Beginners' Guide to the Australian racing season

The 2017 international Australian racing season gets underway early on January 1 with six events taking place in the first five weeks of the year. With a mix of criteriums, stage races, one-day races and national championships, the Australian 'summer of cycling' attracts the top names of the peloton, both men and women, and brings some warmth into the late-night and early-morning lounge rooms of the European and American audiences hungry for road racing.

For the first time, there will be two WorldTour events taking place in Australia following confirmation the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race will join the top-tier of the sport, along with the Tour Down Under. The growth of the Australian events is also reflected by the choice of Peter Sagan, Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves to start their seasons down under with several more international riders set to be announced in coming weeks.

Cyclingnews will bring you race reports, results and photos from all of the events along with a selection of video highlights, and tech stories. Cyclingnews will also have exclusive articles across the summer and live coverage of the Tour Down Under.

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For full broadcast details of the Australian 'summer of cycling', check local guides.

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Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic - January 1-3

The Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, better known as the 'bay crits' is down from four to three days in 2017 but the Geelong-based criterium series still remains the first race of the new season.  With the Australian national championships taking place from January 4, the 'bay crits' will be a final hit out before the green and gold jerseys are decided in Ballarat.

The 'bay crits' have opened the cycling season in Australia since 1989 when Swiss rider Peter Steiger won the overall who remains the only foreign male winner. Since then, the fastest male sprinters of Australia have lit up the four different criteriums with Caleb Ewan currently reigning supreme with three overall wins in the last four years.

The 'bay crits' have regularly placed host to the emergence of new young talents since its early beginnings. However, it's not just young talent who have animated the races with Phil Anderson choosing the 'bay crits' as his only Australian race as a professional, taking a win at Ocean Grove ahead of Scott McGory in the mid-1990's.

A women's race was added to the calendar in 1994 with Kathy Watt winning the overall before Anna Wilson stamped her dominance on the event. In the 2010s, Giorgia Bronzini, Chloe Hosking and Gracie Elvin have all enjoyed wins while Melissa Hoskins and Rochelle Gilmore have taken out the overall on two occasions each.

The 2017 'bay crits's starts with the Richie Blvd criterium on Sunday afternoon with the Portarlington criterium taking place on Monday, before concluding Tuesday with the Williamstown criterium.  

Cyclingnews will have daily race reports, results and photos from both the men's and women's 2017 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic.

Click here for the men and women's start list.

Cycling Australia Road National Championships - January 4-8 

Having warmed up at the 'bay crits', the racing gets serious in the old gold town of Ballarat where there are green and gold jerseys on offer in the criterium, time trial and road races. The championships get underway with the fan friendly Wednesday evening criteriums up and down the main street, Sturt St, where the sprinters can strut their stuff.

Thursday's time trials take place on the undulating Buninyong course, just 10km from Ballarat, with the elite men's race likely to be the most intriguing of the events with BMC duo Rohan Dennis and Miles Scotson leading the start list. Friday allows the riders' a day off before racing commences with the U23 road race on Saturday, along with the grand fondo championships, at the hilly Buninyong road course.

'Super Sunday' concludes the championships with live broadcast of the women's race in the morning before the men's race takes centre stage for the afternoon.

Cyclingnews will have race reports from the championships, along with results, photos and news.

Santos Women's Tour - January 14-17

It's not just the men's season which kicks off down under with the Santos Women's Tour enjoying its place as the first UCI stage race of the season for the women's peloton. The four-day race features two road stages and two criteriums with the women's peloton enjoying its time in the spotlight before the Tour Down Under gets underway. The stage 4 Victoria Park Criterium brings the race to a close with the spectator friendly course built for fast and ferocious racing.

Ten international teams have been confirmed for the race and will be joined by five Australian teams, including the team of 2016 winner Katrin Garfoot, Orica-Scott.

Cyclingnews will have daily race reports, results and photos from the Santos Women's Tour.

Tour Down Under - January 15-23

The 19th edition of the Tour Down Under will feature current World and European champion, and number one ranked rider in the world, Peter Sagan. The 26-year-old will be making his debut with Bora–Hansgrohe and is sure to bring the crowds to Adelaide for the first WorldTour race of the season.

Before the WorldTour racing gets underway from January 18, the riders will enjoy the fast paced People's Choice Classic evening criterium for an opportunity to get the last of the long haul down under out of their legs and tune up for Tuesday's stage 1.

With the race often decided by a handful of seconds, Stage 2 from Stirling to Paracombe and Stage 5's queen stage up Willunga Hill will be key days for the overall contenders. With bonus seconds in play across the week, there are also opportunities for riders to move up the overall.

For the Tour Down Under, Cyclingnews will have live coverage of all six stages, plus the Down Under Classic on January 15. Cyclingnews will also have daily race reports, results, photos and video highlights, along with exclusive news, features and a first look at the new kit and tech of 2017.

For Baden Cooke's stage-by-stage preview of the Tour Down Under, click here and click here for the 2017 Tour Down Under provisional start list.

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Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - January 26, 28-29

Debuting on the calendar as an UCI 1.1 race in 2015, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was upgraded to 1.HC for year two, and in its third year reaches the highest possible ranking of WorldTour. However, as a new WorldTour race not all 18 teams are required to take part in the race and instead 13 of the top-tier teams will contest the race.

Also new for 2017 is an Australia Day criterium race in Melbourne's Albert Park on the Thursday with the team presentation scheduled for the Friday in Geelong.

The women's race retains its UCI status in 2017 and receives the boost of live free-to-air broadcast on Channel Seven. It also has secured 10 international teams which will be complemented by a number of Australian and New Zealand squads.

Despite its new WorldTour status, the parcours is unchanged in 2017 for the elite men's race with the finish line remaining on the Geelong foreshore.

Cyclingnews will have race reports with results and photos from both events. 

Jayco Herald Sun Tour - February 1-5

With Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves confirmed for the Herald Sun Tour, the 'summer of cycling' is likely to finish on a high and keep the focus on racing down under before the peloton heads back to Europe via the middle east. Froome returns with his Team Sky squad in 2017 to defend his title and with Chaves making his racing in Australia, race director John Trevorrow recently told Cyclingnews that the course has been altered to suit their climbing capabilities.

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The 2.1 stage race will again start with a prologue along Melbourne's Yarra River in the Southbank precinct to attract the Thursday night crowds before the race heads north to the 'high country' and 20km plus climb up Falls Creek. Two challenging days follow before the final day of racing around Kinglake where the overall will be decided and the summer of cycling comes to a close.

Cyclingnews will have daily race reports, results and photos from the Herald Sun Tour.

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