down to Victor Harbour, where they do 4 laps of a street circuit in the windy harbour – which could create some interesting echelons on the day if the riders aren’t paying attention. Considering it will be a bunch sprint more than likely, ditto any of the already mentioned sprint trains as the most likely winners and if there is a break, the master Peter Sagan will demolish everyone – for good or for worse.

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Can we just get to the beach already? Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 4: Norwood to Campbelltown (149.5km)

I have a sneaking suspicion this stage might finish in a solo break win. The new Norwood to Campbelltown Stage (which I will be riding in the Challenge Tour!) starts out with a harsh climb into the Adelaide Hills before it levels out and undulates around Mount Pleasant and various other peaks in the area. After the Mount Pleasant sprint point, the race starts to spike and fall, with Mount Torrents, Lobethal and Cudlee Creek being key points on the descent back into Campbelltown. If someone was to attack on the climb to Lobethal, I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t caught. This is made to replicate a Chris Froome descent win from the TDF this year, or Peter Sagan to tear it up. If there was a break on this stage, my money would be on Sagan – just too dominant in these types of stages where there is probably a little bit too much climbing for a sprinter to handle and has a downhill fast finish where he can polish off the other riders. If Michael Matthews or, even Planckaert of Katusha (as an outside chance) can challenge Sagan, it would make for a thrilling stage.

But that is all hypothetical. If a bunch sprint occurs, it will basically be pick a card out of a deck and that will be who wins.

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I think Peter Sagan looks at this profile and goes “How much did Bora pay the TDU organisers for this stage?” Source: Tour Down Under.

 

Stage 5: McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill (151.5km)

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Ladies and gentlemen, the King of Willunga Hill. Source: Tim Bardsley-Smith.

Ah…the Queen Stage of the TDU. Everyone knows Willunga Hill – but there is actually 120km before that happens, even if you thought the whole stage were those two ascents up the most famous climb in Australian cycling! The riders depart McLaren Vale and head south along Main Rd S and turn towards Aldinga and head along the Aldinga Beach foreshore in a lap that goes past Port Willunga and Snapper Point (where the sprint point is). After those 3 laps, the riders turn to face the ascent of Willunga Hill – 3km at 7% – and they do it twice. We’ve seen classic attacks like Bobridge in 2015 riding for UniSA almost making a solo break up it before being caught in the last kilometer, and Richie Porte’s annual “I’m-going-to-destroy-everyone-and-make-South-Australia-go-mad” speed ascent up Willunga Hill. My pick for this stage: it’s hard to go past the King of Willunga. Porte has won 3 times up Willunga Hill and if he recovers okay from his injury at the Olympics, expect him to retain that title. As an outside chance, if Gerrans is desperate to make some time up to win another Ochre, he might launch a surprise attack at the base and try and keep it going to the top – but that is dependent on his GC position before the stage.

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Sir Richie Porte of Willunga Hill returns for another battle with his dear friend. Source: Tour Down Under.

Stage 6: Adelaide to Adelaide (90km)

The (almost) 5km Adelaide City Circuit will be done 18 times on Stage 6 of the TDU. In the middle of the stage, the riders have to tackle Monteflore Hill out the back of Adelaide Oval, before coming down King William Park for the stage finish. On laps 8 and 12, there will be a sprint point at the finish line, which should be contested by anyone wanting to secure their Red Jersey. For the whole stage though, you can’t go past Peter Sagan. He can win it in a bunch sprint, he can win it from a break up Monteflore Hill, he can win it from the f***ing neutral zone. If Matthews and Vanmarcke decide to do the TDU, I can see them challenging Sagan, and maybe the pure sprinters in Viviani and Ewan, but not many others.

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Probably one of the better city circuit out there. Source: Tour Down Under.

The Tour Down Under will be broadcasted on Channel 9, on various international networks, and I will be keeping up with the action from the roadside! I will be at Stages 3, 4 and 5, and I am very much looking forward to it! It’s my favourite race of the year, I might be biased, but I think it’s amazing. The startlist this year is shaping up to be an exciting one so hopefully the race is as exciting as it is on paper!

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (January 26-29)

The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race turns 3 this year! The event which started out as a 1.1 race has now been elevated to UWT status, and as a result all of the WT teams will turn out to ride what is a great one-day race. Following the Great Ocean Road near Geelong, this race will be a slightly undulating one with plentiful different finish possibilities due to its parcours.

Race Melbourne (January 26)

Before the Road Race, there is the new Race Melbourne Circuit, which follows the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit in Albert Park. The 5.3km circuit is repeated 22 times for a 116.6km race. The circuit is pretty flat, and will feature the same riders who will be doing the Great Ocean Road Race. While the CEGORR is more suited to the punchy riders, this will be for the criterium-specialists and sprinters. It’s an exhibition ride before the big race on the 29th, a bit like the People’s Choice Classic for the TDU, so it should be a good, fun day out to see some big names in cycling!

CEGORR (January 29)

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The road out of Geelong is pretty flat, before it starts to undulate on its return. Source: ProCyclingStats.

Sunday brings on the big race of the weekend. The riders depart Geelong, heading south east towards Barwon Heads and along the coast down past Torquay. The race hits Torquay and starts to undulate, before a KoM just past Bells Beach that will probably be picked up by a breakaway early on in the race. After the KoM, the race heads inland and back up to Geelong via Mount Moriac.

