If the Tour Down Under is the main course of the Women’s World Tour’s very short early season visit to the antipodes, then the Cadel Road Race is the dessert. Traditionally taking place two weeks after the Tour Down Under, the one-day race that starts and finishes in Geelong in Victoria heads along the Great Ocean Road, taking in the stunning coastal views and offering an opportunity to fast and punchy riders to mark their scorecard early, before the peloton uproots and heads back to Europe for the bulk of the season.
The first edition of the race, named after beloved Tour de France winner and former World champion Cadel Evans, was held in 2015, as a farewell race for Cadel himself, and has been held yearly since, aside from an interruption due to covid in 2021 and 2022.
This year, the race will be contested by largely the same peloton that rode the Tour Down Under, and with an early indication of form offered by the three-day stage race last week, it’s possible to make some educated guesses over who might excel on the slightly different terrain of Victoria.
The Route – Geelong – Geelong (140.7km)
The race rolls out along the Geelong waterfront before travelling westward, inland through the rolling hills of Moriac, with the first half of the profile a lot hillier than the second and containing the lion’s share of the day’s 1,643m of altitude gain.
After that, the route turns south and follows the Victoria coastline, famed for its surfing, and the peloton will contest two sprints in Torquay and Barwon Heads. Subsequently the route turns north, heading back to Geelong, opening the first of two laps of a circuit round the city with the Challambra Crescent climb that will undoubtedly see attacks launched. The climb is 1.2km in length with an average gradient of 7.8% and as such, is perfect for punchy riders looking to gain an advantage over the bunch – they will have three opportunities to do so.
Whether it will be enough to thin out the peloton before the race drops back down to the waterfront for the final time remains to be seen, but the puncheurs will hope to use the steep climb to their advantage, and capitalise on any gaps in order to avoid a bunch sprint at the finish.
Riders to Watch
With an almost identical start list to the Tour Down Under, it’s easy to suggest that the same protagonists are likely to come to the fore for the Cadel Road Race. But as last year’s results show, it’s not as simple as it might seem on paper. FDJ-SUEZ’s Loes Adegeest took the win in a two-up sprint against Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek), proving that one-day racing is unpredictable and without the multitude of competing goals characteristic of a stage race, all teams will be working flat out for their leaders.
Though the race isn’t particularly demanding in terms of climbing, the repeated punchy climb of Challambra Crescent invites a rider who can make the most of a steep pitch. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig excels at this kind of finish, and haven proven her early-season form by winning stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, the Danish rider puts herself top of the list of favourites, and in pole position to win once again for FDJ-SUEZ. The team also have Grace Brown, who may be up for it having not been at her best last week.
AG Insurance-Soudal bossed the Tour Down Under, proving they were well worth their newly-minted WWT status at the first possible opportunity, and with spirits high and a bunch of in-form riders, they will hope to repeat their success in Geelong. While the course may prove too punchy for Sarah Gigante, unless she is able to break away, Ally Wollaston will have her eyes on victory after showing her strength on stage 1 at the TDU.
Liv Alula Jayco will be smarting after missing out on home soil, so expect them to be lively, with a raft of talent including newly crowned Australian champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon, Alexandra Manly, Georgia Baker and young Kiwi talent Ella Wyllie, all of whom could feature depending on how the race plays out.
Lidl-Trek were busy at the Tour Down Under but couldn’t deliver Amanda Spratt to a victory, and after taking second place at the race last year, Spratty will be hungry to take the honours on home soil.
Other riders to look out for include Canyon//SRAM’s Soraya Paladin, UAE Team ADQ’s Sofia Bertizzolo, and Team DSM Firmenich-Post NL’s Franziska Koch, or if you really want to pick a wildcard, Visma-Lease A Bike’s Linda Riedman has an outside chance of success.
Riders to watch
5-stars Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
4-stars Ally Wollaston
3-stars Amanda Spratt
2-stars Ruby Roseman-Gannon
1-star Grace Brown
When – Saturday 27 January 2024
Where – Australia
What – One-day race
TV Coverage: Discovery+, Eurosport
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