What exactly is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race?

The Great Ocean Race was established in 2015, launching after Cadel Evans’ final appearance in the Tour Down Under. Australia’s only Tour de France champion helped design a route which takes riders along several coastal sections from Barwon Heads to Bells Beach. Despite being just two years old, the UCI have bumped it up to World Tour level following the success of the Tour Down Under and the popular Criterium events of the Australian summer.

Did Cadel Evans ever win it?

Nope – and he only rode it once. Evans made the front group in the inaugural race but was no match for sprinter Gianni Meersman. Last year the race was won solo by Sky’s Peter Kennaugh.

Why are there only 13 World Tour teams riding?

The CEGORR makes its debut on the World Tour this year but races are no longer compulsory for all WT teams. This is a shame because we’ve welcomed some fantastic races to the calendar, but it’s an understandable decision by the UCI due to the sheer quantity of racing on offer. Furthermore, this may allow for more wildcard teams to get involved and we’ll see some exciting Pro Continental outfits such as UnitedHealthcare and the debuting Aqua Blue Sport on Sunday. The five teams exercising their right to skip the race are Astana, Bahrain-Merida, FDJ, Movistar and UAE.

What’s the Route like?

At first glance, the race profile is of a fairly flat one day race totally 174km. The most obvious complication is the coastal winds which could cause splits in the more unexposed sections. The race concludes with a 20km circuit of Geelong, Victoria and is reminiscent of the 2010 World Championship course. It’s here where the sprinters will be asked questions with the short, steep ramps of Melville Avenue followed by the Hyland Street Climb. These lumps are harder than they seem – after all, Cadel Evans was a serious climber. The finish is flat but we should see plenty of attacks on the undulating approach.

Will it be won by an Australian?

Australians have been dominating their home tour with a second consecutive clean sweep of Tour Down Under stages completed last week (largely thanks to Caleb Ewan). Nevertheless, they are yet to win the Ocean Road Race and visitors should have acclimatised to the southern hemisphere by now. At 174km the race is longer than any Tour Down Under stage and is too tough for the non-starting Ewan. The Europeans won’t be afraid of the lumpy terrain and the Australians might not have things their own way.

Will we get a sprint?

Perhaps – but I don’t see a full peloton arriving together. The hilly circuit is not good for the sprinters and the race will be almost impossible to control. Teams such as Sunweb, Bora and Lotto may want a bunch sprint but even they have other hands to play. The circuit is balanced well but there’s not quite enough flat road for the pure sprinters to stay involved.

Who are the contenders?

Despite an increased European threat, three Australians top the betting with Jay McCarthy, Simons Gerrans and Nathan Haas sure to contend. Nevertheless, the latter two riders were beaten in a sprint for podium places last year and they’ll have to raise their game in order to be crowned champion. I believe Haas is the best bet for the Aussies as he seems to enjoy this race. He’s been riding well and is a deceptively quick finisher. Other fast riders who should survive the climbs include Edward Theuns, Enrico Battaglin, Luke Rowe and Leigh Howard. Sky’s Sergio Henao may look to put right a frustrating Tour Down Under but more likely aggressors include Jack Bauer, Jan Bakelants and Wilco Kelderman. Rohan Dennis remains in good form and should lead BMC with Richie ‘King of Willunga’ Porte likely to take it easy.

Prediction?

The CEGORR is a nightmare of a race to predict. I’ll go for Haas – Theuns – McCarthy in a sprint or Jan Bakelants from a solo break.

 

20160824_160525-1About the Author: Mike Franchetti owns the site www.justprocycling.com, producing race previews, top five lists and rider profiles, as well as tweeting predictions and other nonsense off @justprocycling.