; Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race Preview
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Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race Preview

January 25, 2019
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race Preview

The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (or just “Cadel’s Race” for short) is the first one-day event on the 2019 men’s WorldTour. This weekends race is the fifth edition and if previous outings are anything to go by, it’s sure to be an intriguing and hard-fought contest. Here’s what you need to know about the race, including details about the course, the riders to watch, and how it might pan out.

The Courses

The course for the 2019 men’s Cadel’s Race remains unchanged from last year. Starting and finishing in the Victorian city of Geelong, the race covers 164km and features two distinct sections.

The first is a long coastal loop that takes the riders out to Barwon Heads (Cadel Evans’ Australian home town) before heading down the coast through Torquay and Bells Beach before swinging inland, north, then east back towards Geelong. After roughly 105km, the course reaches its second and final phase: nearly four laps around a finishing circuit in Geelong.

This 17km finishing circuit is modelled on the loop used in the 2010 Road World Championships road race and features the same main climb: Challambra Crescent (1km at 10%). There’s another climb on the circuit too — Queens Park Road/Melville Avenue — after which it’s a 6km mainly flat and downhill approach to the finish line on the Geelong waterfront.

Given the riders enter the circuit just before Challambra Crescent, they’ll tackle that brutal ascent four times in the final 64km. Likewise with Queens Park Road/Melville Avenue.

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The course for Saturday’s Women's Elite race is the same as the one that was used last year, a 113.3km loop that starts and finishes in the Victorian city of Geelong. From Geelong, the riders head south east towards Barwon Heads before following the same lumpy route down the coast through Torquay and Bells Beach.

Like last year, the race concludes with a partial lap of the circuit used in the men’s race; a course derived from the circuit used in the 2010 Road World Championships road race. Two climbs define this closing part-circuit: the brutally steep Challambra Crescent (1km at 10%) and the easier-but-still-not-easy Queens Park Rd/Melville Ave combination (which includes a 20% ramp).

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How It Might Play Out

We can learn a lot about how Sunday might unfold just by looking at previous editions. Of the four races held so far, three have been won from a reduced bunch (eight, 23 and 24 riders) and one was won solo. A reduced bunch sprint seems the most likely outcome again this year, but a solo winner or small group sprint is also a possibility.

As these past results suggest, it’s a very selective course. The opening 105km shouldn’t trouble too many riders but the finishing circuits around Geelong are another story. Expect the pace to ratchet up each time around the circuit, with more and more riders dropping out of contention in the process.

There’s likely to be a breakaway that gets clear early and that gets swept up near the start of the finishing circuit or maybe somewhere around that circuit. Once that happens, expect there to be plenty of attacks as riders try to thwart the plans of the fast-finishers.

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A reduced bunch sprint or solo winner is again the likeliest outcome for the Women's event on Saturday. The lumpy loop down the Surf Coast will serve to thin out the field and the tough climbs through Geelong will ensure that only the strongest can get to the closing kilometres with a shot of victory.

Expect to see a break (or several breaks) get away in the early stages but for it all to be back together on the approach to Challambra Crescent. From there we’re likely to see the favourites start attacking one another, particularly on the two late climbs.

Riders To Watch

There are plenty of riders on the startlist for both races that are worthy of your attention. Some are five-star favourites, others are outsiders, others will be worth watching for other reasons. Here’s a selection:

Elite Men

Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) – McCarthy won last year’s race in a reduced bunch sprint and goes into Sunday’s race as one of the danger men again. He looked some way off his best at last week’s Santos Tour Down Under but the same was true last year and yet McCarthy was able to triumph in Geelong. Don’t discount the Queenslander.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) – Impey was third last year the week after winning the Tour Down Under. He won TDU again this year and comes in as a big favourite for Sunday’s race. On paper it’s a race that suits him perfectly — lumpy parcours, short pinchy climbs, likely reduced sprint finish. Much like the Corkscrew Road stage of Tour Down Under …

Don’t be surprised in the slightest if Impey becomes the first rider (male or female) to win the TDU/Cadel’s Race double.

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Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – The Italian champion won just about everything last year and very nearly won Cadel’s Race as well. The 29-year-old sprinter has shown that he can get over the late hills in good position and will be the favourite if he’s in the lead group on Sunday. He comes in with good form too — he won a stage at the Tour Down Under last week and was the best sprinter at Race Melbourne on Thursday.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) – Most European pros don’t bring great form to the Aussie summer races but Luis Leon Sanchez certainly has this year. He was fourth overall at Tour Down Under off the back of a very consistent week’s racing. He climbs well, has a fast finish, and reads a bike race as well as anyone. Look for him to be in the mix when it counts.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) – Ewan hasn’t finished at Cadel’s Race before — he DNFed his only two appearances (2015 and 2016) — but maybe this year will be different. He’ll certainly have fire in his belly — he left the Tour Down Under last week without a stage win for the first time in four years, a frustration exacerbated by his controversial relegation on stage 5.

