Women's Tour Down Under History
The Women’s Tour Down Under came back after a Covid hiatus in January 2023 with a great edition. Grace Brown took the victory after a close battle with Amanda Spratt that saw just 10 seconds separate the pair of Australians. Georgia Williams rounded out the podium as the only other rider within 20 seconds of Brown. The opening stage of the 2023 Women’s WorldTour season saw Daria Pikulik take her first WWT win in an out-and-out sprint. A couple of late curves made it hard for some favourites to get into position but Pikulik managed to negotiate it with the fastest kick.
Alex Manly was able to take the win on Stage 2, and was led out perfectly into a final 90-degree corner which left the final sprint comfortable for the Aussie. The GC was decided on the final day with the Corkscrew climb in the final kilometres deciding the race. A head-to-head sprint for the stage win saw Spratt leading out Brown who was able to come back for the win and GC. Despite not winning last year, Amanda Spratt is synonymous with the Women’s Tour Down Under. She’s been on the podium in each of the last 5 editions, with 3 of them wins, in a run stretching back to 2016.
The 2024 Women’s Tour Down Under route finally sees the Women’s WorldTour use Willunga Hill for a summit finish. It’s the climb most known from the men’s edition but hasn’t been used in the women’s race until now. During Covid, the Festival of Cycling, a sort of domestic Tour Down Under did go up Willunga Hill though. So we have an idea of who might be a threat this year. Back then, Sarah Gigante outpaced Lucy Kennedy (now retired) to the win. She will be back on a new team with the confidence of knowing that she can deliver there.
Women's Tour Down Under 2024 Profiles
Stage 1 Profile
Stage 2 Profile
Stage 3 Profile
Friday 12th January to Sunday 14th January 2024
Stage 1: 00:30-04:00
Stage 2: 00:30-04:30
Stage 3: 00:30-04:30
All times in GMT
Women's Tour Down Under 2024 Contenders
FDJ-Suez come here to mean business. They’ve got last year’s winner in Grace Brown along with Cecille Uttrup Ludwig as big pre-race favourites. New signing Nina Buijsman was also 3rd here last year on the harder sprint stage. Either her or Gladys Verhulst-Wild will get the nod on Stage 1 this year and then might still be in the hunt on what is a tougher 2nd day in 2024. It’s obviously a home race for Grace Brown and she will want to do well but Cecille Uttrup Ludwig feels more suited for the blast up Willunga Hill for mine. Aussies are notoriously strong at this point of the season though, especially if they’ve been hunting national championships (which are after the date of this preview but before the Tour Down Under). They’ll play it by ear and see how Brown is faring against Spratt on the climbs.
For Lidl-Trek, the equation is simple. The Women’s Tour Down Under is very much an Amanda Spratt race. She’s going to have some great support from the likes of Chapman and Hanson to keep things under control. The course changes feel like the race has moved back to a parcours where Spratt will have more of an advantage over most of the other rivals. The sprinting on Stage 1 should be done by Ilaria Sanguineti, although there was just a hint that Elynor Backstedt was starting to get more opportunities last year too. Spratt threw the kitchen sink at the race last year and it wasn’t through want of trying that she didn’t take the win.
The climbing GC threat from Liv-AlUla-Jayco should come from their new rider Ella Wyllie. She’s making the step up from Lifeplus-Wahoo after impressing last season. The 21-year-old Kiwi finished in the top 10 of the GC here last season before going on to finish on the podium at Navarre Elite Classics, winning the youth jersey at the WWT race Itzulia Women and finishing 11th on the Tourmalet in the Tour de France Femmes. She’s got a solid line-up behind her that includes a stage winner from last year’s race in Alex Manly and the all-round threat of Ruby Roseman-Gannon. I’m assuming Manly will get the Stage 1 sprint and maybe Roseman-Gannon the lead on Stage 2. That leaves Wyllie to do her best for GC on Willunga Hill on Stage 3.
Human Powered Health has made a number of signings in the off-season and will look to get off to a better start in the new 2 year Women’s WorldTour cycle than the last one. Krista Doebel-Hickok usually does well in Australia, finishing 5th in last year’s edition of the Women’s Tour Down Under but also finished 4th in GC back in 2019. She’s another rider for whom the inclusion of Willunga Hill will help her chances. Henrietta Christie also had a good race here last season, finishing 7th in GC and taking home the youth jersey. She will either be supporting or complementing Doebel-Hickok here, with the strongest of the pair going to be made clear on the road. We’re also going to get to see the return to the peloton of Ruth Edwards (who was Ruth Winder the last time she raced a WWT race). She won the 2020 edition of the Tour Down Under shortly before the lockdowns started. She had a career year in 2021 and retired at the top of her game to get a better life balance. That retirement has turned into a sabbatical with Edwards keeping her eye in by racing gravel in the meantime but is now back on the road. Her level will be interesting to see.
Chloe Dygert is going to race the Tour Down Under for the first time since 2017. She was just 20 years old back then but took 3 top-10 stage finishes at the time. She’s here in Australia with no doubt one eye on the track cycling Nations Cup that will be taking place in Adelaide a couple of weeks afterwards. I’m going to be intrigued to see how she does on Willunga Hill here but there is no reason why she shouldn’t be in the mix on the opening 2 stages. Soraya Paladin should be one to keep an eye on, particularly on Stage 2. She’s not a sprinter but she does have a fast finish after a tough race, something we usually see at say Trofeo Alfredo Binda. We might also see a GC push from Neve Bradbury as a home hope. Her climb to 5th on Hautacam in the infamous CIC Pyrenees Tour last year shows she can go with the best on her day.
