Ahead of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams for the elite road races.
We've looked at the men's teams from the United States, Great Britain and Australia along with the women's teams from Great Britain and the United States. Now it is time to take a closer look at the Australian women's squad.
Australia has stepped onto the podium a number of times since 1958, the year a women’s race was introduced, but the nation is yet to take the elite women’s victory. The step up into the medals began in the 90’s with Elisabeth Tadich and Anna Millward both securing a second place, then it was Oenone Wood with bronze in 2005 and Rachel Neylan with silver in 2012. After a four year absence from the steps, Katrin Garfoot took second place in 2017 and then Amanda Spratt took the reins. Spratt came second in 2018 and third in 2019 but her run of podium spots finished in 2020 as she was unable to line up, on a course that suited, having suffered a crash beforehand at the Giro d’Italia Donne.
- Chloe Hosking
- Tiffany Cromwell
- Amanda Spratt
- Sarah Roy
- Lauretta Hanson
- Jess Allen
- Rachel Neylan (Replacing injured Brodie Chapman)
Earlier this year it looked like Australia had a clear-cut path for the World Championships, as the course appeared to be tailor made for Grace Brown right while she was in the midst of the best season of her career so far. It, however, has became another year when a crash at the Giro d’Italia Donne has bought Australia’s well-laid World Championship plans undone. Brown hurt her shoulder and, while she got through the Olympic Games in Tokyo on the injury, it soon became clear that she needed surgery and would be ruled out of a World Championships that held such promise. Now Australia doesn’t have that clear-cut contender, but that doesn't mean it is out of options.
Amanda Spratt has got the history of rising to the occasion at the World Championships. She’s the rider in the team that will be most comfortable on the climbs and, while they’d be better for her if they were longer, they could prove a launching point. Still, she’s been struggling to find that winning form this season.
Chloe Hosking has just come back from a four-and-a-half month race break, after COVID-19 rolled into pericarditis. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist and La Course winner has quickly found her sprinting speed again and while the ascents aren't her strong suit, depending on how the races plays out, she's a chance to hang in there on the shorter punchy climbs of the Road World Championships course.
Then there is Tiffany Cromwell, who was a surprise inclusion on the Australian team for the Olympic Games. The 33 year old road captain and support rider wasn’t expected to be there at the end on the climb heavy Tokyo course, but she turned out to be the best placed finisher for Australia in 26th. This course is one that plays more to her all round abilities and not only does she bring a wealth of experience, over the spring she displayed an impressive strength while working for her teammates late into the racing.
Lauretta Hanson, an extremely valuable and determined support rider from Trek-Segafredo, will be riding in the Australian elite women’s team for the first time at the Road World Championships. Clearly she is going in on good form too, having not long taken her first European podium spot on stage 6 of Tour de l’Ardèche. Then there is another constantly hard working teammate Jess Allen and Australian champion Sarah Roy, a strong and experienced fast finishing rider, but she broke her scaphoid at the Simac Ladies Tour in August and hasn’t raced since.
Brodie Chapman was meant to be the final rider in the team, however, she also crashed in the same race as Roy and dislodged a titanium screw from her tibia. There were complications from the surgery and longer off the bike than expected. Her replacement is the experienced Rachel Neylan, who won silver in 2012 and has delivered strong results in recent months. Neylan came sixth overall at the Ladies Tour of Norway, second at La Choralis Fourmies and seventh overall at the Trophée des Grimpeuses Vresse-sur-Semois.
Australia has a team that is well-balanced with complementary leaders, a strong support squad and ample experience to help make those good calls on the road. Proven Worlds performer Spratt is an option for a more selective race outcome while Hosking clearly is the rider to keep fresh for a sprint. Hosking, too, has come back from COVID-19 and its complications with what seems a healthy combination of a fire to win, without getting weighed down by pressure and expectation. It has already left her with two victories in the month since returning to racing, taking her ever closer to a career total of 40.
The sprinting strength, too, not only leaves the team with a strong plan if it comes down to a bunch, albeit likely a heavily reduced one, but also helps if it doesn't. It means Spratt, or any other rider from Australia that may happen to get away out the front, has a justifiable reason not to work with their break companions. It is a team that is well-balanced with complementary leaders, a strong support squad and ample experience to help make those good calls on the road.
Grace Brown has been the in form Australian rider on like terrain and her absence leaves a missing link in an otherwise well-rounded squad. Spratt may generally have the strength on the longer climbs while Hosking is superb in the sprint, but Brown is the one with proven form on the punchy climbs this season.
Spratt's form, too, is a big question mark, particularly after a DNF at the Tokyo Olympic Games. It is also hard to look past the fact that she hasn't stepped onto the podium at all this season. That means that even with her superb World Championships performance record of a bronze and silver in the last two Worlds she raced, expecting her to medal again is an enormous ask.
It's also perhaps a little harsh to call this a weakness – as Australia has a strong well-rounded team – but there is simply no squad that can compare with the Dutch, who have four of the top five riders in the world, including the defending champion.
The view from Australia
There is just one more step of the podium for Australia to conquer in the elite women’s road race and that is the top one. This may not seem like a particularly likely year to do it, with the Dutch looking powerful as ever, the Belgian team motivated to deliver on home soil, former world champion Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) focussed on a course that plays to her strengths and Italy with a strong hand to play with Marta Bastianelli. However, as we saw at the Olympic Games women’s road race, things don’t always turn out as expected and the Australians have got a cohesive team and riders who can capitalise on opportunities, if the racing and form happens to fall their way on the day.
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