One last race in Australia before things start to kick off in Europe. The start list quality is lower than in 2023 and there are only 88 riders starting. It could make a difference.
For the most part, the race has stayed the same but we have some changes to the lap. First, ill show you the 2023 edition.
Then the lap of the 2024 edition. They made the lap 1300m shorter and added a small counter-hill at the bottom off the Challambra Crescent which they still do four times. The 1300m makes the crest closer to the finish as well, meaning attacks have a slightly better chance at staying away. It looks like they’ve gone back to the 2019-edition.
Here you have the two climbs. First is the Challambra Crescent, roughly a 2 minute effort.
The smaller one is this. What I really like about it, is the left turn near the top. It is here you can see an attack going clear very late. In the first part, they are carried by the descent but near the top is where it hurts the most.
Not too hot and not that windy. It shouldn’t impact the race too much.
How will the race unfold?
As mentioned, the start list is weaker. Most of the teams here also did Santos Tour Down Under, but I note UAE are not racing which is odd considering their roster looked very good for a one-day race. The change in the route benefits attackers too. Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe are not here either.
I think INEOS has a saying in how the race unfolds. Viviani once won here in 2019, when the route was the same. Now, do they fancy trying to ride solely for him? I doubt it. Narvaez will cover moves, he is one of the stronger puncheurs here.
Ewan is another man with good results here in the past. No Simon Yates increases his chances but he is not fueled with motivation after Santos Tour Down Under. Plapp and Harper provide excellent attacking options.
ISPT have a strong side. Both Strong and Williams provide excellent support for each other, being capable of sprinting and climbing well. Their climbing site indicates they want to make this a tough race.
It is the same as always here. A few teams want a sprint and a few teams want a tough edition. I think in general, the sprinters stand the better chance despite the change of route. Now that doesn’t mean a few daredevils can’t succeed – Mauro Schmid and Sven Erik Bystrøm almost did last year.
Girmay – one of the benefits for him tomorrow is the battle for positioning should be easier than usual. He has shown consistency early this season but the team needs to up his support in the last 5 km if he is to win more. Zimmerman will provide help deep into the race but he will have to rely on other teams to get a sprint.
Ewan – three times in the top-10 here. It all depends on what their DS asks them to do. Have harper and Plapp burn their matches chasing attackers, leaving Ewan isolated in the sprint. Or, have them following moves as a means to defend. I think Ewan is still hungry after a tough start to the season. Plus, it is easier to get a good position in the sprint if the group is smaller than usual.
Pitchie – a new rider to follow. He can handle short and steep climbs and he is fairly quick in a sprint. I think few of the climbers here would want him on their wheel heading into a group sprint. He will swoop up another top-10 here.
Strong – illness saw him leave Tour Down Under. He was 3rd in Surf Coast Classic which means he is fit again. He was 5th here in 2023, a result I think he can produce again.
Viviani – he didn’t climb that well in Tour Down Under. I think their best option is Narvaez.
Williams – With Strong sitting behind, Williams follow the moves. He was smart in the finale on Mount Lofty, closing all the gaps he had to and even let Pitchie get a few meters before the young and eager Del Toro pushed the pace. He can sprint too, essentially making him one of the favorites for tomorrow.
Onley – he packs a good punch for a small climber but his chances are very limited as the race doesn’t finish uphill.
Narvaez – very consistent in Tour Down Under. He is getting better and better each year going by. He can climb and sprint, essentially making him one of the favorite in the attackers-category.
Plapp – we will have to see if he has recovered or not. Then there is the role of him in the race. I think they should let him attack if he is feeling well.
Harper – he has great legs just now. The strongest domestique in the last two hilly stages in Tour Down Under.
Who will win?
I really want to go with the attackers with the route change and the small peloton. But it will be up to the big teams to decide what they want, and most of them have a fast man here.
I will take a win for Girmay, he has been looking sharp in Australia so far.