There may be no international teams at the Santos Festival of Cycling later this month, but Australia’s finest will be out in force nonetheless.
Richie Porte, Annette Edmondson and Sarah Gigante will be racing for Garmin-Australia national teams at the event that has been organized in the absence of the Santos Tour Down Under and Australia’s international summer of cycling.
“Team Garmin-Australia’s participation will offer the race a dynamic element that incorporates riders from the WorldTour stage, Commonwealth and Olympic Games and world champion excellence,” read a statement from the organization Friday. “The combination of athletic prowess within Team Garmin-Australia is certainly a nod to the multi-faceted nature of the 2021 Santos Festival of Cycling.”
Travel and quarantine complications for international teams forced the shuttering of WorldTour opener the Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Jayco Herald Sun Tour this winter. In their place, Tour Down Under organizers has prepared the Festival of Cycling, set to run January 19 to January 24.
The event includes a four-stage men’s and women’s race, along with cyclocross, track, para-cycling and BMX events.
Porte will lead the men’s national team having taken a career-best third place at the Tour de France last summer, while triple Omnium and team pursuit world champ Edmondson will head up Garmin-Australia’s women’s team.
“The quality of both the men’s and women’s teams is testament to the passion each of these riders have for racing and starting the 2021 season at the Santos Festival of Cycling,” said men’s race director Stuart O’Grady. “We’re really excited that Team Garmin-Australia have committed to racing at this year’s Santos Festival of Cycling and are looking forward to them bringing their experience and energy to the race.”
The men’s team also includes EF-Nippo rider James Whelan, while the women’s selection includes Sarah Gigante (Tibco-SVB) and Lauretta Hanson (Trek Segafredo).
“We are eager to showcase the quality of racing in Australia with both the men’s and women’s teams, but I’m particularly excited by the strength, skill and experience of the women’s team,” said women’s race director Kimberley Conte. “To bring in this quality of athlete and some of our future cycling stars is legacy to the Santos Tour Down Under.”
Porte, Edmondson and Co will race among a 120-strong peloton of domestic Australian teams across four stages, with the third stage set to take a trip up the iconic Willunga Hill, the scene of many Tour Down Under victories for Porte.
Last week, the 35-year-old posted pictures of himself in his new Ineos Grenadiers kit ahead of his first season back with the British squad.