When the course for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was being designed before the first event played out in 2015 there was an obvious inclusion, a climb up what, until the World Championships in 2010, had been an innocuous suburban street – Challambra Crescent.
Back then, crowds thronged to the footpaths and nature strips of the normally peaceful location with views over Geelong and its surrounds. And so it was an obvious addition as a decisive point in this new race, named after the Australian who had claimed the rainbow stripes in 2009 and the yellow jersey of the Tour de France in 2011.
Milan San Remo has the Poggio, the Tour Down Under Willunga Hill and the one-day women’s and men’s WorldTour races in the southern state of Victoria have the Challambra.
“Challambra was iconic in the World Championships, and it still is today, and I think every year in this race it’s the crucial point,” race director Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews in the days leadding up to the WorldTour races. “While we have got beautiful Great Ocean Road and Torquay, Thirteenth Beach, Barwon Heads, its Challambra that is where it all happens – whether it’s the breakaway duking it out or the peloton coming in there for the final lap.”
Those final battles of the Australian season of international racing will be decided after 140.8km of racing at the women’s event on Saturday, January 27 and after the 174.4km of the men’s event the following day.
In both the women’s and men’s events, riders head out from the waterfront in Geelong, often with sailing boats making the most of of the summer weekend on Corio Bay providing a backdrop. The race works its way through the streets of the city, which is located little more than an hour out of Melbourne, and tackles the uphill to at the historic town of Ceres before continuing to head inland through the rolling farmland hills.
After that it is towards the coast with the riders passing Bells Beach, Torquay and Thirteenth Beach, though there will not be much time to enjoy the stunning ocean views, particularly if cross winds hit. Then it is back to Geelong via Barwon Heads and the Bellarine Peninsula and into loops of the finishing circuit, where Challambra awaits.
Hype and excitement
The men’s and women’s races are identical to this point – just swap out QOM for KOM on Sunday – but it’s the number of laps of…