Cycling Stars arrive for Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
A galaxy of cycling stars are arriving Victoria ahead of Australia’s premier weekend of cycling – the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
The strongest line up since the event’s inception includes Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans (BMC Racing Team), defending champion, Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), Esteban Chaves, Annemeik van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT), and Shannon Malseed (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank).
The racing starts on Thursday with a twilight edition of the criterium – Towards Zero Race Melbourne at the Australian Formula 1™ Grand Prix track.
Race ambassador Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT), comes into the race in blistering form after winning stage 2 of the Tour Down Under last week. However, he is likely to face a fierce battle against reigning champion Sam Bennett (BORA-hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).
In Geelong on Saturday the World Time Trial champion van Vleuten will set out to defend her Deakin University Elite Women’s Race .
Then on Sunday its the re-designed UCI WorldTour Elite Men’s Race, including an additional climb up Challambra and streamlined sprint to the finish line.
All eyes will be on one of Australia’s most decorated cyclists, Simon Gerrans and his new WorldTour team including Richie Porte and Danilo Wyss from BMC Racing.
Richie Porte said: “Winning bike races is the best way to get confidence so a good result in Australia in January gives you a lot of confidence going back to Europe. We have a great team, including Simon Gerrans who came so close last year and who I think will have a good shot this year.”
Reigning champion, 26-year-old german Nikias Arndt , who billed his 2017 victory at the Cadel Road Race as “the biggest win of my career”, is looking to defend his title.
Columbian champion Esteban Chaves starts his 2018 season in Geelong and said: “This race is awesome…I did it for first time last year. It is hard, the public is awesome, Geelong is a great town and all the atmosphere around this race is pretty cool. It’s always a special feeling to start a new season, no matter where it is. But, for me, it is extra special to start in Australia.”
The 164 km course for the Elite Men and 113km for the Elite Women starts at the Geelong Waterfront, heads southeast through Cadel’s hometown of Barwon Heads, along the coast to Torquay and Bells Beach before winding through Mount Moriac and back into Geelong.
Race director Scott Sunderland, who designed the course with Cadel Evans, said: “This is one of the tougher classics, which gives great opportunity to climbers as well as sprinters.”
The action is set to be even more intense this year, with the introduction of the Challambra Climb to the Elite Women’s race, while the Elite Men will tackle it a fourth time compared to the three times in previous years.
In-form Amanda Spratt, who won the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under in Adelaide this month and the 2017 Deakin University Elite Women’s title, said she is ready for it, “I know the Challambra climb well as I raced the Geelong 2010 World Championships. It’s such a tough climb and I think it is a great addition to the women’s race,” she said. “I am feeling good coming into the race after the Tour Down Under…but, there are no lucky winners.”
Completing the ultimate weekend of cycling will be two community rides – the inaugural Towards Zero Race Melbourne Ride4All on Thursday, and the 2018 Swisse People’s Ride on Saturday.