• Amanda Spratt in her new Mitchelton-Scott Australian road national champion jersey (Russell Millard Photography / Mitchelton-SCOTT)Source: Russell Millard Photography / Mitchelton-SCOTT
The international women’s peloton rolls into Adelaide for the 2020 edition of the Women’s Tour Down Under but after winning all four editions of the UCI race, three with Amanda Spratt, is it Mitchelton-Scott's race to lose? Can anyone else take it to Spratt and her team?
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

16 Jan 2020 - 9:22 AM 

With the event bumped up to ProSeries level, most of the world's top teams are here hoping to grab precious early-season WorldTour points and the generous prizes on offer. 

But there's bad news for those hoping to ease into the early season with organisers setting a course that should see a lot of attacking action. 

With windy conditions expected in the Adelaide Hills and Murray River regions where the majority of the stages take place, a perfect storm is building for one of the more exciting editions.

The good news for the peloton?

The lack of hill-top finishes means Mitchelton-Scott - the only team to have won the Tour Down Under, with four victories in four editions of the UCI race - won’t be able to win with their usual tactic of a Spratt assault up a major climb then maintain a withering tempo to discourage attacks.

The bad news?

Mitchelton-Scott don’t have a sprinter which means the strongest team in the field will be hell-bent on trying to split up the race, put numbers in dangerous moves and try and win via an attack.

They faced a similar conundrum in 2018 when Katrin Garfoot (UniSA) took the race lead on Mengler Hill, leaving the Australian WorldTour squad with no choice but look to isolate Garfoot and attack, and they did, with gusto. 

Spratt escaped on a flat stage with one other rider in tow, powering her way to the most unlikely of her trio of overall victories.

The newly crowned Australian champion enters the Women's Tour Down Under with the last three race victories to her name coming after long-range assaults, at last weekend's RoadNats and the 2019 Tour Down Under. 

"I like to be good in January, I love the Aussie races,” Spratt said.

“It’s hard for me to not be in good form in January just because how much I love it.

“I enjoy the pressure of returning as a defending champion and that pressure is something I have become quite used to over the past two or three years.

“We have a strong team for Down Under, there’s not one hill-top finish at the TDU, which is exciting. It’s more of a dynamic course. Whether it’s me in ochre jersey or one of my teammates, I’ll be happy.”

The Other Favourites

The rest of the Mitchelton-Scott squad are also good enough to win the race.

From dual podium-getter in the road nationals time-trial and road race, Grace Brown, to New Zealand star Georgia Williams, they’ll try and use their numbers and spread of in-form riders to put numbers in the dangerous moves.

Six out of the eight newly-minted Womens WorldTour squads are present on the start line for the race, with Team Sunweb, Canyon-SRAM, Trek-Segafredo, Ale BTC Ljubljana, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope joining Mitchelton-Scott.

The international riders' performances are always hard to predict, with the European and American stars coming from wintery conditions that inhibit quality training.

Lotta Hentalla (nee Lepisto) has avoided that difficulty by coming out early to Australia and racing at the Bay Criteriums, where she brushed away the off-season cobwebs with a string of positive performances.

Her 2019 performances in Australia showed that the Finnish rider can handle the heat, winning in scorching conditions at Race Melbourne.

Maybe Hentalla's early preparation has been aimed at this race, as she is nearly perfectly suited to the course with her abilities as a sprinter and tough classics rider.

An additional fact to consider is the carrot of Olympic selection on the line for the top Australian riders.

There are a few chances outside the Australian summer to really go head-to-head with rivals for Tokyo selection.

The Australian FDJ-trio of Lauren Kitchen, Brodie Chapman and Shara Gillow will be lamenting an anemic nationals performance where they were caught out by the bold early move of Spratt.

They should be far more attentive here and all three have the ability to make a move and win a sprint from a small group.

The Roxsolt-Attaquer team had a quality nationals campaign placing three riders in the top seven, and will be looking to back that up on a suitable course for star riders Emily Herfoss and Peta Mullens.

While nationals road race silver-medallist Justine Barrow is looking for harder climbs the power-based ascent of Stirling and attacking nature of the rest of the race shapes well for the other leaders within the Australian squad.

Justine Barrow - The one rider who matched it with Mitchelton
An early attack illuminated the action during the elite womens road race, with two-time national champion Amanda Spratt and WorldTour teammate Grace Brown showing their strength to fly clear of the peloton.

Chloe Hosking fronts up with her new Rally squad for the first edition she stands a chance of overall victory.

The Canberran has three stage Tour Down Under stage wins to her name but hasn’t finished higher than 13th overall. 

She’s in good enough form, but she'll have to immediately gel with her new American team to claim enough bonus seconds to ward off the challenges of the attackers.

It's shaping up to be an open race, so we’ll restrict the best of the rest to just 10 riders; Ruth Winder, Anna Plicta (both Trek-Segafredo), Ruby Roseman-Gannon (UniSA), Matilda Raynolds (Specialised Women’s Racing), Jenna Merrick (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport), Arlenis Sierra (Astana), Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB), Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM), Leah Kirchmann and Liane Lippert (both Team Sunweb).

The Course

Four stages and 382.7 kilometres of racing await the riders tackling the Tour Down Under, with plenty of familiar locations and roads included in the race routes.

Stage 1 - Hahndorf to Macclesfield: promises to be the easiest of the road stages, with little in the way of climbing during the 116.3 kilometre stage and the route relatively sheltered from the wind. Expect a bunch sprint.

Stage 2 - Murray Bridge to Birdwood: the 114.9 kilometre route winds its way around the hills and is reminiscent of the 2018 Tour stage starting in Tailem Bend saw the peloton immediately shredded by howling crosswinds and a subsequent long-range Spratt attack secured the stage win and the overall lead.

This stage has a shorter cross-wind section to start, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to split the race early before the more sedate finish.

Stage 3 - Naime to Stirling: contains the biggest climbing test with two and a half laps of the well-worn Stirling circuit. While it’s not the hardest climb on paper, it had a big effect last year on a strung-out bunch both times up the ascent.

Stage 4 - Adelaide: the familiar final stage criterium, held the same day as the men’s People’s Classic. The flat stage has never been decisive for the overall win, but offers another chance for sprinters to shine and a chance for lots of fans to see women’s racing up close. The stage has moved to a more inner-city CBD location, but shouldn’t change the outcome.