Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race History
The Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race has been a casualty of the Covid pandemic, similar to the Women’s Tour Down Under. The last edition came at the start of 2020, just as the world was about to lock down. That year, Liane Lippert took the win with a late solo break. It was and remains, her only Women’s WorldTour victory to date. 2023 sees the women’s peloton heading back to Geelong again though.
2020’s runner-up Arlenis Sierra won the race in 2019 with a similar late break and gap as Lippert did in 2020. 2018 saw the only edition won by a sprinter in Chloe Hosking, as a 20-strong group contested the finish. The great Annemiek van Vleuten has the race on her palmares from 2017. A small group of 5 riders were there at the finish but the Dutch rider prevailed over the likes of Ruth Winder, Mayuko Hagiwara, Lucy Kennedy and Emma Pooley. The first UCI edition in 2016 was won by Amanda Spratt and she’s been chasing a follow-up victory ever since. Spratt has a pair of 3rd places from the 2019 and 2020 races.
With no repeat winners and only one sprinter win, it’s clear that an element of luck and form comes into play and punchy climbers have a big advantage. The final climbs are repeated efforts, around 2km at % but peaking out just under 10% or so. It should present an attacking opportunity with just 7km left until the finish. With 1km of that being descent, sprinters won’t have long to get themselves back into contention.
Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2023 Profile
Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2023 Contenders
It feels like time for Amanda Spratt to take a victory at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race once again. She’s definitely back to her best form and has a kick in the sprints too. 2nd at the Women’s Tour Down Under was good and it would’ve been a comfortable win without the presence of Grace Brown. I’m kinda expecting the race to play out similarly to the final stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under. Spratt is going to attack the climbs and it’s up to everyone else to close her down. There’s less distance to the line, so she may hang on this time. Her Trek-Segafredo teammate Brodie Chapman is a useful foil to have. The Aussie national champion finished 10th on the first day of the Tour Down Under but spent most of her time waiting for Spratt. We may see her go for a similar flyer to how she won the nat champs, probably on the first climb rather than the second to put pressure on the other teams.
Grace Brown has looked like the strongest rider in the Australian part of the season. With team support, she could very be national champion after the pulls she made and her solo effort to close down and pass Amanda Spratt on the final day of the Women’s Tour Down Under is a sign the Aussie is riding well at the moment. She’ll be a marked rider but that won’t stop her from attacking and being tough to get back to the bunch.
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB’s Krista Doebel-Hickok finished 5th in GC at the Tour Down Under, finishing 9th on the final stage. She should be the team’s most likely option to follow attacks on the climbs but not being able to go with Brown or Spratt at the TDU hints towards there being other goals this season and a later form peak than the Australians. It may fall to Georgia Williams for the best result. The Kiwi had a great Tour Down Under, finishing 3rd in GC after a pair of top-3 finishes. Maybe less of a punchy rider, it looks like Williams has the form to hang in there on the climbs and be able to sprint well out of the small group sprints behind the winner. There’s definitely a shout for a potential podium.
As always, it’s tough to know for sure which Jayco-AlUla rider will do the best on this sort of parcours. Ruby Roseman-Gannon looked strong at the Women’s Tour Down Under, finishing consistently enough to take 4th in GC. She’s probably disappointed to not have taken a win since the Bay Crits, usually finishing around the 4th-6th bracket. Teammate Alex Manly does have a win, taking victory on Stage 2 of the Women’s Tour Down Under. It feels like Roseman-Gannon will be the one more likely to go with an attack from Spratt but if it does come back together, then Manly will get the nod in a small group sprint.
Dani de Francesco should now be known more to non-regular followers of Aussie cycling. The Zaaf rider has consistent finished either 4th or 5th in this early part of the season and that translated into a decent GC position as well at the end of the Women’s Tour Down Under. She’s a similar type of rider to Ruby Roseman-Gannon in that she can sprint after rolling terrain. The finishing climb isn’t massive here and she will once again be in the hunt.
Human Powered Health’s Daria Pikulik will be full of confidence after winning Stage 1 of the Women’s Tour Down Under. I feel like the late hill might be enough to distance her, however. So with that in mind, we could see the team pivot to Nina Buijsman who finished super quick on Stage 2 of that race. The Dutch rider was still accelerating on her way to 3rd place that day. The hill will be less problematic for her and a similar finish will see her potentially in the mix.
I don’t see Claire Steels of Israel-Premier Tech Roland struggling much on the climb at all and should be amongst the bigger name contenders in the rush to the finish line. What will probably end up stopping a truly good result is the sprint finish. Steels would have to go with a small group that goes away to finish in the top-5 but a larger chase group will make a top-10 finish a good result.
I thought we might see more of Coralie Demay last week but she finished each stage around the 20th place mark to finish 19th on GC. The St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 rider suits lumpy terrain and should be able to mix it on what’s a relatively easier climb. The ideal candidate from the team in orange would be Simone Boilard. The Canadian suits this sort of rolling terrain sprint but there are question marks about whether she will start the Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Boilard crashed in the neutral zone on Stage 1 last week. Luckily she avoided a major injury but it adds doubts about whether she will be back to full fitness or needed the race miles in her legs for some early season form.
This sort of finish should really suit Rachel Neylan. She’ll be racing for the Aussie national team at the Women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and will have some free rein to really attack the climbing sections and have a good go at the sprint. Neylan was 6th on the last stage of the WTDU and appears to be back in form after missing out on the national champs due to illness. This is her last year of racing and one of the final chances to impress on home soil.
Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2023 Outsiders
Henrietta Christie finished 7th in the Women’s Tour Down Under and might be able to bring that form over into the one-day Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The Kiwi leads the U23 Women’s WorldTour standings and will be in the light blue jersey often worn by Shirin van Anrooij in 2022. I can see her managing to stay in the front group late on but what I think will hinder her is the final sprint. She’s quicker than some of the purer climbers though so a top-10 is on the cards potentially.
I included Nikola Noskova here for the Women’s Tour Down Under whilst not sure where the Czech was going to be form-wise after a time spent away from the top level of women’s cycling. She delivered though in what was like a flashback to the past on her way to 14th in GC and a top-10 result on Stage 2. It’s going to be a similar story here where she could be very useful on that final climb.
This one feels a little bit of a long shot because of the parcours but Maggie Coles-Lyster impressed with 4th place on the flat first stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under. If it comes back together, it will be between the Canadian and Dani de Francesco on the Zaaf Cycling team.