The elite riders ditched their bikes to try their hand at surfing, sailing and stand-up paddle boarding across the Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast regions today – cooling down just as the racing is set to heat up.

With the five-day festival of cycling officially commencing tomorrow, the newly introduced Geelong Classic will get the elite action started – with the men’s and women’s mid-week races held as two standalone events for the first time.

Featuring a record number of UCI Women’s WorldTour teams across the Geelong Classic and Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race, 2023 race winning team FDJ – Suez is thrilled to be returning to the Great Ocean Road, looking to once again execute a perfect plan to snatch victory in the 2024 event.

With a strong contingent of riders, including homegrown superstar Grace Brown and Danish ace, Cecillie Uttrup Ludwig, Gladys Verhulst Wild said the French-owned team is optimistic for another successful campaign.

“We are so excited to be here at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – it’s good weather and a very nice country,” Verhulst Wild said.

“We have two strategies for the race on Saturday with Grace and Cecillie – it’s so exciting to have two big riders as part of the team and we are hungry to defend the title and get back-to-back wins.”

The men’s calendar will officially start with the UCI 1.1 Surf Coast Classic which takes off from Lorne to Torquay, before they battle it out at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on the weekend, tackling the infamous Challambra Crescent four times on the way to the finish line.

After a successful campaign last year, Intermaché Wanty is working towards individual and team success at the 2024 event.

Possessing a strong sprint suited to the course, Dion Smith said Eritrean star and 2022 Gent-Wevelgem one-day classic winner, Biniam Girmay is looking to begin his WorldTour one-day classics campaign with a victory.

“It’s great to be back here, this will be my fifth time racing so it’s pretty cool and I am really looking forward to both races,” Smith said.

“Biniam was in great form at the Tour Down Under so I think the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race will be a good race for him.

“The Surf Coast Classic will be nice tester for the legs and it would be even better if we could get Biniam up there for a win as well.”

As Australia’s only WorldTour team, Team Jayco AlUla is once again expected to be the crowd favourites.

Transitioning to road racing in 2022, track world champion and Kiwi sprinter, Campbell Stewart said the team is looking forward to supporting Caleb Ewan with unfinished business and securing the team’s first men’s victory.

“We think the Surf Coast Classic is going to be more of a sprinters race, so Caleb has a good shot there. We’re going to try and dial in that lead-out and hopefully we can get him across the line first,” Stewart said.

“The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race has that few extra hurdles in it, but I think we’ve got a very strong team. In addition to Caleb, hopefully, Luke [Plapp] will come back after his crash last week and I also think Kell [O’Brien] is going to be a standout too.”

Inspired by Europe’s prestigious one-day classics, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is the first of its kind in Australia. It’s been rapidly embraced at a local and international level as an outstanding competition and spectator experience.

It is an initiative of Visit Victoria, endorsed by the Victorian State Government and a pillar of Australia’s major events calendar.