Cricket has its New Year’s test; cycling has the Bay Crits. As per tradition, the summer of Australian cycling opens tomorrow with the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits, a criterium series around Port Phillip Bay in Victoria.
This year’s startlist lacks the international star power of past editions, meaning we’ll likely see Aussie riders enjoying some early-season home wins.
The 2020 Bay Crits will consist of the same three stages as last year’s, although riders will tackle them in a different order.
Friday’s Stage 1 is a wickedly short 650m hotdog along Ritchie Boulevard in Geelong: a leg-searing welcome to the year of racing.
On Saturday, everything shifts a pebble’s throw along the waterfront to Eastern Park, where Stage 2 will take place on a tricky 1.92km course that includes a vicious hairpin 150m before the finish.
Stage 3 will be held on a classic four-corner circuit in Melbourne’s port suburb of Williamstown; it’s another quick course at just 930m per lap.
The overall winner of the Bay Crits is decided not by time, but by points scored according to finishing positions on each stage. The stage winner scores 12 points, with points awarded down to one point for 10th place.
Neither of last year’s winners – Austria’s Marco Haller and Italy’s Valentina Scandolara – are returning to defend their titles.
With perennial winner Caleb Ewan and most of his fellow WorldTour stars absent, the men’s race will spotlight Australia’s domestic talent. However, that doesn’t mean a shortage of speed.
Read this stacked roster for the Lexus of Blackburn team: Welsford, Howard, O’Brien, Porter, Scott, Plapp. Sound familiar? The first five names belong to Australia’s world-record-holding team pursuit squad, while the sixth is a recent addition to the elite trackies’ fold. Expect to see them lined up at the front of the peloton, eliminating dozens of competitors under their ferocious pace-setting before launching one of them — probably Sam Welsford — towards the finish.
Their main rivals are likely to come from the other composite team, Novotel-Mitchelton, which is led by criterium national champion Brenton Jones, winner of the 2014 Bay Crits. Jones, who always seems to peak at this time of year, will look to one-man engine Luke “Turbo Durbo” Durbridge to mark dangerous moves. The team features Mitchelton-Scott recruit Kaden Groves as another sprinting option.
The NRS teams bring handy domestic sprinters such as St Kilda Super Crit winner Jensen Plowright (Team Bridgelane), Stan Siejka Classic winner Cameron Ivory (GPM-Stulz), and Matthew Rice (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), but the dice are loaded against them. Realistically, it will take a monumental effort from these trade teams to beat the heavy-hitting composite squads.
As in the men’s race, the title sponsors have assembled an all-star cast for the women’s field. Lexus of Blackburn brings Australia’s top rider Amanda Spratt, Canberran sprinter Chloe Hosking, and 2019 breakthrough sensation Sarah Gigante. Last year, the former two riders won a stage each, including a dominant solo victory by Spratt at Eastern Park. They’ll likely repeat the successful formula of sending Spratt up the road while Hosking lies in wait with her explosive finish.
Again, Lexus of Blackburn’s biggest challenge is likely to come from the other composite team, which features the reigning national champion. Rebecca Wiasak heads up Novotel-Mitchelton for her last race in the green and gold (unless she completes a hat-trick in Ballarat next week). While she packs a rapid sprint, she may struggle for support with only three teammates.
Outside of the composite teams, the women’s race is open with plenty of quality sprinters fighting for podium spots.
Bringing the international talent will be Finland’s Lotta Henttala (nee Lepistö), a world-class sprinter from the Trek-Segafredo WorldTour team. Despite riding without team support, the winner of the 2017 Gent-Wevelgem will be a major threat in any finale.
Of the domestic riders, 2019 stage winner Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Attaquer), Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Appselec) and Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Womens Racing) all come armed with speed at the pointy end of a criterium. It won’t be surprising if one of them picks up a stage.
How to follow the race
The 2020 Bay Crits will be streamed live on the Cycling Central Facebook page from 5:00PM AEDT tomorrow, 3 January.
Feature image: Con Chronis