National teams announced for NRS race at Santos Festival of Cycling

Richie Porte and Sarah Gigante

Team Garmin-Australia has joined with AusCycling in announcing a new partnership for the Santos Festival of Cycling, sponsoring the national squad for the National Road Series men’s and women’s race starting January 21.

In normal editions of the men’s Tour Down Under, the previously named UniSA national team were formed out of a combination of the best NRS team from the previous season and the best other riders, as selected by Cycling Australia, which has since become AusCycling.

With the race now at NRS level, the team comprises two WorldTour riders, Richie Porte and James Whelan. Track team athletes – the team pursuit squad essentially – make up the rest of the team.

Porte, the ‘King of Willunga’, is an automatic favourite for the overall title, and the track squad boasts multiple world champion and reigning criterium national champion Sam Welsford, who will probably battle it out with Kaden Groves (BikeExchange) and Jensen Plowright (Bridgelane) in the flat finishes.

Garmin-Australia – MEN’S

  • Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers)
  • Sam Welsford
  • Kelland O’Brien
  • Leigh Howard
  • Luke Plapp
  • Alex Porter
  • James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo)

The women’s squad is normally a refuge for internationally-based riders whose teams aren’t present for the Australian racing, with a few track riders added in at times. The 2021 team will be much the same, headlined by climbing sensation Sarah Gigante, with again the team pursuit team forming the bulk of the remaining squad.

Trek-Segafredo’s Lauretta Hanson rarely gets her own chances on the stacked American squad, but does pack a good sprint, and may get an opportunity or two, but all the track riders are known for their fast finishes as well. Zwift Academy winner and Canyon-SRAM recruit Neve Bradbury takes the final spot on the team after taking the step up from Roxsolt-Attaquer.

Gigante will go in as one of the favourites for the race after her dominant performance as an individual in the 2020 National Road Series finale, winning three stages and the overall NRS title. Her main competition will be the BikeExchange pair of Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy, with Kennedy perhaps going to be unable to attend as she’s currently based in south-east Queensland, with South Australia shutting the border for the Greater Brisbane region.

Garmin-Australia – WOMEN’S

  • Maeve Plouffe
  • Annette Edmonson
  • Georgia Baker
  • Ashlee Ankudinoff
  • Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB)
  • Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo)
  • Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM)