Stage 1

The first stage of the 2014 Santos Women’s Cup was a criterium held in Adelaide as a curtain-raiser for the Tour Down Under People’s Choice Classic.

Held on a new 2km circuit along the Torrens River, the race attracted a massive crowd and delivered plenty of fast-paced action. Given their standing as the top-ranked women’s team in the world, much was expected of the Orica-AIS team ahead of the race … and they delivered.

Dutchwoman Loes Gunnewijk broke away mid-race and kept the field at bay to take a solo win ahead of her teammates Melissa Hoskins and Annette Edmondson. Sadly, a mid-race crash forced a few riders to hospital including Specialized Securitor’s Amy Bradley who broke her collarbone.

Loes Gunnewijk rides away solo take out stage 1.

Loes Gunnewijk rides away solo to take out stage 1.

Follow the link for results from stage 1 of the 2014 Santos Women’s Cup.

Stage 2

The stage 2 road race featured two laps of the route used for stage 1 of the Tour Down Under, starting and finishing in Angaston in the Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide. Following recent bushfires in the region, the race was in doubt until the day before but thankfully everything went to plan.

The race took in some great views of the famous wine-making region and finished with a climb up Menglers Hill before the fast decent down into the finish in Angaston.

An early break from Ruth Corset (Holden) and Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) lasted until the riders turned to begin the ascent of Menglers Hill on the final lap. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), Taryn Heather (SASI) and Rebecca Heath (Bicycle Superstore) caught the two leaders at the base of the climb.

A diminished peloton climbs Menglers Hill on stage 2.

A diminished peloton climbs Menglers Hill on stage 2.

Spratt then attacked, broke clear and soloed to the win. She was followed home by her teammate Scandolara and Jo Hogan (Boss Racing). Gunnewijk finished second in the bunch sprint and seventh overall, securing her place as the series leader going into the final stage at Prospect.

Follow the link for results from stage 2 of the 2014 Santos Women’s Cup.

Stage 3

The third and final stage of the Santos Women’s Cup was based in Prospect, just outside the parklands of Adelaide. The race was held the night before stage 2 of the Tour Down Under started there and as such, a good crowd turned out to see the ladies race for 40 minutes around a ‘hot-dog’ style circuit.

Given the blustery cross/headwinds and high-speed nature of the course, many found it a struggle to compete with the more experienced riders.
Many of the stronger riders, including Sophie Williamson (Vanderkitten), Lizzie Williams (Specialized Securitor) and Peta Mullens (Wiggle Honda) tried to put pressure on the Orica-AIS team, but their efforts came to little.

Shara Gillow (Orica-AIS) made her race-winning move at the mid-point of the stage. To begin with, she had trouble extending her gap beyond ten seconds but by the time she crossed the finish she was more than half a lap ahead.

Shara Gillow (Orica-AIS) won stage 3 in Prospect after a solo break that started halfway through the race.

Shara Gillow (Orica-AIS) won stage 3 in Prospect after a solo break that started halfway through the race.

Loes Gunnewijk clinched the series overall victory with a second-place finish on the final day of racing. This gave Orica-AIS its second clean sweep of the three day race series with Valentina Scandolara and Amanda Spratt rounding out the overall podium.

Follow the link for results from stage 3 of the 2014 Santos Women’s Cup.

In summary

All the competitors I spoke to were impressed with the level of organisation from Cycling South Australia in putting on the series. The road race in particular was a big hit and turned the Santos Women’s Cup from a three criterium series into something more like a National Road Series event, giving riders of differing skills more chances.

Loes Gunnewijk (right) and Valentina Scandolara (left)  celebrate first and second place overall.

Loes Gunnewijk (right) and Valentina Scandolara (left) celebrate first and second place overall.

While the race was run in conjunction with the Tour Down Under, much more needs to be done to promote the event to make it grow. Media attention was limited, with mainstream broadcasters giving little attention to the women’s efforts.

To promote and grow the sport, perhaps this event needs to be run under the Tour Down Under umbrella with the race making use of the WorldTour race’s media access and promotion facilities.

Overall winner: Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS)
Team award: Orica-AIS
Best young rider: Sophie Williamson (Vanderkitten)
Best masters rider: Katherine Joyce (Hall Cycle Training)