• Jay McCarthy after triumphing at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race showed that for a race to be deemed a Classic, it doesn't have to be old, writes Anthony Tan.
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Cycling Central
1 Feb 2018 - 3:52 PM 

The remnants of the early breakaway, who took off at the drop of the flag, caught on the final of four ascents of Challambra Crescent.

Shortly thereafter Peter Kennaugh, the 2016 winner, was first to force a selection.

Jay McCarthy - Daniel Oss - George Bennett - Robert Gesink - Daryl Impey - Esteban Chaves - Simon Gerrans - Pierre Latour - Dries Devenyns.

It looked like the winning one.

Until, that is, those with surnames other than McCarthy and Impey realised that if they went to the line on Geelong waterfront with the aforementioned, they would most likely lose.

What Cadel's Race shows is that it does not need to be 260km or 300km to be a considered a classic.

Chaves, a dual Grand Tour podium finisher in 2016 and returning from a season he'd rather forget, took flight...

OMG. In the first single-day WorldTour event of the year, a thoroughbred stage racer, albeit a winner at Il Lombardia, mocking some of the world's best one-day specialists.

Could he? Nah... Yeah!

That an apparent travesty could become a reality, and sight of the escape dangling like the proverbial carrot, spurred the 20-strong peloton behind not to give in.

The ever-smiling Colombian was caught but in the home straight so were the others, forcing McCarthy to launch earlier than he would've liked.

Quick-Step Floors' Elia Viviani, he who stole victory from Caleb Ewan in Victor Harbor on Stage 3 at the Tour Down Under, was coming at lightspeed and wasn't afraid to upset the apple cart again.

By the barest of margins, Jay just got there. "To finish with a win, I couldn't ask for much more," said the man from Maryborough in Queensland, who thrived in the 40-plus degree heat last Sunday.

Cadel Evans hails McCarthy's big win
Cadel Evans hopes Sunday's win in his namesake race proves a career turning point for fellow Australian Jay McCarthy.
McCarthy wins Cadel Evans race
Jay McCarthy has taken out a small bunch sprint to be the first Australian winner of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Either could those watching.

Each of the four editions of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (CEGORR) has seen a gripping finale, and rivalled many of the Spring and Autumn Classics we're so accustomed to in Europe.

In fact, if compared to recent editions of Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the oldest one-day race on the WorldTour calendar, it's been arguably better. The past five editions of La Doyenne have become such a race of attrition, the winner has been decided with an attack on the final classified climb, or in a much-reduced bunch sprint. The last proper breakaway winner was Maxim Iglinsky in 2012, who caught earlier escapee Vincenzo Nibali with a kilometre to go; before that it was another Astana rider, Alexander Vinokourov, who profited from an escape with Alexandr Kolobnev, although it has been alleged the former paid Kolobnev 100,000 Euros not to contest the final sprint.

In the case of L-B-L, the television viewer has for the past half-decade endured a six-hour-plus slow burn before anything significant happened. Contrast this with the CEGORR, which took just over four hours to complete the 164km elite men's race and three-and-a-quarter for the 113km women's.

There is still appetite for events like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, where there are a plethora of juicy stories to be told other than the winner's. However what Cadel's Race shows is that it does not need to be 260km or 300km to be a considered a classic, and small, subtle inclusions like an extra ascent of Challambra this year can make a difference: credit must be given to course designer and race director Scott Sunderland, who worked alongside Evans to create a race that provided opportunities from riders like Chaves to KOM winner Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) to McCarthy, the eventual victor.

Professional cycling's epicentre may always be in Europe, but events like the Santos Tour Down Under and CEGORR prove there is merit in the WorldTour outside its traditional heartland, as well as experimenting with shorter multi-day and one-day races.