Preview: 2023 Cycle Sunshine Coast (NRS)
The AusCycling National Road Series returns this week for the penultimate race of 2023.
From Thursday to Sunday, Cycle Sunshine Coast features five stages in Queensland’s namesake region, an hour north of Brisbane.
Who will succeed Zac Marriage and Danielle De Francesco as the GC winners?
The five-stage race offers two major changes from last year.
First, instead of a team time trial, riders will tackle a short individual time trial with an uphill finish.
Second, the stage 3 criterium has a new course. Gone is last year’s hotdog as the stage heads to Maroochydore’s new city centre on a similar circuit to the 2021 edition.
The rest of the route is basically unchanged, although the road races are slightly longer.
- Stage 1: Peachester Road Race (109km/72km)
- Stage 2: Bridgewise Yandina Individual Time Trial (6.5km)
- Stage 3: Maroochydore City Centre Criterium (60min + 2 laps)
- Stage 4: North Arm Road Race (101km/69km)
- Stage 5: Hinterland Road Race (120km/80km)
If last year was anything to go by, stages 1 and 5 will be important for the overall classification. The rolling terrain tends towards attritional racing, and we can expect only a small group of the strongest riders to contest the finish.
Of course, the ITT will be crucial for GC contenders. Last year, the overall wins were decided only by a matter of seconds – so this ride against the clock can make all the difference.
Stage 4 should end in a bunch sprint, as should the stage 3 criterium – but last year’s race proved otherwise. In both the men’s and women’s Maroochydore crits, a large breakaway was allowed up the road, putting major time gaps into the peloton.
We only have provisional start lists at this moment, but let’s take a look at some of the main contenders for Cycle Sunshine Coast.
For the men’s field, we have to start with Tristan Saunders from Team Bridgelane. Saunders is enjoying an exceptional season, winning the Melbourne to Warrnambool and the Tour of Gippsland overall. With the NRS leader’s jersey on his back, he’ll be one of Bridgelane’s top cards to play as they aim to repeat their GC podium sweep from last year’s race. Sam Jenner and James Panizza, who finished second and third last year, also return alongside Tour of Tasmania winner Rhys Robotham and Oceania champion Liam Walsh.
The other big team is ARA Skip Capital, for whom this is their home race. They’ll be eager to improve on their two stage wins from last year. Declan Trezise returns as one of those winners: the young Queenslander packs a great sprint and was in excellent form in Gippsland. Blake Agnoletto is also a proven race winner, but Craig Wiggins is their fastest finisher on paper and will surely be eyeing stages 3 and 4.
There’s a strong line-up expected outside the two biggest teams, and a surprise result may be around the corner.
Boris Clark (Cycling Development Foundation) and Oli Stenning (Blackshaw Racing) finished on the Tour of Gippsland podium after making the right breakaway, which reminds us that anything can happen in bike racing.
The CCACHE x Par Küp squad brings two sprinting options in Kurt Eather and under-23 criterium national champion Graeme Frislie.
Brendon Green (Cycling Development Foundation) and Bailey Macdonald (Criterion BEx Racing) were second and third at the Warrny and could look for a stage result on the harder days.
And while there are no expectations on his young shoulders, we’re eager to see how junior world champion Oscar Chamberlain (Blackshaw Racing) performs in his first NRS race.
In the women’s field, Emily Watts (Team Bridgelane) stands out among the favourites after winning the Tour of Gippsland and taking the NRS leader’s jersey. She should find the uphill time trial to her liking, as well as the hilly stages. Watts will be accompanied by a capable Bridgelane squad including Haylee Fuller (winner of the Tour de Brisbane), Mia Hayden (winner of the Grafton to Inverell) and Keely Bennett, stage winner in Gippsland.
For their home race, ARA Skip Capital will still field a strong team despite half of their squad being away in China. Assuming Georgia Whitehouse doesn’t start (she’s racing the Tour of Guangxi today), Alexandra Martin-Wallace and Chloe Moran will provide fast finishes for the sprints. Rachael Wales has been riding well and should look to target the time trial.
Katelyn Nicholson (Butterfields Racing) surprised the peloton by winning the time trial in Gippsland. She’ll surely be eyeing stage 2 at the Sunshine Coast for another chance to race against the clock.
With her speed, Lucie Fityus (Cycling Development Foundation) has been knocking on the door of an NRS victory all year. She should be targeting a stage win in the criterium and stage 4 road race.
Matilda Raynolds (Team Hydraplay Femme – Empowered by the Mental Wheels Foundation) is back racing in Australia after a stint in Europe. She won the opening stage last year and should be hunting another victory this year. Raynolds’ team also features former national road champion Ruth Corset, who can still climb with the best.
South Australian team Cervélo-Ziptrak bring Ella Sibley, who scored a podium result at the Tour of Gippsland.
Finally, we’re excited to see a composite team of Masters riders, KOM Financial Advice, mixing it up in the peloton. The squad includes Australian esports representative Katie Banerjee in her first NRS race since crashing out of the Melbourne to Warrnambool.
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Feature photo: Alex Polizzi