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2023 Tour: Seven contenders to watch

After a two-year absence due to the new crown epidemic, the Tour of Australia will return to the men’s World Tour this season. The Australian Ladies Tour also restarted and was included in the Ladies WorldTour for the first time ever.

Some of the sport’s biggest names will kick off their 2023 campaigns in Australia in the coming days.

The week in Adelaide begins with a short par on Saturday 14 January. While it probably doesn’t count towards the overall standings for either game, it’s bound to be an exciting event. The women’s race starts on Sunday, with the men’s race kicking off on Tuesday 17 January with a short 5.5km prologue.

Luke Plap

The newly crowned Australian national road champion will certainly be one to watch. As one of Australia’s biggest up and coming names, Plapp may well materialize as being Ineos’ elected leader for the Tour down Under, particularly if Ethan Hayter and Geraint Thomas are still some way off form.

Plapp is a respected climber and has excelled on other types of terrain. If he gets the go-ahead from Ineos management, he’ll be able to rely on the experience of the likes of Ben Swift and the youthful energy of the likes of Hayter and Magnus Sheffield.

ben o’connor

O’Connor is another homegrown hope for Australian fans, with more experience and GC knowledge than his fellow Australian Plapp.

In his day, the AG2R man was undoubtedly one of the best climbers in the men’s WorldTour and has stage wins in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. O’Connor, who came into the race as his French team leader, has all the talent to make a difference on this year’s hilly stage.

Keep an eye out for the 27-year-old as he comes to Lofty Hill late on stage five, where he will almost certainly be in contention for the win.

 

grace brown

Family favorite Grace Brown will be looking to start the 2023 season as she intends to continue playing when Sunday’s game kicks off.

Brown’s recent second-place finish to Brody Chapman in the women’s road race at the Australian National Championships puts her in a good position to start the Tour de France. The 30-year-old has had an impressive 2022, finishing second overall in the La Vuelta’s Ceratizit Challenge and winning a stage.

In 2022, she is within millimeters of winning the main stage race. And what better way to go than on the Australian Ladies Tour?

Jay Chou

A new signing for the Emirates Emirates team ahead of the 2023 season, Jay Vine arrives at his home game as a favorite to win the title.

Last season, Vine shot to fame with dramatic style, winning two stages at the Vuelta a España. Both finished at the summit, and Vine was one of the best climbers in the game along with the likes of Ineos Grenadiers and Richard Carapaz at the time.

With his quick cornering speed when the road goes uphill, Vine wants to go all out for the win, so he’ll be the favorite to keep attacking on hilly stages three and five.

Alberto Bettiol

Former Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol has arrived in Australia as one of the biggest names in his EF Education-EasyPost team.

Bettiol will be able to muster more capable allies in the form of EF’s new signing Mikkel Honore and German Jonas Rutsch, as he looks to be riding well and ranks high in the general classification. The Italian is a powerful and explosive boxer who will enjoy the short, steep climbs Australia has to offer.

Given the Tour de France’s place on the calendar, many of the more prestigious names may take a back seat as they look to establish status later in the year. If that turns out to be the case, Bettiol will likely use his explosiveness to take advantage and secure the win.

george benett

Kiwi Bennett is one of two riders in Team Emirates who could threaten the top half of the Australian GC.

After a long spell with Dutch powerhouse Jumbo-Visma earlier in his career, the 32-year-old Bennett has all the attributes and experience needed to initiate a win in any week-long stage race scenario.

The Kiwi is aggressive, climbs well, and also has the advantage of being out of the southern hemisphere off-season without needing to adapt to the action. Not only that, but Bennett could benefit from playing against home country expectations this month.

Georgia Baker

Women’s 2022 Commonwealth Games road race champion Georgia Baker will impress as Australia’s other home favourite. Especially the colors of the home team Jayco-AIUla.

A formidable rider on both the road and track, Baker is a formidable athlete who asserts her authority in any race from day one. While she may not have the same climbing prowess as her Australian compatriot Brown, the shorter, more impactful climbs offered by the Tour of Australia shouldn’t cause Baker too many problems.

Baker is sure to be a rider capable of taking advantage if the out-and-out favorite Brown makes a mistake.