It was over two years ago that Ruth Edwards (née Winder), in theory, walked away from professional cycling but on Friday she was once again getting ready to launch into the peloton, finding a fitting start to her reboot at the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under.
The last time the rider from the United States was at the race it was in 2020, and then she walked away with overall victory at the then 2.Pro race, as well as a stage win. Returning as a former winner there are plenty of good memories and reminders of her past success, from oversized images of race winners in the hotel hub to the names listed on the steps of the entryway, but plenty has also changed in four years.
“It feels pretty different to last time I raced but in a really good way,” Winder told Cyclingnews in Hahndorf as she was getting ready on the start line. “I kind of see it with a different perspective now and I am a little more relaxed and I’m just excited for today.”
With family in the adjoining state of Victoria and summer in full swing in Australia, there seemed little reason for any hesitation over making the long flight out to the season starter at the women’s Tour Down Under.
“This is definitely an ideal place to start for me,” said Edwards. “The weather is amazing. I love being hot and regardless of whether you are racing in January or going to a training camp you are leaving home, so in my mind why not do, in my opinion, one of the best races on the calendar and then get some good training between Tour Down Under and Cadels later this month.”
The three-stage Women’s WorldTour race, taking place from Friday, January 12 to Sunday, January 14, starts with what was expected to be a sprinters stage, working into a lumpy stage 2 that may well provide an opportunity for a break and a stage 3 finale for the climbers, with the race ending on the summit of Willunga Hill. That means for the climb-savvy Edwards, the crucial days are later in the race.
The 30-year-old’s race form, however, is somewhat of an unknown, even to the rider herself.
“It had been fun to see my name around and pictures of myself and have those amazing memories from when I have been successful here and I am just trying to take that confidence – and be like ‘hey you have done it before’,” said Edwards. “And yes the field is stronger overall but I’ve raced against Grace Brown and Amanda Spratt and a bunch of the heavy hitters before and done well.”
“We don’t know how I’m going to do and that’s kind of fun. There is not necessarily pressure on me to win or get a podium but there is pressure to see how good I can be. We just have excitement about trying to find out what that is. We don’t know yet so you can’t really fail when you don’t really know, and for me that’s pretty exciting.”
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