Wiggle-Honda will start the Santos Women’s Tour with a team in form, as the race takes off in and around Adelaide, the South Australian capital this weekend.
The four-day race, which will run alongside the men’s Tour Down Under WorldTour race, will be a major part of this season’s Subaru National Road Series and will provide the debut of Adelaide local Nettie Edmondson in the black-and-orange Wiggle-Honda jersey.
Enjoying her second Australian summer, two-time former road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini comes into the race after having recently won the final stage of the Mitchelton Bay Crits as well as guiding teammate Chloe Hosking to overall victory.
“I’m really happy to have the possibility to race the Tour Down Under, and I will try to find the right feeling with my teammates,” the 31-year-old Italian said. “I’m really happy to begin racing with Nettie. I think she is one sprinter of the future, and I would like it if she can take some of my advice for her career. I think also that all of the girls will have the opportunity to take their own chance. Personally I will try to be good in the road races; they are longer than the crits.”
Hosking followed her Bay Crits victory with a strong performance in the Australian Championship, won by her new Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Peta Mullens. Since then the Canberra resident has been on a light training schedule as she prepares for later season targets. British Criterium Champion Eileen Roe and former Swedish Champion Emilia Fahlin will complete the five-rider team. Both riders played roles in Bronzini's and Hosking’s Bay Crits success.
The event's expansion from three days to four, along with the inclusion of two road races this year, was greeted warmly by both Hosking and Edmondson.
“It’s really great that they’ve turned it into a National Road Series race this year, and that it’s four days,” Hosking said. “It’s not just criteriums either, there’s two short road races too, so that shows the growth of the event. I think there’s a pretty stellar field as well, so that’s fantastic, and hopefully this is the start of something to come. Maybe in the next couple of years we can see it go UCI along with the men’s, and that would be awesome.”
Edmondson said including the women's race alongside the men's WorldTour race was a crucial step in the race's growth.
“The last three years we’ve had a women’s tour and it’s been growing every year,” she said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but I think a way that we can grow it even more is to incorporate our races alongside the men’s. They’ve tried to do that with a couple of stages this year, so we’re taking baby steps, and it’s really exciting for women’s cycling in Australia.
“Also, to have all these incredible riders - both men and women - to come down to my hometown of Adelaide is really special. The Tour Down Under’s always a humongous event, and it’s growing every year, so for the women to finally be a part of it and be recognised is a special moment for us.”