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The race has been a UCI event since 2016 with Aussie home favorite Amanda Spratt winning three of the five editions of the race so far.
The last edition was last held in 2020, where it was one of the last races to be run uninterrupted before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. That year, the overall was won by the now-retired American rider Ruth Winder.
Unfortunately, the 2021 edition of the race was cancelled while the 2022 race was run as a national-level event while the effects of Covid restrictions were still being felt.
Now, the race welcomes the professional peloton for the first time in two years and the event’s first edition as a WorldTour level race.
However, although this is the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season, only six of the 15 WorldTeams will be starting: Trek-Segafredo, EF Education-Tibco-SVB, Israel Premier Tech Roland, Human Powered Health, Team Jayco AlUla, and FDJ-SUEZ.
The three stages of the Santos Tour Down Under are short by usual Women’s WorldTour standards but with riders easing their way into the season the shorter distances may be welcomed, especially in the heat of the Australian summer.
Stage 1: Glenelg – Aldinga, 110.4km
Stage 1 is the longest of the race at 110.4km. Starting in Glenelg, the route hugs the coastline, followed by a lap inland — including two intermediate sprints — before the race heads back towards a flat finish at the coast, a first for the race.
The QOM point at Chaffeys Climb won’t be enough to shake the sprinters at 820m long with an average gradient of 5.9% so we can expect to see a bunch kick to get the Women’s WorldTour season underway.
Stage 2: Birdwood – Uraidla, 90km
Stage 2 is a punchy affair starting in Birdwood, which has previously served as a finish at the race on two occasions and saw Amanda Spratt take a solo victory in 2020.
The peloton will approach the first of two categorised climbs of the day after 40.5km of racing at North East Ridge as well as two intermediate sprints after 34.5km in Kersbrook and 75.3km in Summertown.
The main challenge of the day comes in the form of the climb up the back side of Mount Lofty, which comes after 79.9km of racing and clocks in at 6.1km at 4% with a maximum gradient of 14.4%. The summit of the climb comes just 10km from the finish meaning we are likely to see it used as a launchpad for opportunistic moves.
Stage 3: Adelaide – Campbelltown 93.2km
The queen stage will see the women race up the Corkscrew Road climb for the first time as they tackle 1,773m of elevation over just 93.2km of racing.
Starting in Adelaide, the race heads back out towards Birdwood, where they started the previous day, incorporating a loop involving two more intermediate sprints, before heading back to Adelaide and the deciding climb.
The Corkscrew Road climb may only be 2.3km long but at 9.2% and with a maximum gradient of 24.4% it will be a tough challenge, especially coming towards the end of the stage and after the previous days of racing. This is undoubtedly a day for the climbers.
Australians are always out to impress at the Tour Down Under and the home nation has talent spread across the three big-name Women’s WorldTeams that are attending the race.
The most notable of those will be adorned in the green and gold in national champion, Brodie Chapman, who will line up alongside her new teammate and three-time Santos Tour Down Under winner Amanda Spratt as well as Trek-Segafredo stalwart Lauretta Hanson.
Chapman may be the champion but the squad are likely to be riding for Spratt who, after a few fallow years recovering from iliac artery endofibrosis, showed herself to be back in form at the national championships last weekend.
Elsewhere, Chapman’s former teammate and two-time Australian national time trial champion, Grace Brown, will lead French team FDJ-SUEZ
Ruby Roseman Gannon won the race last year in its iteration as the Santos Festival of Cycling and her team, Jayco AlUla, will be looking to impress as the only Australian Women’s WorldTeam. The squad also have fast-finishing climber Alex Manly lining up alongside Australian criterium champion Amber Pate and Commonwealth Games road race champion Georgia Baker.
As usual, the Australian national team will line up at the race. They bring the experienced Rachel Neylan, and at the other end of the spectrum talented young 22-year-old Anya Louw, who last year signed for AG Insurance – Soudal QuickStep and went on to finish the Tour de France Femmes.
Elsewhere, newly-established Girona-based Zaaf cycling have another Australian in the form of Lizzie Stannard, who had a strong ride at the national championships.
Outside of the Aussies, EF Education-First-TIBCO bring USA national champion Emma Langley and new signing, Kiwi time trial specialist, Georgia Williams.
Team Coop-Hitech Products are fielding young British climber Josie Nelson, who rode to fourth on the queen stage of the Tour of Scandinavia last year.
How to watch
If you’re based in Europe it’s going to be pretty hard to watch the race live (unless you’re nocturnal).
Stages start at 11:30 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. Central European Time, 8:00 p.m. Thursday Eastern Standard Time) and will be broadcast live on GCN+/Eurosport.