Since 2016, the Tour Down Under has been an integral part of the professional women’s cycling calendar, drawing some of the biggest teams to sunny Australia to begin their seasons year after year. Aussie rider Amanda Spratt, who now rides for Trek-Segafredo, has become synonymous with the Tour Down Under, winning three editions in a row from 2017 to 2019. The race had a forced two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic but will return as a three-day event from to the January 15 to 17 in 2023. In those missing two years, the women’s peloton has changed and grown immeasurably, so while Spratt will be there to aim for victory again this year, the competition for top spot in the women’s Tour Down Under 2023 will be fiercer than ever.
Unlike the men’s Tour Down Under, which spans six stages, the women’s race will take place over three days, beginning with a flat 110.4km stage from Glenelg to Aldinga – this looks to be a day nailed on for the sprinters in the peloton. Day two sees more climbs begin to make an appearance, as the race moves through the Adelaide Hills to take on Mount Lofty in an attritional 90km stage. The finale of the race is another stage that should suit the puncheurs of the peloton, with a tough ascent of Corkscrew Road the main event of the 93.2km route.
Despite the event having secured Women’s WorldTour status in 2023, some of the biggest teams are absent from the start list, notably the number one ranked WWT team SD Worx, and the team of the world champion Annemiek van Vleuten; Movistar. However, there are still some exciting riders taking to the startline, including Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope), newly-crowned Australian national champion Brodie Chapman and her teammate Amanda Spratt, both from Trek-Segafredo, and the Australian duo of Alexandra Manly and Ruby Roseman-Gannon from Team Jayco-mAlula.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 edition of the women’s Santos Tour Down Under.
The opening day of the women’s Tour Down Under kicks off in one of Adelaide’s picturesque beach-side suburbs: Glenelg. After a neutral roll out from the quaint town, the peloton will race down the coast to the first Queen of the Mountains sprint after 34.4km of racing. A short climb of just 840m and with an average gradient of 5.9%, this isn’t an ascent which should trouble the sprinters. The riders will then complete two finishing circuits around the town of Aldinga, with two sprint points coming on the lower slopes of Willunga Hill. The finish on Snapper Point looks to be downhill and technical, so we can expect a scrappy sprint to the line which will suit the fast women in the peloton who have dedicated lead out squads behind them.
The second stage of the 2023 women’s Tour Down Under is actually a reverse of the route taken in stage five of the Tour Down Under men’s race. This means that the peloton will take on the reverse side of Mount Lofty which serves as the toughest climb of the day. Before that, though, there’s the category two North East Ridge climb to contend with, a 1km climb with maximum gradients of 15%. This comes after 40km of racing and could cause some real splits in the peloton. After 80km of racing, the riders will take on the ascent of Mount Lofty which spans 6.1km with maximum gradients of 14.4%. This climb is going to be a crucial deciding factor of who takes lead in the overall classification and could even decide the race winner, depending on the events of stage three. The peloton will then descend just under 10 kilometres to the finish line in Uraidla where a reduced bunch or breakaway is likely to fight it out for the stage win.
The final day of the race also features some challenging climbs, which could mean that we see a general classification battle right up until the finish line in this year’s women’s Tour Down Under. Starting off at the Adelaide Riverbank, the peloton will face a 13 kilometre neutral zone before the flag drops and racing begins. Two sprint points after 28.2 and 62.5 kilometres respectively will likely shape the earlier, flat stages of the race. We can expect some attacks here from riders that want to give themselves a head start before the peloton reaches the dreaded Corkscrew Hill after 85.7km of racing. The ascent of Corkscrew is 2.3km long with an average gradient of 9.2% and a maximum gradient of an eye watering 24.4%. Riders will crest the climb just five kilometres before the finish line, meaning that we could see a sprint between the GC contenders at the finish and we might not know the overall race winner until the riders cross the line in Campbelltown. It’s going to be a nail biting finish.
When it comes to contenders for victory at the 2023 Tour Down Under, Team Jayco AlUla stands out as a squad with one of the strongest line-ups. They will bring Alexandra Manly who had an incredible 2022 season, winning four stages of the Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, a stage of the Tour of Scandinavia, as well as proving she could climb with the best in the queen stage of the Women’s Tour. The parcours of the Tour Down Under are well-suited to Manly and we can expect her to be one of the main protagonists of the race.
Alexandra Manly at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Team Jayco Alula also have a great card to play with sprinter Ruby Roseman-Gannon. The 24-year-old has already won the Bay Crit series this year in a dominant fashion, and she proved she is capable of performing at the highest level with a top-10 finish in stage four of the Tour de France Femmes last year. Both riders will also be especially motivated to perform well in front of a home crowd.
Trek-Segafredo could be the biggest challengers to Team Jayco Alula, bringing previous three-time winner of the Tour Down Under Amanda Spratt. They have numerous cards to play with national champion Brodie Chapman also part of their line-up, a rider who made a name for herself last season with numerous impressive performances in the women’s WorldTour. Trek-Segafredo have undoubtedly a more experienced team than Team Jayco Alula and it will be interesting to see if this gives them the upper hand in the Tour Down Under.
Grace Brown after winning stage four of the Women's Tour 2022 (Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Another team we can expect to see plenty of at the front of the peloton is FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope. They bring the prolific breakaway specialist Grace Brown who is steadily becoming one of the most impressive riders in the women’s peloton, finishing second in the ITT World Championships last year and winning a stage of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. EF Education-Tibco-SVB have cards to play for the overall victory too, with the strong American climbing duo of Krista Doebel-Hickok and Lauren Stephens.
The scarcity of WorldTour teams in the Tour Down Under has also given way for a number of smaller outfits and national teams to compete. Although the bigger teams will have the upper hand, there are a few riders to keep an eye on who could get their chance to shine on the WorldTour stage in this race. Ally Wollaston will ride for the New Zealand national team and has a strong sprint, as she showed by winning a stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour last year. Rachel Neylan of the Australian national team is an experienced rider who could be competing for the general classification, and Team Coop-Hitec Products bring the exciting British talent Josie Nelson who showed she could climb with the best at the Tour of Scandinavia last year.
Antri Christoforou during stage 8 of the Tour de France Femmes 2022 (Image: Getty)
Nina Buijsman of Human Powered Health is an outsider to watch too, as is her teammate Antri Christoforou who won the one-day race La Classique Morbihan in 2022. Thị Thật Nguyễn of Israel Premier Tech Roland returns to the WorldTour peloton this year and is a strong sprinter to keep an eye on. French rider Coralie Demay of St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 is another experienced puncheur who could have a chance of getting a result here.
The Tour Down Under is always a race which is wide open. Only a few riders have competed so far in 2023, so it’s difficult to know who is in race-winning form so early in the year. The best indication of who we need to keep an eye on when it comes to Australian riders is the national championships which take place a few weeks before the Tour Down Under kicks off. Here, Trek-Segafredo's Brodie Chapman took an emphatic win after being set up perfectly from her teammates. At the Tour Down Under, we think that she'll want to return the favour and will work for Amanda Spratt who we are backing to take the fourth Tour Down Under win of her career.
Cover image: Zac Williams/SWpix