The 2018 edition of the Santos Women's Tour Down Under will be the most demanding to date, and will feature three road stages ahead of the concluding criterium in Adelaide.
The 2018 route was unveiled at a presentation in Adelaide on Wednesday, where the South Australian tourism minister outlined the race's intention to seek elevation to the Women's WorldTour in the future.
The Women's Tour Down Under has already been upgraded to UCI 2.1 status for 2018 and the four-day event gets underway on Thursday, January 11 with a 115.7-kilometre stage starting and finishing in Gumeracha. The stage comprises two laps of a circuit in the Adelaide Hills, and includes the ascents of Cyanide Climb, Terlinga Road and Mount Torrens.
Stage 2 brings the peloton from Lyndoch to a summit finish on Mengler's Hill. The 102km leg features the climbs of Whispering Wall and Williamstown ahead of the final haul to Mengler's Hill, which boasts a maximum gradient of some 14.4%.
The longest day of the Women's Tour Down Under follows on stage 3 from Bend Motorsport Park to Handorf. Comet Mine Climb is stiff enough to provoke splits in the finale of the 122.4-kilometre stage, though there may be sufficient time for a regrouping ahead of the finish in Handorf.
The final stage of the Women's Tour Down Under will coincide with the People's Choice Classic criterium in Adelaide on the evening of Sunday, January 14. The women's peloton will tackle 20 laps of the circuit in the Adelaide Parklands for a 46-kilometre stage.
"The new dynamic race format featuring three road stages and a circuit presents a longer and more challenging race," said race director Kimberley Conte.
"The teams are looking forward to getting back to South Australia to take to the regions not only for pre-event training but world class racing."
The 2017 edition of the Women's Tour Down Under was won by Amanda Spratt, who succeeded her fellow countrywoman Katrin Garfoot on the roll of honour. After operating at 2.2 level in recent seasons, the step up to 2.1 level in 2018 is a signal of the race's longer-term ambition.
"It's fantastic to kick off the year and the UCI International Calendar for 2018 with the Santos Women's Tour Down Under," said South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell.
"With the Women's race now upgraded to a 2.1 classification, female riders from all over the world have even more reason to join us in January to improve their international ranking. The State Government is a huge supporter of women's sport, from grassroots to the elite level, which is why we're focusing on growing the Women's Tour Down Under and working towards achieving WorldTour status for the race."
The men's Tour Down Under has been the opening event on the UCI WorldTour calendar since 2008. The 2018 edition of the race takes place from January 16 to 21.
Santos Women's Tour Down Under 2018:
Stage 1, January 11. Gumeracha-Gumeracha, 115.7km
Stage 2, January 12. Lyndoch-Mengler's Hill, 102km
Stage 3, January 13. The Bend Motorsport Park-Handorf, 122.4km
Stage 4, January 14. Adelaide Parklands, 46km.