The ever-steep and ever-technical Challambra Climb will again loom large in this year’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and a troop of talented Aussies are in the mix to claim mountain honours.
Joining Jai Hindley and Michael Matthews as some of the frontrunners for the Visit Victoria King and Queen of the Mountain jerseys include Ben O’Connor, Lucas Plapp, Amanda Spratt and Brodie Chapman fresh from impressive showings at January’s National Road Championships and Tour Down Under.
Plapp has been confirmed as a starter in the elite men’s card, representing British unit INEOS Grenadiers, and heads into the UCI WorldTour Elite Men’s one-day race in Geelong in stellar form following back-to-back National Road Race Championship titles.
The 22-year-old Victorian is classed as a talented all-round rider, but with strong climbing props and is looking forward to tackling the challenging but familiar course.
“It’s going to be super special racing The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on the roads where I not only grew up training on but still train on when I’m back home,” Plapp said.
“I’ve really missed not being able to do this race the last couple years. To grow up watching and admiring the pros racing, I’m super excited to now get my chance to race here on what really are my home roads.
“I’m coming to Cadel’s with some good legs, and I’ll be looking to make the most of the summer’s form and see what we as a team can achieve.”
West Australian Ben O’Connor, who will wear the number one jersey for French outfit AG2R Citroen, will be one to watch going into the closing city loops which this year includes a climb of the infamous Challambra in each lap.
O’Connor is ranked the 28th best climber in the world, behind Hindley (12th) and Matthews (15th) and comes with Grand Tour credentials having banked stage wins in the Tour de France (2021) and Giro d’Italia (2020) in recent years.
Trek-Segafredo duo Amanda Spratt, a previous winner of the UCI WorldTour Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, and Brodie Chapman are among the favourites for the Visit Victoria Queen of the Mountain jersey.
Spratt, who won the race back in 2016, is relishing her leading role with her new team and is off to a bright start in 2023 after finishing third in the National Championships before going on better at the Tour Down Under.
On top of that, the 11-year pro showed her climbing nous to claim TDU Queen of the Mountain honours.
“The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is a race that I have, of course, won in the past and I finished third in the last two editions so we will be heading to the start line eager to perform well together as a team,” she said.
“It’s also another home race for the Australian riders and that always adds another layer of excitement and motivation for us. We proved at Nationals how well we can race together and hopefully we will be in Geelong even stronger after some good racing at Tour Down Under.”
Recently crowned National Champion, Chapman is in supreme form will look to capitalise on recent momentum.
Chapman, Spratt and Brown have all featured on the podium at least once already in 2023, igniting what looks to be a rivalry to watch when the frontrunners reach town in the closing stages of the elite women’s race.
“Getting another opportunity to wear the green and gold at a race on home soil is exciting,” Chapman said.
“The national championships were an incredible start to the 2023 season, and I want to keep that momentum going.
“Although we are mostly all new teammates we have already proven we can work really well together and that gives us a lot of motivation and confidence for the race ahead.”
There will be stiff competition on the climbs in the form of American climber Krista Doebel-Hickok from Team EF Education-Tibco-SVB who comes in as the highest-ranked climber on the race.
Doebel-Hickok has shot up the world climber’s rankings and will be right in the mix in when the whips get cracking in the UCI WorldTour Deakin University Elite Women’s Race.
AG2R Citroën Men’s Team:
- Ben O’Connor (AUS)
- Alex Baudin (FRA)
- Dorian Godon (FRA)
- Mikael Cherel (FRA)
- Nans Peters (FRA)
- Michael Schär (SUI)
- Damien Touze (FRA)
Ineos Grenadiers Men’s Team:
- Ethan Hayter (GBR)
- Leo Hayter (GBR)
- Kim Heiduk (GER)
- Lucas Plapp (AUS)
- Magnus Sheffield (USA)
- Ben Swift (GBR)
- Cameron Wurk (AUS)
Trek-Segafredo Women’s Team:
- Brodie Chapman (AUS)
- Lauretta Hanson (AUS)
- Lisa Klein (GER)
- Ilaria Sanguineti (ITA)
- Amanda Spratt (AUS)
- Tayler Wiles (USA)
EF Education-Tibco-SVB Women’s Team:
- Krista Doebel-Hickok (USA)
- Georgia Williams (NZL)
- Kathrin Hammes (GER)
- Emma Langley (USA)
- Abi Smith (GBR)
- Lauren Stephens (USA)