Preview: Mitchelton Tour Of Gippsland – Women

  • By: AusCycling
  • Feb 15, 2022
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Australia’s premier road racing competition, the AusCycling National Road Series (NRS), continues with its second round, the Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland in southern Victoria this weekend.

The three-day stage race from February 13-15 will attract more attention than usual because it marks the return of star rider Sarah Gigante after a long break due to a heart condition.

This year, the Tour takes place almost exclusively in the seaside Bass Coast Shire, not far from the southernmost tip of mainland Australia.

The Tour of Gippsland was not held in 2020 and 2021, making this the fourth edition for women. The previous winners were Emily Herfoss on the last two occasions, and Kimberley Wells.


Stage 1 – Woolamai Circuit Road Race (83km)

2022 Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland Stage 1 Map

The Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland opens with its hardest stage on paper, a hilly road race starting and finishing at the Woolamai Racecourse.

Riders hoping for an easy start will be rudely disappointed, given the presence of two major climbs on each of the three laps.

The climb of Glen Forbes Gorge (4.0km at 4.8%) is slightly harder than the Mill Rd climb (3.8km at 3.7%), but it’s also more consistent. The latter contains multiple steep sections and peaks just 3km from the finish, making it an obvious launchpad for attackers.

Depending how the teams choose to race this tactically, the stage should suit a small breakaway or a punchy sprinter who can survive the climbs.

Stage 2 – Inverloch Road Race (83.5km)

2022 Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland Stage 2 Map

There’s more climbing in store on the second stage, based at the coastal township of Inverloch.

However, the locals’ favourite climb of Mount Misery (3km at 6.5%) peaks over 60km from the finish, meaning it’s unlikely to be decisive.

From there, the riders will tackle two punchy ascents of the categorised climb of Kongwak Rd (1.5km at 4.7%), the last of which comes 22km from the finish.

The run home to Inverloch shouldn’t be particularly challenging.

We could see the mountain specialists escape on the early climb, but if the peloton is in the mood for a bunch sprint, it will take an extraordinary performance to deny it.

Stage 3 – Rhyll Criterium (35km)

2022 Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland Stage 3 Map

The final stage is a flat, rectangular criterium in the small fishing town of Rhyll on Phillip Island. It looks to be a straightforward course, but the exposed sections along the seaside could bring the wind into play.

This stage should suit the sprinters.

Riders To Watch

National champion Nicole Frain is sitting out this race and Team BikeExchange-Jayco has returned to Europe, but the field of 44 riders is still bristling with talent, which should make for entertaining racing.

Despite this being her first race since the Tokyo Olympic Games, Sarah Gigante (Movistar) is the headline rider.

Wearing the dark blue of her new Spanish team, the 21-year-old is coming back from myopericarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle and its surrounding tissue.

Sarah Gigante - Movistar
Sarah Gigante will make her debut for Movistar at the Mitchelton Tour of Gippsland. (Photo: Photo Gomez Sport)

There will be no pressure on Gigante to perform, this being a stepping stone on her road to recovery. However, a Sarah Gigante far from peak condition is still a force to be reckoned with.

Last time we saw her in the NRS, the Victorian was single-handedly riding away from the peloton. If she’s feeling good, expect to see her testing her legs in the hilly road stages. If not, it’ll be no less exciting just to see her back on the bike. One thing’s for sure: where Gigante moves, everyone will try to follow.

One rider who’s clearly in excellent form is Maeve Plouffe (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast). The Australian track representative unleashed her powerful sprint to full effect when she won a stage at the Festival of Cycling.

Plouffe recently slashed six seconds off her individual pursuit national record, showing she’s got speed to burn.

The 22-year-old should be able to get over most of the climbs, and the final criterium suits her to a ‘T’, so she’ll be a top contender for stage wins and the overall. She has a strong team including Danielle De Francesco to set her up for finishes and intermediate sprints in a race where time bonuses will likely be crucial.

Maeve Plouffe - ARA Pro Racing Sunshine CoastMaeve Plouffe comes into the Tour of Gippsland with excellent form. (Photo: Russ Ellis)

InForm TMX MAKE will welcome Amber Pate back after guest-riding with BikeExchange-Jayco in Adelaide. Pate is a strong rouleur and a serious threat in any breakaway. The team has Matilda Raynolds for the sprints.

Roxolt LIV SRAM leads the NRS teams classification and will look to extend their lead with Peta Mullens and climber Justine Barrow as their probable protected riders. Mullens packs a solid kick, but the team would probably prefer to unload the likes of Plouffe and Raynolds on the climbs. They have an appetite to ride aggressively, so look for them to place Barrow or Saffron Button in a breakaway.

Knights of Suburbia Racing was arguably the most exciting team of the Festival of Cycling, and they’ll bring stage winner – and NRS young riders leader – Emily Watts to Gippsland. The versatile rider should have no trouble with the climbs, and, as we saw in Adelaide, has been working on her sprint. The team also brings extroverted rower-turned-cyclist Georgie Howe who will no doubt look to go on the attack up the climbs.

Emily Watts - Knights of Suburbia RacingEmily Watts secured a breakthrough NRS stage win earlier this year. (Photo: Russ Ellis)

Sydney Uni-Staminade brings Josie Talbot, another fast finisher. Second place in the criterium in Adelaide bodes well for the punchy sprinter from Wollongong, who’ll be hunting stage wins. The pink-clad squad also brings Georgia Whitehouse as an alternative sprinter. Keep an eye on young Alyssa Polites, the under-23 national champion who impresses more and more in every race.

As well, watch out for Sophie Malowiecki (Giant Racing Team), a multi-sport talent with triathlete background, Canberra’s Alana Forster, and Irish national Megan Armitage – all of whom aren’t afraid to make bold solo moves.

Where To Follow

Tuesday’s Stage 3 will be live streamed on SBS On Demand and the SBS Cycling Central Facebook page from 11:40AM–2:00PM AEDT.

You can watch Stage 1 and Stage 2 highlights on SBS On Demand and the SBS Cycling Central website each day.

Follow the Tour of Gippsland on Facebook and Instagram, and get daily updates from AusCycling on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

For more information, visit the Tour of Gippsland website.

Cover photo: Russ Ellis.

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