The Tour Down Under might be finished but the Australian summer of racing continues on apace. Next up on the docket: Race Torquay. Here’s what you need to know about this sort-of new addition to the calendar and how the racing might unfold.
Race Torquay is part of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race carnival.
Race Torquay is held on Thursday, just days before the women’s (Saturday) and men’s (Sunday) Cadel’s Race. In essence it’s a curtain-raiser event for the weekend’s WorldTour races, but this year the curtain-raiser is bigger than its ever been.
Race Torquay is a reinvented version of Race Melbourne.
Race Melbourne ran for three years around Melbourne’s Albert Park Formula 1 circuit. In 2020 the event has been moved away from Melbourne, down to the popular seaside town of Torquay, roughly 20 km south of Geelong.
Where Race Melbourne was classified as a criterium and lacked an official UCI ranking, Race Torquay features a much longer circuit and is a UCI 1.1 event for both men and women.
The course will comprise laps of a 13.3 km circuit.
Starting on the Torquay foreshore the course climbs out of town on the Great Ocean Road before swinging north onto smaller backroads. After a couple kilometres of intermittent climbing the course is largely flat and sometimes downhill as it swings back around into Torquay. The approach to the finish is both flat and fast.
The women will complete eight laps for a total of 104 km while the men’s race will comprise 10 laps for a total of 133 km.
The women’s race is first, followed by the men’s.
The women’s race kicks off at noon and is scheduled to finish just before 3pm. The men’s race is set to start at 4:45pm with the finish expected around 7:45pm.
Race Torquay should be more interesting than Race Melbourne.
Bike racing on a Formula 1 circuit is one of those things that’s more exciting in theory than in practice. Even with the addition of a points race format in 2019, Race Melbourne tended to be a rather dull affair for spectators. Race Torquay has the potential to be quite a bit more interesting.
The new course is very fast too — organisers are predicting 41.8 kph average for the women and 48.3 kph for the men — and suited to the sprinters, but the short, punchy climbs at the start of the circuit will at least give other riders hope of getting away. We’ll likely see a bunch of attacks there as the races go on, particularly towards the end.
There are three short climbs on the course.
Effectively all of the climbing comes in the first third of the circuit. The first climb is just over 1 km long and is a big-ring ascent that feels quite similar to the highway section of the Aussie Nationals KOM. After a short descent (see feature image) the second climb is steep (more than 10% at its steepest) but just 400 metres long. The final climb isn’t as steep but is a little bit longer. From there, it’s basically all flat or downhill to the finish.
As a UCI 1.1 event, Race Torquay will host slightly different fields than Cadel’s Race.
On the men’s side, 15 WorldTour teams will line up for both Race Torquay and Cadel’s Race. Both races will also feature an Australian national team. But Race Torquay, as a UCI 1.1 event, also allows Continental teams to take part. Australia’s best Continental team, BridgeLane, will be there on Thursday.
It’s a similar story on the women’s side. The same 14 teams will race both events (including six of the eight Women’s WorldTeams and a national team), but local National Road Series team StepFWD IT Suzuki will join the party at Race Torquay.
Chloe Hosking (Rally) will be the favourite for the women’s race.
Hosking has had a very strong start to the year, winning two stages and the overall at the Bay Crits, the Australian criterium title, and a stage at the Women’s Tour Down Under. If the race comes down to a bunch sprint, Hosking will be very hard to beat.
There are plenty of other strong sprinters on the women’s startlist too.
Lotta Henttala (Trek-Segafredo) rode strongly at the Women’s Tour Down Under, as did Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb). Both are strong sprinters that could feature. Arlenis Sierra (Astana) and Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) also have a fast finish and could be in the hunt for a podium finish.
And then there are a handful of up-and-coming sprinters that could be worth watching. Twenty-one-year-old Australian Ruby Roseman-Gannon (KordaMentha-Australia) has started the year wonderfully and can be dangerous in a sprint. And 20-year-old Mitchelton-Scott recruit Jessica Roberts is a pure sprinter who could well be in the mix if she makes it to the finish.
There are plenty of opportunists who will be keen to avoid a bunch sprint.
While Mitchelton-Scott has Roberts as a sprint option, the team also has great options for a late escape in Australian national champion Amanda Spratt, Lucy Kennedy and Grace Brown. Brodie Chapman (FDJ) showed at the Tour Down Under that she loves going on the attack, even on stages that should end in a bunch sprint.
Tour Down Under champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) proved again in Adelaide that she’s a terrific all-rounder and shouldn’t be ruled out from a small group or in a sprint. Likewise Liane Lippert (Sunweb) the 22-year-old German who was the revelation of the WTDU and has a bright future ahead of her.
The race is likely to end in a sprint, but look to the riders above if it doesn’t.
There’s a very strong sprint contingent for the men’s race.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) is arguably the sprinter to beat after winning two stages and the curtain-raiser crit at the recent Tour Down Under. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is a great chance as well and is coming off a confidence-boosting first win for his new team, also at the TDU.
Elia Viviani (Cofidis) had a frustrating Tour Down Under courtesy of a crash on stage 2 and never really featured, and he’ll be very keen to bounce back with a win (note that he’s the defending champ at Cadel’s Race). And Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) looks threatening too after beating Ewan, Bennett and others on stage 5 of the TDU.
There are plenty of second-tier sprinters that could snag victory on Thursday, too. Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) will be looking for a good result after a decent showing in Adelaide. EF Pro Cycling will ride for Kristoffer Halvorsen, Ineos has Chris Lawless, and Mitchelton-Scott has the dangerous 21-year-old Kaden Groves. For real outsiders, keep an eye on Commonwealth Games champ Steele Von Hoff (KordaMentha-Australia) and 19-year-old BridgeLane recruit Jensen Plowright.
Given how many good sprinters are in attendance, it’s hard to imagine the men’s race ending any way other than a bunch sprint. Too many teams will be working towards that goal for any escapees to have much of a chance, particularly given the course is so suited to the fastmen.
Some riders will certainly try their luck though.
Just because the race is likely to end in a bunch sprint, doesn’t mean everyone’s going to roll around for 130 km and wait for that sprint. There’ll be plenty of attacks from the opportunists throughout the race in the hope that a small group can hold off the bunch. It seems unlikely, but it’s possible.
It’s going to be a hot day.
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a top of 37 degrees C — warm enough to be pretty uncomfortable for the riders. That said, it shouldn’t affect the outcome of the race too much. If anything, it might slow the racing down a bit, but bunch sprints are still very likely in both races.
Note that while the course is quite susceptible to wind — both along the beach and up in the hinterland — the forecast is only for a light breeze. At this stage it looks like there’ll be a gentle cross-tailwind at the finish for the women’s race, and a cross-headwind for the end of the men’s.
Both races will be livestreamed for your viewing pleasure.
You’ll be able to catch the action at both the Cadel’s Race Facebook page and the Race Torquay website. The livestream for the women’s race will run from 11:40am to 3pm AEDT. The men’s race will be on from 4:40pm to 8pm AEDT.
Follow the Cadel’s Race Twitter account for up-to-date race info, and stay posted to CyclingTips for race reports and more from the Cadel’s Race carnival.
Who’s your pick to win the inaugural women’s and men’s Race Torquay?