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There’s no doubt sprinters, rolleurs and climbers all fancy themselves on the Cadel Road Race Elite Men’s and Women’s courses.
Passing through Cadel’s home town of Barwon Heads, Torquay and back into Geelong means the course provides superb variety, making for a world-class modern day classic. However, it’s the flat but windy, exposed roadways, undulating climbs, technical sections, Challambra climb and the fast finish at the Waterfront that makes this race so attractive to a wide variety of domestic and international riders.
Scott Sunderland, former professional cyclist, designed the courses in consultation with Cadel Evans keeping the time of season and stage of teams’ preparation in mind.
Put simply, the Elite Men race 164km and the Elite Women 113km starting and finishing at the Geelong Waterfront.
The challenging and authentic one-day course allows for an attacking style of race, synonymous with the European ‘Spring Classics’.
Along with its magnificent scenery, one of the course’s major spectator drawcards is the Challambra climb. This offers a thrilling vantage point for spectators to see the cyclists pushed to their upper limit and is often the scene for bold tactical moves and courageous breakaways.
The 2018 event saw the Elite Men race over Challambra Crescent four times, while it was the first time in the event’s history that the Elite Women take on the steep and winding ascent.
Big crowds gather in Barwon Heads, the hometown of Cadel Evans, where the peloton flies down the main street, likely to be trying hard to establish an early breakaway in the race.
Travelling through Barwon Heads, the race then changes direction and hugs the coast at Thirteenth Beach – one of the most picturesque, but exposed sections of the course, where cyclists must navigate and position themselves against the local coastal winds for the first time.
If it hasn’t already, directional changes on the roads behind Torquay provide the perfect opportunity for a breakaway to distance itself from the peloton as the race moves onto the Surf Coast.
Then, a long straight stretch across the marshes of Blackgate Road, Breamlee, expose the riders to the elements, and wind again plays a factor in shaping the early action.
Next, the race begins to close in on busy Torquay, a haven for locals and a much-loved escape for Melbournians and visitors from around the world. The many families, swimmers and surfers gathering around the busy beaches in Torquay will pause to watch the colourful peloton charge into the first intermediate sprint and gather at one of the spectator cheer sites.
Through the main street and past the many cafes and restaurants, the race then finds itself on the famous Great Ocean Road.
The Elite Men’s and Elite Women’s courses will slightly differ from this point. For the women, the approach into Geelong sparks the frantic final 15km.
While for the men, it signals an arrival onto the finishing circuits, but with a gruelling 55km still to travel, the Elite Women tackle the challenging and iconic Challambra Crescent climb.
The Elite Men’s course also takes on a climb of Challambra Crescent upon entry into Geelong. Descending down Scenic Road, the peloton will touch speeds of almost 85km/h into Queens Park.
The course has a pinch as it climbs its way out of Queens Park and up the road of the same name.
A left turn and a further pinch up Melville Avenue, the race then continues up Minerva Road, connecting through to Church Street. The race travels through residential Geelong, past the Victorian houses along Church Street, over the Highway and onto the Geelong waterfront. From here the race concludes for the women, while the men get their first look at what the finale will be like in three laps time.
Back to where it all began, the finish – adjacent to Steampacket Gardens on Geelong’s Waterfront – is a fast one. But first, for the men, it will signal three laps to go. Climbing up Yarra Street away from the waterfront they continue.
When they reach Skilled Stadium, the course resembles that of the 2010 UCI Road World Championships, with a descent down Moorabool Street and across the river, then a right turn and a cruise along Barrabool Road past the reserve.
The climb up to Highton via Barwon Boulevard and Challambra Crescent is a crowd favourite, and also evokes memories of thousands lining the course during the 2010 Road Worlds. The circuits then continue as they re-join the descent down Scenic Road.
The race will get faster and faster, with the average speed for lap one expected at around 42km/h and by the last, almost touching 50km/h.
Photo by Paul Hermes
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is proudly presented by Visit Victoria.
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