The 2019 Women's Tour Down Under will kick off on January 10 from the town of Hahndorf – the Germanic settlement in the Adelaide Hills that has often featured on the route of the men's race, and was a stage finish in the women's event last year. It will kick off the race with an undulating course and expected bunch sprint at the end.
But it features as a stage start in the women's race for the first time, as do two other start towns: Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley for the start of stage 2, and Nairne in the Adelaide Hills for the start of stage 3.
Once again, the four-day race is expected to attract the very best international and home-grown riders.
"We're really proud of the reputation the race has developed for itself," Women's Tour Down Under race director Kimberley Conte told Cyclingnews on Saturday after the 2019 route was unveiled.
"Teams want to come back, and we've had extremely positive feedback, which we're extremely grateful for. We really try to put an event on that provides what teams and riders need at that time of the year, and to showcase the talent of those athletes."
The ever-popular Adelaide Hills area south-east of Adelaide will host the start of next year's race, with a 112.9km stage from Hahndorf to Birdwood, which is expected to end in a bunch sprint.
"Hahndorf's a fantastic place to start the race," Conte said. "For the first stage race of the season, we wanted an undulating course, but with the prospect of a sprint finish on this opening stage.
"It will hopefully give the riders a good stretch of the legs, and a chance for them to size each other up with a lot of riders on new teams, and with a lot of new groups getting a chance to work together for the first time. It'll be a bit of a chess match.
"Even if it doesn't go to 'plan' and it's not a bunch sprint, that's the great thing about racing: the best part is what the riders end up doing with what they're given."
It's on to the Barossa Valley, famous for its wines, an hour north-east of Adelaide, for stage 2: from a new stage start in Nuriootpa to Mengler Hill, near Angaston, over 116.7km, via Eden Valley to the south-east.
Mengler Hill also featured as the finish of last year's second stage, won by UniSA-Australia's Katrin Garfoot, and will once again reveal who the real contenders are for the overall honours.
"From Nuriootpa, we head through Seppeltsfield, with those gorgeous palm trees, although we go through there from the other direction than we did last time we were there," Conte told Cyclingnews.
"And I love the climb of Mengler Hill. We obviously did it last year, but it's really something special."
Then it's back to the Adelaide Hills for stage 3 from Nairne to Stirling, where the riders will use part of the same finishing circuit often used by the men's event when it finishes in Stirling, as it did last year.
Nairne, too, is a first-time stage host, but hosted an intermediate sprint at last year's race.
"The is the 'queen stage'," said Conte. "We're really excited to be back in Nairne for a stage start. And there are some new roads for us on this stage before we join the classic Stirling men's circuit.
"But we didn't want to use a circuit that was exactly the same, and this circuit actually makes the final climb longer. We go up the climb to Stirling for a first time and then back around and along Aldgate Valley Road to climb up again once more to the finish.
"I think it's going to be a very open stage, and we could see a jersey change," Conte said. "It's not always about singling out one type of rider on a particular stage, and we saw Caleb Ewan win there in the men's race last year, so it's up in the air as to who could win, and hopefully we'll see lots of fireworks and attacks that day."
Stage 4, using the same Adelaide East End circuit as the men's People's Choice Classic, is raced on the Sunday evening across 42.5km, and "should be nice and punchy again," said Conte of the stage won last year by Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini).
For 2019 the men's Tour Down Under has done away with its final, 'processional' Adelaide stage to instead finish the race on Willunga Hill, near McLaren Vale, south of the city.
As to whether the women's event may ever do the same, Conte said that anything's possible.
"We haven't yet visited Willunga Hill," she said, "but it's always in my mind to swap things up and change things around. But one of the reasons we absolutely love being in the Adelaide East End is because of that environment: there are so many people down there, and that nighttime aspect makes it really special and unique.
"But we're always planning for the next year and the next race."
Like the men's race, the Women's Tour Down Under is increasingly gaining a reputation as a must-do event for riders looking to perform back in Europe at the spring Classics, and was handed UCI 2.1 status last year.
"We feel really honoured to have been a part of that," said Conte. "All athletes have the same amount of dedication and passion for their sport, and that doesn't matter what gender you are. That dedication and passion is the same for men's and women's teams, so to be able to honour that with equal prize money was really important to us."
2019 Women's Tour Down Under route:
Thursday, January 10, 2019, Stage 1: Hahndorf to Birdwood, 112.9km
Friday, January 11, 2019, Stage 2: Nuriootpa to Mengler Hill, 116.7km
Saturday, January 12, 2019, Stage 3: Nairne to Stirling, 104.5km
Sunday, January 13, 2019, Stage 4: Adelaide East End Circuit, 42.5km
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