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Surprises await at newly classified Santos Women’s Tour Down Under


Gaining a higher UCI classification means more teams, better riders and tougher stages will be on show in South Australia this year.

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When Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank manager Ed Beamon boarded the plane for the 24-hour journey from the United States to Adelaide, South Australia, he was thinking about how the Tour Down Under would be a good opportunity for his new recruits, including Aussie Shannon Malseed, to gel as a team. He wasn’t expecting to arrive to fanfare.

“We got off the plane and Kimberly (Conte, Race Director, Santos Women’s Tour Down Under) and Walt (Conte) and the crew from the race were waiting for us,” Beamon says.

“Then Walt says ‘Oh congratulations are in order … you have the national champion’!”

Beamon boarded the second leg of his journey in Auckland, New Zealand, before the 2018 FedUni Road National Championships had begun on Sunday and therefore didn’t know that his Aussie recruit had ridden the race of her career to earn a national jersey by beating the favoured Mitchelton-SCOTT team led by Amanda Spratt.

“We really had a lot of confidence that Shannon had a podium in her, but to go up against a team like Mitchelton and the depth that they have and to be able to outplay them in a finale, it’s a pretty long order,” Beamon says.

“It was beyond excitement but not a total shock, more like a fulfillment of a dream. Because you are always fantasizing, you know, wouldn’t this be awesome but to hear it in that arena, is amazing. I tell you what, the jetlag — gone.”

With the first stage of the four-stage race starting today (11 January), Malseed says the green and gold national jersey has given her confidence that she can mix it with the best in the world.

“I definitely feel the pressure, it’s a very prestigious jersey to be wearing going into the race but also it gives me confidence that I can stay with at least the best riders in Australia and with the field that’s turning up at Tour Down Under this year hopefully I can stay up with the best of them,” says the 23-year-old from Ballarat in Victoria, Australia.

Beamon says because TIBCO has had a lot of change over the year and they haven’t had a training camp together yet the first big challenge is going to be how well they can get the riders coordinated.

“I don’t even have a strong core to build around, four of the six girls are new to the team. We have some good strength in front of sprinter Kendal Ryan. She has good top end speed, she can get to the finish, and with Shannon and Alison Jackson in front of her I think she’ll have a shot with the sprints on Stage 1 and Stage 4,” says Beamon.

“A lot of our overall will be how well we can support Shannon on the middle two stages because clearly she’s going to have the best form.”

Race Director Kimberley Conte said the UCI 2.1 classification meant the Women’s Tour Down Under offered riders and spectators more, which she tried to reflect in the new stages in 2018.

“The elevated status this year means fans get to see an increased level of competition because there are more points on the line for these teams,” says Conte.

“More points on the line in an early part of the season is really important for the riders because they have the opportunity to come out and test their fitness and they also have the opportunity to stamp out their authority at the beginning of the season.”

Conte says the four stages were designed to help the peloton test its skills ahead of the Classics in Europe and were also built upon feedback from riders at last year’s tour.

“We took onboard a lot of feedback last year from our teams and our riders and one of the things they requested was more technical stages, longer stages and climbing,” she says, pointing to two stages with uphill finishes and two where the sprinters can shine.

Stage 1 starts in the town of Gumeracha, where Conte says the community is so excited they have arranged preschoolers to cheer on the peloton through parts of the 115.7km rolling course. Stage 2 travels 102km through the famous Barossa Valley wine region and finishes at the top of Mengler’s Hill. Stage 3 takes off from the newly establish Bend Motorsport Park through a windswept 122.4km course with technical aspects and an uphill finish in the town of Handorf. The final stage on Sunday is a 46km street circuit in Adelaide.

Giorgia Bronzini of Cylance Pro Cycling says she is surprised by how different the stages are compared to the relative ease of the start last year.

“It will be a fast, hard start to the year,” says the Italian rider. “We need to prepare for the Classics, and this is a good way to go in to the European season.”

Last year’s winner Amanda Spratt says the varied stages this year mean that unlike her commanding lead in Stage 1 in 2017, the race won’t be won until the third stage is completed.

“It’s a very different race this year,” says Spratt.

“This year having to race three road stages is better and it raises the professionalism of the peloton as a whole. Stage 3 is so exciting, particularly in those last 10km you have a climb, you have a technical and then a really steep hilltop finish. So I can imagine you could be going really well and then your legs just fall off on that final Stage 3 and you can lose a lot of time. It is going to be really important to save energy when you can this week and have a good team around you and picking your moments.

“The tour won’t be won until stage three is finished because (time) gaps can form,” says Spratt. “I think it is a brilliant course. We are really excited by it.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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