The 2018 Women's Tour Down Under course promises a compelling contest
Words - James Raison . Photo credit: Santos Women's Tour / Chameleon Photography
The 2018 parcours is tantalising with two sprint-looking stages, a summit-finish, and a short punchy climb finish. There’s something for every skillset here, and we can’t flippin wait! Get out there and cheer loud. Let’s give this race the attention it deserves.
The third year of the WTDU is looking to build on the spectacle of the previous years. Its profile is smaller than the men's race but it's no less thrilling a contest. The inaugural WTDU in 2016 saw the top 4 GC riders finish on the same time and the race decided on countback. 2017 saw a gutsy performance from Amanda Spratt keep the chasers at bay after day one.
Racing kicks off on Thursday 11 January and takes in 4 stages finishing on Sunday 15 January.
STAGE 1 - 115 km - Gumeracha to Gumeracha
Kicking off is a 2-lap circuit around some of the rolling roads to the East of Adelaide. The race blasts through the major towns of Lobethal, Gumeracha, Birdwood, Mt Pleasant, and Mt Torrens.
There’s nothing on the vertical profile that stands out as a race-breaker, so this will likely be decided by the conditions. This isn’t an easy region to race bikes. Riders will be battered by winds, likely heat, and a coarse road surface.
It’s a slightly downhill run into Lobethal and the smart money would be on a sprint finish. There’s every opportunity for a strong time trialist, or savvy opportunist to break away in the final kilometers. Expect the sprinters’ teams to keep a close eye on any breakaways and for ORICA-Scott to stamp their authority on the opening day. It's entirely possible that a slim margin on day one could be held through the full 4 days of racing so we expect a flurry of late attacks.
STAGE 2 - 102 km - Lyndoch to Mengler’s Hill
Oh. Hell. Yes. It’s about damn time the ladies got a hilltop finish. We are proper excited about this one.
Like day one, we’re out in wind, heat, and rough road regions. The race starts in Lyndoch, with a 3-lap warmup before heading North for some furious-looking racing around the Tanunda and Greenock area. There’s a whole boatload of right-angle turns in this part of the race which could help a breakaway stretch their gap or cause some tension in the bunch as they jostle for position. We've seen enough bike races to know that innocuous-looking right-angles can cause chaos.
The grand finale is Mengler’s Hill, with a 6% gradient for 2.7km (check it out on Strava). It’s a pinchy start, pushing into the double-digit steepness before easing up to the line. Gaps will open, and we expect the race winner to be decided here. No doubt it'll be a flying pace to the base of the hill and an elite selection by the top.
STAGE 3 - The Bend Motorsport Park to Hahndorf - 122 km
Day 3 departs from the freshly rolled tarmac of The Bend Motorsport park before heading out for some scintillating straight-road action! Seriously though, the first 20 kms of this course are not very interesting. The race zips through Tailem Bend before thunder over the Murray Bridge into the town of… Murray Bridge.
The ladies will roll outta town and along the Old Princes Highway. It’s a long, gradual false flat through Callington, Kanmantoo, and up to Nairne. The stage profile belies how difficult this section could be. A strong team taking charge of the race could put serious pressure on any tired legs in the bunch.
The final run gets very pinchy after the race carves through Hahndorf, heads towards Echunga, and makes its final arc towards the finish. It’ll be on like Donkey Kong as the climbing begins with a 2.1km section at 5% on the Sawmill Gully and Tischer Road tandem. The final wall is a tough 8% drag up Von Doussa Rd where the puncheurs or lighter sprinters will get a chance to drop some wattbombs. It's only a few hundred metres up the the line so everyone will be digging deep for likely the last chance to meaningfully change GC positions.
Stage 4 - Adelaide City - 46 km
Adelaide’s East End is the last chance saloon to shake up the standings before the winner is crowned.
It’s a straight-up criterium with some slight undulations but nothing to split the pack. It’ll be a gritty fight on tired legs all the way to the line as riders hoping to shake up the GC contend with sprinters’ teams hunting line honours. It’s a slightly downhill run to the line, suiting the more powerful sprinters.
We're looking forward to following along the women's race. We hope to eventually see it run during the men's race to further raise its profile. Don't forget to stay tuned to La Velocita as we follow the race around like we always do: as total misty-eyed fanboys/girls.