The star athletes have arrived ahead of the Santos Women's Tour Down Under set to take place from January 16-19 in Adelaide, Australia. Newly crowned criterium champion Chloe Hosking (Rally Cycling) expressed her appreciation for the event's decision to televise and live stream the four-day race this year.
"It’s fantastic that it’ll be televised," Hosking told the media at an opening press conference that included three-time defending champion Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb).
Hosking won the final stage of last year's Women's Tour Down Under in Adelaide. She arrives at the event in top condition having just won the national criterium title. This year's edition will once again finish with a 42.5km circuit race in Adelaide. The peloton will race on a 1.7km circuit through the city centre.
"There’s a circuit race, so being the Australian criterium champion, I’ll be able to wear the green and gold stripes, so it’s really exciting, but I don’t think it’s the only stage I can win," said Hosking, who raced with Ale Cipollini last year but moved to Rally for 2020.
"With my new team, this will be an opportunity for us to race with each other in the peloton and get to know each other. A more dynamic race helps that as well whereas in a mountain top finish, it’s just about surviving. Aussies come to this race in form. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see domestic riders beating the international."
Amanda Spratt returns with her Mitchelton-Scott team having just won the Australian elite women's road race title. Mitchelton-Scott has won every edition of the race beginning with Katrin Garfoot in 2016. Spratt has won the overall titles on the three subsequent editions (2017-2019).
Organisers announced last October that they will be offering live streaming of the four-day race. Spratt said she thinks this is a step in the right direction, particularly as the event has its sights set on becoming WorldTour in the future.
"The live streaming is a fantastic step up," she said. "I’ve been involved in every Santos Tour Down Under since its inception. I see the race growing in a really smart way.
"It came with equal prize money, now with live streaming people can realise how exciting women’s racing is."
There are three climbs in the opening three stages of the Women's Tour Down Under: Knotts Hill in stage 1, Christmas Tree Ridge on stage 2 and Kywarra Climb on stage 3. There is no mountaintop finish, but Spratt said the racing will be dynamic and unpredictable.
"It’s not a predictable course this year," she said. "It’ll be harder to win again. No one knows where GC is going to be made. As a team, we definitely have other cards to play. Grace Brown is in incredible form, Lucy Kennedy is going very well too.
"My family is here to watch, so the Australian summer of cycling is more pleasure than pressure. A fourth win would be amazing. I love everything this race has to offer, but the biggest priority is to keep the jersey in the team."
Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb), Canadian time trial champion, has never started her season in Australia but is a potential stage winner.
"Being a Canadian, it feels amazing to be racing in summer conditions, rather than riding a bike in Canada in January," she said. "We had a training camp in December and everyone is motivated to start the year. We’re going to look for opportunities this week."
American champion Ruth Winder will lead the Trek-Segafredo team, that is without last year's opening stage winner Letizia Paternoster. She said they have a strong team that will play a role in the race.
"Coming from California, I’m really excited to be back in Adelaide," Winder said. "We’ve got a really strong team. I’m excited to start racing."
Kimberley Conte, race director at the Women’s Tour Down Under, was also on the panel at the press conference. She spoke of the history of the race and some of the course changes, for example, not having a hilltop finish, and what that might mean to this year's race.
"This is the fifth year of the race being on the UCI calendar. It’s very exciting to see the race continue to develop, and I’m really proud to be part of it. For the first time we have live streaming and the course has changed a bit," Conte said.
"No hilltop will be decisive, we’ve mixed it up a little bit and chosen a dynamic course to provide opportunities to riders who are fit and willing to attack. It’s great to organise the first race of the season and see Team Sunweb and FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope here for the first time."