• Amanda Spratt at the 2017 Santos Women's Tour. (Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography)Source: Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography
Defending champion Amanda Spratt is the rider to beat in the women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race.
Cycling Central

28 Jan 2017 - 6:33 AM  UPDATED 28 Jan 2017 - 9:42 AM

The 29-year-old is the defending champion and has started the year in blistering form.

After nearly lapping the field in round two of the Bay Classic series, Spratt finished runner-up to teammate Katrin Garfoot at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championship and then won the Santos Women's Tour.

Always well-regarded for her team spirit and cycling nous, Spratt has gone up a level this year.

Crucially, the self-doubt that once held back Spratt is gone, she is a rider at the top of her game.

Spratt and Garfoot will headline the Orica-Scott team for Saturday's 113km race in and around Geelong.

The event is the last of the women's summer road season in Australia and it boasts a strong field.

Orica-Scott will need all their quality and quantity as the Australian cycling team aim to cap a strong summer with another win in Geelong.

Dutch teammate Annemiek van Vleuten is another strong option for the event, which will feature live TV coverage for the first time on Network 7.

Another potential winner for Orica-Scott is youngster Jenelle Crooks, who also has started the year well.

"We make no bones about it, we're here to try to win this race. This race is, to my mind, the highlight of the domestic season. The name of the game for us is really about options or opportunities." - Martin Barras, Orica-Scott.

But the Cylance team have backed their Dutch sprint ace Kirsten Wild to perfection this month.

She already has three wins in 2017, most recently taking out the inaugural Race Melbourne on Thursday at Albert Park.

Wild will do well to be among the leaders at the finish, given the steep Chalambra climb comes late in the race.

If Wild is not a factor, British teammate Dani King, third last year, is one of the best-credentialed riders in the field.

Australian Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini) finished second to Wild at Albert Park and is another rider to watch.

While also a sprinter, she impressed with fourth in last year's Cadel Evans race.

Hosking's Australian teammate Carlee Taylor and compatriot Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) are two other obvious contenders.