This Sunday marks the third running of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race or CEGORR. Is it worth watching... is anything interesting going to happen... is it any where close to a one day classic?
Here are the reasons why we think it's a big deal...
Words - Tom McQuillan
1. Star power
Despite only having been run twice before, the CEGORR has already attracted a fantastic mix of local and international talent. This year the Great Ocean Road Race becomes a part of the highest echelon of professional racing, the UCI WorldTour.
This means that no fewer than 13 top-flight professional teams will be racing around Geelong this weekend, along with 4 second-tier Pro Continental teams and a composite Australian national team. Headlining the foreigners are reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) and the million megawatt smile of Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), while representing the Aussies in this year's edition will be recent Tour Down Under winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing), up-and-coming sprint sensation Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tour Down Under contenders like Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe).
2. It’s a true Australian one-day classic
Another great aspect of the CEGORR is that it adds a bona fide one-day classic race to an ever-increasing Aussie summer of cycling. There are many different races that are considered one-day classics in cycling, and each of them possess three main characteristics: a long and storied history, a distinctive, memorable and challenging race course, and a strong field of riders vying for the win. Having run its first edition only two years ago the CEGORR lacks the first one, but has the latter two in spades.
Although the course of the Great Ocean Road Race is fairly flat and uninteresting over the first half (save for a quick detour through Cadel’s home town of Barwon Heads), by the time the TV cameras come on and the race gets interesting there are great views to be had along the Great Ocean Road, especially at the climb of Jarosite Road near the world-famous Bells Beach. After that, the race, passing the finish line on the foreshore following the route of the 2010 UCI Road World Championships course, before a fast finish down by the beach.
For the past couple of decades the Aussie calendar has had two international standard stage races in the Tour Down Under and the Herald Sun Tour, which have attracted Tour de France winners, world champions, and rising talents. Meanwhile, the domestic National Road Series boasts such great one-day races as the Melbourne-Warrnambool and the Grafton-Inverell, but these races often lack a strong presence of overseas riders.
With the advent of the Great Ocean Road Race Australian cycling fans finally have a one-day classic to call our own. Last year Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh won from a solo breakaway after attacking on the final climb, while the inaugural edition of the race was a small bunch sprint won by Gianni Meersman of Etixx-Quickstep. The question is: will the 2017 edition be won with a daring attack or a perfectly timed sprint?
3. It gives us a glimpse of Australia's cycling future after Cadel Evans
As someone who first started following cycling in 2008, for a long time it was hard for me to imagine a version of Australian cycling that didn’t feature Cadel Evans at some point. Evans’ win in the 2011 Tour de France made him a household name across Australia, a nation where cycling has always taken a backseat to cricket and the various football codes.
Now that Evans has retired, the race that bears his name is a great chance to glimpse what the next generation of great Aussie riders might look like.
In case you didn’t see Australians winning every stage and the overall classification of the recent Tour Down Under, here’s a spoiler: things are still looking pretty bright.
Three riders to watch for the win
Orica-Scott’s Simon Gerrans is our race favourite for this year’s edition. He’s got the climbing ability to try and win solo and a good enough sprint that he can out-kick a small group if needs be. He played a support role for Esteban Chaves and Caleb Ewan at the Tour Down Under, but it much better suited to this course than any of his teammates. He recently finished second at the Australian road race championships and is in good form, so expect to see him near the front when things get serious.
Dimension Data’s Nathan Haas is absolutely flying at the moment, having just finished a career-best fourth overall at the Tour Down Under, including an unlikely second place on the uphill finish to Old Willunga Hill, beating last year’s Giro d’Italia runner-up Chaves and trailing only BMC’s Richie Porte.
Enrico Battaglin (LottoNL-Jumbo) has previously won two stages at the Giro d’Italia from small bunch sprints on hilly courses – stages very similar in profile to the Great Ocean Road Race. It’s possible that his goals lie later in the European season, but on his day he has the talent to beat the best.
Okay, sounds awesome. How do I watch it?
For Aussie viewers, coverage is on Channel 7 and kicks off at 11am, with an expected finish by 4pm (just in time for the tennis).
Twitter followers can follow along by using #CadelRoadRace, and international viewers craving pirate feeds can follow along here