UAE Team ADQ are bringing their new sprinter, the Polish rider Dominika Wlodarczyk here to Australia. She took 6 wins last season and will be keen to show that she belongs at the WWT level. She should get the nod on Stage 1 at least and have a chance to replicate what her compatriot Daria Pikulik did on the opening stage last year. Sofia Bertizzolo is possibly a better shout for Stage 2. She’s similar to Paladin in that she will have a fast finish from a reduced group after a tough race. Out of the team’s options, it feels like Mikayla Harvey might be the best shot for GC contention. She can sometimes go quiet but now and again will pull out a strong result like at the UAE Tour last season. She can certainly be in the mix on Willunga Hill for sure.
AG Insurance-Soudal pulled off something of a coup recently by announcing the signing of Aussie Sarah Gigante, a year before the end of her contract with Movistar. It allows Gigante to race the Tour Down Under for the first time since 2020. She won the following year’s Festival of Cycling, which finished on the summit of Willunga Hill, but since then has often been injured and not able to show her best. Her return to racing on a new team on home soil will be keenly watched.
Teammate Justine Ghekiere will also be one to watch as she can be a GC threat on a course with shorter climbs. Her win at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last year was a notable breakthrough. She sometimes goes under the radar, usually supporting big-name teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio but is more than capable of a strong result. The team will also back Ally Wollaston on the sprint stages. She’s got enough climbing legs to be a contender on both Stages 1 and 2, which might see her able to use bonus seconds to sneak into the leader’s jersey as one of the few able to double up both days. Her 2023 GC & stage win at the Festival Elsy Jacobs showed what she can do on mixed terrain.
St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 will look at their young hope Marion Bunel for a GC push. Only 19 years old, she had a strong Tour de l’Avenir Femmes, finishing 8th in GC against a host of bigger WWT level names, along with 7th in La Perigord Ladies as well. She’s certainly made people take notice of those results and might shine on Willunga Hill. The team also gets Roxane Fournier back in action for the first time since having iliac artery surgery in the middle of the 2023 season. She had been looking strong with a host of top-10 results across the season up until that point but actually, they were masking that there was an issue. Hopefully, back to full fitness, Fournier could be a threat in the sprints here. There’s also Victoire Guilman who left FDJ-Suez this off-season, despite finally winning the first UCI race of her long career at GP de Chambery. She will be one to keep an eye on across all 3 stages.
Two new recruits for Lifeplus Wahoo are going to be worth keeping an eye on at this year’s Women’s Tour Down Under. The experienced American Heidi Franz joins the team after an up-and-down 2023 season. She was embroiled in the Zaaf saga early on but later in the year came back to win her first UCI race in Europe at the Egmont Cycling Race. The British team also signed the young Czech rider Kristyna Burlova from Lotto Dstny Ladies. She impressed in 2023 as well, taking a good handful of top-10 results across the season. She should get the nod on Stage 1 and might be able to come to wider attention with a good result.
Finally, Visma-Lease a Bike will have their new signing Lieke Nooijen as a possible contender in the sprint on Stage 1. She took the first victories of her career last season, the first coming with a really long sprint that no other rider was able to match at Districtenpijl – Ekeren-Deurne. A similar early launch might see her do well here as well with none of the truly big-name sprinters like Kool, Wiebes and Balsamo racing in Australia.
Women's Tour Down Under 2024 Outsiders
Domestic Australian hopes are tied to the teams of Bridgelane and ARA Skip Capital. For Bridgelane, Matilda Raynolds is always happy to get in the mix. I can certainly see her attacking and pushing on with the endurance that saw her win a 246km gravel race in the last few months. She also has a win in the notoriously long Melbourne-Warrnambool race too. Almost all of the rest of the Bridgelane team have domestic top-10 results from this year’s National Road Series, but Talia Appleton will be a young rider to keep an eye on as the current junior Oceania RR champion. Gina Ricardo also has a fast finish and might get a result against the international peloton too.
From the ARA Skip Capital team, there’s Sophie Edwards who has top-10s in Europe at the 2023 Thüringen Ladies Tour, which was dominated by SD Worx. She’s also the reigning Oceania RR champion so will have a distinctive jersey.
Lucinda Stewart was 9th on Stage 1 of the 2023 Women’s Tour Down Under and is still only 19. She spent most of 2023 racing in Belgium and we might see more progression from her. Lucie Fityus has a couple of wins already from the National Road Series and finished just outside of the top-10 at the Tour of Berlin Feminin in 2023 on what was a very flat course. Chloe Moran also has a pair of NRS wins this season and has European experience too. She took wins in non-UCI level Belgian races which are tough to do.
The controversial Tashkent City Women team will be racing the Tour Down Under after securing invites to all Women’s WorldTour races in 2023. Like Dygert, they will have one eye on the track Nations Cup a couple of weeks after this road race but what they do here could set the tone for the rest of the season. Young Uzbek Yanina Kuskova is the rider to keep an eye on as she has achieved a number of lower-level UCI victories already in her career.