After a hotly contested Tour Down Under which saw Australian riders dominate their European counterparts, they will be out to continue it at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Join The Roar for live coverage from 12:30 pm (AEDT).
In a major change, the Great Ocean Road Race is making the jump to World Tour status this year. Unfortunately, this means no more Australian domestic teams can ride the race, which is a setback for teams from the National Road Series.
On the plus side, all the World Tour will battle it out over the punchy Geelong course, alongside four of their Pro Continental counterparts plus an Australian national team, full of local talent including Cameron Meyer, Lucas Hamilton, and Scott Bowden, who competed in both mountain bike and the road race at the Rio Olympics.
The riders will face 174 kilometres, starting in Geelong, moving onto the Great Ocean Road towards Barwon Heads and Torquay, before finally finishing with three difficult loops around Geelong.
The course is the same as the previous two years, which should result in some extremely interesting racing.
In 2015, the race was taken out by punchy sprinter Gianni Meersman, with Simon Clarke and Nathan Haas rounding out the podium. Last year saw a lone rider attack near the finish, with Team Sky rider Peter Kennaugh holding off the fast finishing bunch.
The first 70 kilometres of racing feature predominantly coastal roads with fabulous views, however a chance of strong winds. While the weather forecast doesn’t predict it, they can whip up in an instant on the coast.
The riders then travel over lumpy train as they make their way inland back towards the finishing circuits. The loops around Geelong will be tackled three times, each totalling around 20 kilometres.
While the majority of the course is not hilly, the final circuits around Geelong contain two key uphill sections – at Challambra Crescent and Melville Crescent. These climbs are then immediately followed by fast descents, so if riders attempt a break away they may be able to get a quick gap and hold it.
Both climbs average around ten per cent and last over 500 metres (Challambra Crescent is one kilometre), which should remove pure sprinters from the race.
Expect attacks on these climbs, but a group of riders should be able to shut down any solo attacks on the descent following. Last year was completely unexpected.
A small group is exected to contest the finish, depending on the composition of riders in front. Many teams are coming with both a good climber and a decent punchy sprinter.
BMC will be focusing all their efforts on a climber, through the in-form Richie Porte. After a fantastic Tour Down Under, taking two stage wins and the general classification, Porte’s form seems to be fantastic.
He will be assisted by a strong set of teammates, including Rohan Dennis and Miles Scotson, both crowned national champions in the time trial and road race respectively. Alongside them are strong climbers Amael Moinard and Damiano Caruso.
Orica-Scott come into the race with the double threat of Colombian climber Esteban Chaves, and classics specialist Simon Gerrans. With no wins to date for Gerrans this year, this course suits his capabilities quite well.
Dimenson Data are another team full of Australian talent that will be looking for the win today. Nathan Haas was fourth overall on general classification at the Tour Down Under and should contend today.
Sky come into the race with the best set of climbers, with three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome making a start to his season. After a poor Tour Down Under, they will be looking for either their climbers, or sprinter Danny van Poppel to get a result.
Other riders to look out for include Jan Bakelants and Domenico Pozzovivio (AG2R La Mondiale), Brendan Canty and Patrick Bevin (Cannondale Drapac), Ginaluca Brambilla and Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors), Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Enrico Battaglin (Lotto NL-Jumbo), Thomas de Gendt and Rafael Valls (Lotto Soudal), Wilco Kelderman and Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), Jarlinson Pantano and Edward Theuns (Trek Segafredo), Leigh Howard (Aqua Blue Sport), Alexei Tcatevich (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Janier Acevedo (United Healthcare).
Join The Roar’s live coverage from 12:30pm (AEDT).