The big question will be whether Ewan can stay with the bunch over Challambra Crescent four times. Consider Ewan an outsider, but one that can well and truly get the job done if he’s there in a reduced group at the end.

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Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) – Haas has been in the mix at Cadel’s Race a handful of times — he’s finished third, sixth and seventh — but is yet to crack the code. He’ll be best suited to a small bunch finish, and will be worth factoring in if that eventuates and he’s there. Note that Katusha-Alpecin also has Ruben Guerreiro who is similarly good uphill and also packs a fast finish.

Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) – If this race was a little later in year, Valgren would be one of the favourites. It’s probably a little too early in the year for him to be at his best, but he’s worthy of consideration nonetheless. Look for the Dane to get away late, either alone or in a small group, like he did to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Amstel Gold Race last year, respectively.

Michael Woods (EF Education First) – Despite the steep climbs late, the men’s Cadel’s Race hasn’t proven friendly to climbers. Woods will likely need to go it alone on Challambra or Queens Park/Melville if he’s going to win, but as we’ve seen, the race can often come back together thereafter. Either way, expect the Canadian to try something late.

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Elite Women

Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) – Hosking is the defending champion and probably the rider to beat if it comes to a reduced sprint from a group she’s in. She won last year from a group of 21 and she’ll be dangerous if the race comes back together in the closing kilometres like it did in 2018. Many teams (principally Mitchelton-Scott) will be looking to distance Hosking on the final climbs, but if the Canberran can be there at the end, she’ll be tough to beat. While she’s probably still not in peak form, a stage win at last week’s Santos Tour Down Under suggests her condition is good.

Just about the entire Mitchelton-Scott team – As ever during the Aussie summer, Mitchelton-Scott comes into Saturday’s race with a handful of compelling options.

Amanda Spratt won this race in 2016 when she attacked on the outskirts of Geelong and rode away to win solo by nearly a minute. She’ll likely be Mitchelton-Scott’s Plan A, and will probably opt for a similar tactic on Saturday. If other races so far this summer are anything to go by, we can expect Lucy Kennedy to be the first to attack and for Spratt to counter-attack once (or if) her teammate is caught.

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Grace Brown has had a terrific start to the year, winning the Aussie time trial title (easily) and a stage of the Tour Down Under. She’s another rider who can get away on her own. Meanwhile, if it does come down to a reduced bunch sprint, watch out for Sarah Roy. She’s a fast finisher who’s consistently been around the mark this summer without yet landing on the top step.

A handful of Trek-Segafredo riders – Like Mitchelton-Scott, the new Trek-Segafredo squad has several cards to play. Chief among them is probably Ruth Winder who was second in this race two years ago. The 25-year-old American has taken a step up in the time since then (joining the WorldTour and winning a stage of the Giro Rosa) and she both climbs well and has a strong finish. She would not be a surprise winner.

Elisa Longo Borghini is the most credentialed rider on the startlist with two Giro Rosa titles among a bunch of other big wins. She’ll have bigger fish to fry this year, but a rider of the Italian’s calibre will be hard to dislodge if she’s got some decent form (and the inclination to push herself this early in the year).

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Ashleigh Moolman (CCC-Liv) – The multiple-time South African (and African Continental) champion is starting her season in Australia for the first time and was in the mix at the Tour Down Under last week (before withdrawing after stage 2). The 33-year-old won’t be at her best this early in the year either, but she should still be able to climb with the best and will be very dangerous if she can get away in the closing kilometres.

Brodie Chapman (Tibco-SVB) – Chapman brings great form into Saturday’s race having won the inaugural Gravel and Tar La Femme in New Zealand last week. She’s a rider that loves going on the attack, and with her impressive climbing ability she’ll be one to watch late. She finished 15th last year, in the lead group. She should finish higher this time around.

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How To Watch

In good news for Aussie viewers, Saturday’s race will be broadcast live on 7TWO and streamed online at 7plus. There will also be a highlights package screening on Channel 7, 7Two and 7plus on Sunday.

The men’s race will be broadcast live on Channel 7, 7TWO and the 7plus streaming service. Broadcast times vary depending on your location — check out the Cadel’s Race website for details.

If you’re following the race via Twitter or Instagram, keep an eye on the hashtag #CadelRoadRace.


Imagery courtesy of CorVos. Content courtesy of CyclingTips

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