After that 113km start, the riders then enter a 20km loop around Geelong, with the start/finish line located near The Pier. About 7km into the loop there is a decent climb which will challenge the riders, and another around 13km. Judging from last years’ race – which has the same parcours at this years – there is the chance of a late break as seen by Peter Kennaugh, but a bunch sprint can happen as there isn’t enough elevation to really break up the riders, but who knows!

For this years edition, I think that the favourites would have to be Leigh Howard of Aqua Blue Sport (2nd last year), Peter Kennaugh (1st last year) and, if they send him, Sep Vanmarcke of Cannondale. I think this course really suits Vanmarcke – hilly but not too hilly, and an explosive finish after a couple of climbs – and if he was to attend, he would have a very fair crack of winning it.

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The 20km loop of Geelong features a decent climb at the 7km mark that might ruffle up the peloton. Source: ProCyclingStats.

This year, the Great Ocean Road Race will be on Channel 7 in Australia, but I am sure if you are overseas there will be a live stream somewhere. Considering it’s now a UWT event, there is bound to be coverage of it. It’s an interesting one-day race the CEGORR, and hopefully this edition can be as exciting as its last 2!

Herald Sun Tour (February 1-5)

The Herald Sun Tour lies in the shadow of its UWT counterpart, but it is as exciting if not more than the Tour Down Under. With many more meters climbed than its Adelaide counterpart, the Melbourne Tour sees big names like Chaves and Froome come down under for the (under-rated) 2.1 category event featuring mountain top finishes, fast time trials and everything in between.

Prologue: Melbourne to Melbourne (2.1km)

The short 2.1km prologue in Melbourne City sets the tone for the rest of the Tour. Although it helps get the spectators to the race before the race heads more rural out towards Falls Creek and other areas, it provides for a quick time trial with tight corners which will surely bring some drama! I can’t really tell you a key point of this time trial, it just really comes down to the day and whoever can put the most power in. It won’t have a major effect on the standings unless there is a crash, and even then you might lose 30 seconds at most, which if you are good climber (like Chaves or Froome) you will make up pronto. It’s a bit hard to make rider predictions at the moment as only a small part of the startlist has been released, but I will try.

Stage 1: Wangaratta to Falls Creek (169.9km)

Arguably the Queen stage of the race, the Falls Creek stage has been a staple of the Herald Sun Tour since it’s inception. When the Race Director was curating the parcours for this edition, he was tailoring it to the big names while giving opportunities to the younger riders, and this stage is the epitome of this vision. The long climb up to Falls Creek sees a gain in about 1100m over 70km, with large pitches near the end. However, that is not to discount the climbs near Bright half way through the stage. This stage will probably see a pure climber win it, Froome is in with a big shot is Kennaugh pulls him up, and it’s the same with Chaves and Gerrans.

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The Falls Creek climb looks amazing and will separate the meek from the strong. Source: Herald Sun Tour.

Stage 2: Mount Beauty to Beechworth (165.6km)

Stage 2 of the Herald Sun Tour heads north out of Mount Beauty towards Tallangatta and then west toward Beechworth. Although the stage is mostly flat, we can expect some attacks on the final climb and the possibility of a breakaway win is quite high for this stage. However, if the break is caught, we can expect a reduced bunch sprint for the fast finishers of the peloton like Kennaugh or Gerrans, or if the pace is slower than expected, a mass bunch sprint. It’s quite the wildcard stage and will be open to many different finishes depending on the day.

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The parcours of the finish allows for a melting pot of different possibilities – break, solo, sprint, it can all happen! Source: Herald Sun Tour.

Stage 3: Benalla to Mitchelton Winery (165.6km)

The most pure sprinters stage in the race, the climb out of Benalla is the only climbing action we will see on Stage 3 of the Herald Sun Tour. However, the sprint finish into Mitchelton Winery should be interesting and we will probably see some fresh faces winning a stage – Brenton Jones of JLT Condor will be a big chance for this stage, or Caleb Ewan of Orica-Scott (if he races).

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A sprinter’s dream, other than a completely flat stage. Source: Herald Sun Tour.

Stage 4: Kinglake to Kinglake (121km)

The last stage features 4 laps around Kinglake with a slight downhill finish. The constant climbing and descending will weed out the peloton up the last climb, which is sure to be explosive for anyone wanting to gain time in GC. The summit of the last climb is about 4km away from the finish which leaves enough space for a break to stay away, but if the pack does come together it means there will be a sprint. The key point of the stage will probably be in the last lap, the final descent and ascent will be crucial to pose an attack or hold one off with high cadence riding – keep an eye of for the Jayco riders and their one day specialists in Michael Storer and Lucas Hamilton who will be able to keep a high pace through the hills.

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These 30km laps around Kinglake make for a really exciting hilly stage for the puncheurs, or possibly the breakaway. Source: Herald Sun Tour.

While it seems like I am making really general assumptions on this race, I can’t really make specific ones due to there being no full startlist yet – so I can’t make stage predictions. However, I think Chaves will win GC – he won’t lose much time on the prologue in comparison to Froome due to its length, and I think wearing the colours of Orica in an Australian race will spur him onto a victory, but maybe that is just superstition.

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Froome and Kennaugh dominated the Herald Sun Tour last year. Froome is probably telling Peter, “Enjoy your time in Yellow because I will steal it.” Maybe. Source: Herald Sun Tour.


Thanks for checking out my analysis of the Australian Summer of Cycling! It’s sure to be a hot one and it all starts tomorrow with the Bay Crits! It would be a good summer to tune into and watch the cycling, so enjoy the action while it lasts, and I personally can’t wait for it to start! For now, I’m out.

~The Cycling Raven