2023 Fed Uni Elite Road Race Preview - Women's
The Course – Buninyong Circuit
On Sunday, we see the elite men’s and women’s road races back on the iconic Buninyong circuit. The elite/U23 women complete nine laps, whilst the men will need to get around 16 times. Mount Buninyong, as always, is the catalyst, along with the heat during the road race.
The climb up to the KOM/QOM is a big ring climb taking around 6 mins per lap for the men and 7 mins for the women. While Buninyong is not a particularly difficult climb, the sheer number of repetitions is what breaks riders.
Following the KOM/QOM, the race quickly descends down into the technical Fed Uni section (where several crashes have occurred in the final laps) before turning left onto Geelong Rd. Here is always a launch pad in the finale for those who are afraid of the sprinters. Remember Nicole Frain’s attack here last year to take the victory.
So many different types of riders can win this course, which is (one of the reasons) why it remains in Ballarat. It’s a lottery and often comes down to who has the biggest engine and has fueled it correctly. As reigning National Road Race champ Luke Plapp puts it, is “an eating and drinking contest”.
The Women – Who can win?
Credit: Con Chronis
Coming in hot from Geelong after backing up her Bay Crits title with another victory (and the sprint competition) Ruby is in great shape and is the perfect rider for the Buninyong circuit, she can climb very well on 5-10 minute climbs which means she will almost always make the front selection and most importantly, she has a strong sprint. A similar type to Michael Matthews, to compare attributes. Last year, she was in the finale and looking like a lock for the win from the small group until Nicole Frain launched a well-timed attack in the final km which left the group looking at her, being the fastest in the group. That scenario is likely to present itself again. Ruby will hope to have some teammates in the final to prevent a Frain-Esque move from happening otherwise, she’ll have to close the moves herself, immediately.
Credit: SBS Sport
Georgia played the loyal teammate at the Bay Crits, finishing second overall while leading out Ruby Roseman-Gannon. She never looked in trouble during the 3 stages and hid her form very well – I think she wants to be under the radar this year in Ballarat. The three-time Commonwealth Games champion has a very quick sprint (IMO quicker than Ruby in most scenarios) although, Buninyong is right on the limit of what she’d be comfortable with (climbing-wise) and if the climbers light it up, it will test her. It will come down to how the climb is raced for Georgia. If she is still in the group with 3 laps to go, I think we will see her manage her power on Buninyong in the final laps and not respond to attacks in the hope to TT back onto the group using the descent and through the Fed Uni. If ( and it’s a fair if) she can stay and touch and make the finale group, she’ll win.
Brodie Chapman joins Amanda Spratt at Trek-Segafredo in 2023 (moving from FDJ) and she is coming off a brilliant 2022 season beginning with 9th in Tour of Flanders and ending with a stellar ride at the Worlds in Wollongong (21st). Brodie is a punchy rider who likes to race aggressively. She will be attacking all day and with Spratty on her side, she could sneak away late in the race. She has an okay sprint, but not enough to beat Ruby, Georgia or Alex so she will need to get away solo with one or two others for a chance to win. Interestingly, the other Aussie girls have pegged Brodie as the top favourite for this year’s National Road Race.
Alex Manly had a terrific year in 2022 taking her first World Tour win and winning the Lotto Ladies Tour GC plus a handful of stages. Alex was also 15th in the World Championships RR in Wollongong. She often had her best friend and housemate Georgia Baker as her leadout during the season. Deluxe right? Alex is a similar rider to Ruby, maybe the in-between of Georgia and Ruby. She would prefer the finish to be slightly uphill but nonetheless, she will cope with Buningyong just fine and will be a big chance in the sprint.
Stepping up to the World Tour this year with Jayco-Auluya Georgie Howe is an aerobic beast. Previously a talented elite rower now turned cyclist, Georgie will be a huge chance in the ITT. Her ITT at the Tour of Bright a few months ago gave an indication of how well she is going. I’m not sure how she will go on Buningyong but I think her raw power alone will get her deep into the race. Look for Georgie to attack with a few laps to go through the Fed Uni and use her strong TT to stay away.
Do you see the trend above?
The Jayco-Alula girls have a stranglehold on this race. Nationals is different to the usual trade team racing though. You are teammates but in the same way you are teammates with your starting group in a Handicap race. You work together until you’re in the front and in the winning move, then it’s a free for all. The race and their legs will decide who is the leader but if we get a group coming to the line with all three of Ruby, Georgia & Alex well, that will be interesting. Look for Howe to be used in the early breakaway forcing Chapman, Spratt (Trek) and Bradbury and Roy (Canyon-Sram) to chase and use energy.
Others to watch
Amanda Spratt (Trek-Segafredo) will be in new colours for 2023, she looked good at Bay Crits and will be there (in the finale) but I just can’t see her shaking the other Jayco-Alula girls on the hill. Sarah Roy (Canyon-Sram) is another weapon and a former winner only two years ago. She has kept herself rather incognito since Worlds, her form is a mystery but her class is undeniable. Danielle De Francesco has been dominant in the NRS finishing 2022 as the #1 ranked rider in the NRS series. Although, like Neve, she’d probably prefer Buninyong to be longer.
1st – Alexandra Manly
2nd – Amanda Spratt
3rd – Brodie Chapman
Jayco-Alula will have the numbers in the final and will be in control all day, they are simply too stacked! Alex to win solo with a late move or in the bunch kick from a small group of <8. It will be another trophy to add to the pool room of Baker, Manly and Plapp’s European home.
Listen to the latest episode of TPR with Georgia Baker & Luke Plapp here!