National champion Amanda Spratt expects Australia's summer women's cycling schedule to grow in strength and stature on the back of a breakthrough 2020 campaign.
The women's World Tour opened in Australia for the first time on Saturday, with Sunweb's rising German star Liane Lippert snaring the biggest win of her career in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race at Geelong.
Cuba's defending champion Arlenis Sierra (Astana) was second and decorated local Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) third.
Six of the eight women's World Tour teams were on show at both the Cadel Evans race and last month's Tour Down Under, forming both events' strongest fields to date.
"It's a really proud moment that the World Tour finally starts in Australia and for me this has always been such a professional race as well," Spratt said.
"It does everything right for the women, so it's nice to see most of the World Tour teams coming out here and I think it's only going to get bigger.
"I'm proud to be an Aussie on the podium here."
American champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) ended Australian team Mitchelton-Scott's dominance at the Tour Down Under, denying Spratt a fourth successive crown in South Australia last month.
Lippert was second overall at TDU before picking up her maiden World Tour win for Sunweb in the Cadel Evans race.
Spratt had to settle for third on both occasions.
"It's been really good and a really positive step forward for all the races just to see a team like Sunweb," Spratt said.
"The first years I was doing the summer racing, the Aussies were really just at another level compared to all the Europeans.
"But now the level is lifting so much and everyone's taking this period more seriously.
"It makes the competition a lot higher and makes for more exciting racing.
"You can't really pick who the winners are going to be, which is a good thing."
Spratt will begin a training block in Spain this month and will ride some of the European classics in preparation for a crack at the Giro Rosa.
The 32-year-old star will then turn her attention to the Tokyo Olympics and world championships.
Australian Associated Press