It is the start of a long season for the women's peloton but the best are present in Adelaide to contest the opening UCI event of the season. The race has taken a big step up since the last edition both in terms of support from the side of the road and the calibre of teams and riders attracted to the event.
After Amanda Spratt's (Orica-Scott) solo win in the tough opening stage, the attention now turns to the sprint queens.
Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) is coming off a career-best season and into the race with the expectations of the Australian crowd on her shoulders. She’s changing up her preparation this season and instead of living and training all year in Europe, will base herself in Canberra to study law and spend more time with her partner. That and a new team means it is a season of firsts for Hosking and she'll be hoping that is her position in the remaining stages.
Kirsten Wild (Cylance) has also changed squads, arriving in Australia with some strong form. She finished 13th on the hilly stage into Meadows yesterday where the majority of the field was dropped, an impressive feat for a Dutch powerhouse. With eight victories in 2016 and a silver medal at the road world championships, the 34-year-old has the best pedigree not to mention her ability to generate amazing power. She will be hard to beat in a sprint if she is positioned anywhere near the front in the final dash to the line.
“I hope there will be some bunch sprints in the criteriums,” said Wild. “In Europe it is winter, so this my first race. I feel good but we’ll see how we go.”
“For me, I was focusing on being there for the Tour of Qatar and this race was more preparation for that. It’s been really great so far with the new team and I’m looking to see how we’ll go this week.”
Lauretta Hanson (UnitedHealthCare) is a young Australian sprinter looking to mix it up with the big hitters in the peloton as her career grows. She was particularly impressive at the start of the 2016 season win the young rider categories at both the Santos Women’s Tour and the Tour of Qatar. She went to the United States and outfitted herself well on the criterium circuit the American scene is known for.
“I’ve had a bit of a different approach to last year, that time I came in with good form but this year I’ve got some goals in June-July in the US and Europe. So we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be an exciting Tour with some of the best in the world, Kirsten Wild and Barbara Guarischi (Canyon/SRAM).”
Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5) won the second stage of the Santos Women’s Tour last season, the beneficiary of a superb Chloe Hosking leadout. The South Australian will focus more on the road this season but her next big goal is the national track championships in March. How Edmondson is travelling at this stage is as yet unknown, but at her best she will expect to mix it with the best and will certainly hope to do so in front of her home crowd.
Rebecca Wiasak (High5 Dream Team), the two-time individual pursuit world champion will be in her natural habitat on criterium circuits. In 2016, she dominated several National Road Series events on shorter and longer sprint courses. But she is up against a world-class field here in Adelaide and it will be interesting to see just how the Canberran can stack up.
“It’s a little bit daunting, it’s a lot larger bunch than I’ve ridden in recently. (Today) is a flat and flowing course, it’s about positioning and that’s something I’m working on, being a pursuiter and time-triallist often you’re out riding by yourself.”
“I do have some strong teammates, some young girls doing their first UCI race who can hold their own in the bunch like Kristina Clonan. Hopefully, with their help I can navigate my way through the bunch and see how I go against some of the best sprinters in the world.”
Whilst most eyes will be on the Hosking-Wild duel, there are plenty of other classy sprinters looking to upstage the big names and it should make for an exciting dash to the line.