More from the Tour Down Under

Monday, 17 January 2011

More please

The Tour Down Under is now the race that opens the season. For a brief moment Australia becomes the focus of the road cycling world. Many Europeans aren’t aware just how keen the Aussies are on cycling, at times the roads of the major cities early on a Sunday morning have just as many cyclists as Lombardy or Flanders.

I’m in two minds about the Tour Down Under. It’s got slick organisation and many riders enjoy the event, the “back to school” atmosphere is made easy with good weather and the relaxed Aussie manner. But I fear the event is used extensively for tourism promotion and if there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the nagging feeling that a marketing campaign tends to have a fixed duration. A change of mind from a politician or a marketing department and the event could be under threat. Here’s hoping it continues as the more an event establishes itself, the stronger its roots.

So assuming the race has an illustrious future, what about finding ways to make more from the race? As we’re seeing, ahem, UCI points are increasingly valuable. This can be exploited by the race organisers to bolster the race a bit.

How? By ensuring the points go to a wider range of riders. The race has long been a festival for sprinters, indeed the fast men often finish high on GC as well as bagging most of the stages. It’s great to see the sprinters go head to head but my memory last year was the move by Cadel Evans and the emergence of Peter Sagan.

A time trial stage
This would be a way to mix up the general classification. But for me there is an additional bonus since the precious ranking points are at stake and it could lure some TT specialists and big name stage racers to give the Tour Down Under a go. But the need to take an additional time trial bike could be a burden. The Tour of Qatar instructs riders to use a road bike only in order to make the logistics easier but I can’t help feel this is unsatisfactory given teams often want to showcase their wares.

A summit finish
Usually the biggest climb of the race is Willunga Hill. It’s 3km and about 7.5%, roughly a third category climb in Tour de France measurements although they say the climb is made harder by some open drags on the way to the start of the climb. Since the race takes place in South Australia, note this is the same state as several mountain ranges. Now some of these mountains are some distance from Adelaide and so this might prove logistically too much. Instead the race could include a finish at the top of Willunga hill, something which might give a few different riders the chance to shine.


A one day race
Given so many cyclists are in town for the race, what about creating a one day race as well? Perhaps run just a couple of days after the Tour, this could be held in a different location and feature some added mileage and perhaps a hillier parcours. Adequately rewarded with UCI points, this might attract a few bigger names to take part.


Summary
The TDU is increasingly attracting media attention and riders alike. There are ways to attract more riders, to open the race up a bit and to make the battle for the overall even more of a scrap.

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{ 15 comments }

Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm

It's in South Australia, not Victoria.

TheInnerRing January 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Thanks, fixed.

Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Good Ideas. Especially finishing on top of Willunga Hill for a stage and the idea of doing a one day race afterwards. It still mystifies me why the Aussie Nationals are not after the TDU as well

Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I think you could attract a few more riders with a time trial and the hill finish would make good TV. Not sure just who it would attract and the logistics are harder. Worth looking at.

Jason Cardillo January 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Granted the Tour de Georgia hasn't left a good taste in our mouth, but weren't the TdF and Giro created solely to market papers? Wasn't the Amstel Gold created to market beer? I don't think that it being not much more than a marketing campaign necessarily dooms it. Rather, I think the popularity of the event determines ongoing success, regardless of the marketing campaign behind its creation.

I rather like the idea of an "Eddy Merckx"-style TT, or perhaps a combo hillclimb TT?

roomservicetaco January 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Paris-Nice was also a marketing effort with a message similar to TdU – "come visit sunny Nice when it's cold in Paris"

TheInnerRing January 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Anonymous 1 & 2: so a yes to the hill finish? If the logistics are harder, they are not impossible.

Jason: of course, most races were created to sell something. But some have survived, others have gone.

roomservicetaco: yes. Paris-Nice is still known as the "race to the sun" and often you leave Paris in the cold and the final day or two are in warm sunshine.

Nick January 18, 2011 at 1:27 am

Climbers and TT Specialists have stage races they can win all year. I think it's alright to have stage race a sprinter can win.

Anonymous January 18, 2011 at 6:04 am

Well – if the TdU ever wants to be considered a legitimate rate, versus a junket, they are going to need to up the difficulty.

As for now, its popularity and its interest are due primarily to it opening the season after too many months of training day photos, but also, it is freaking cold in most of the Northern hemisphere, and seeing a race where you do not need to wear a balaclava gets the average race fans excited for the upcoming season. But no one is glued to the TdU….yet… But if they add mountain stages, and make this a true race where competitors take it seriously, they can build this into a legitimate race.

TheInnerRing January 18, 2011 at 8:19 am

Nick, a fair point. But I'm not saying there's a need to put in an Alpine-style summit finish, nor a 40km TT. Just something to mix things up. Sprinters can limit the losses on a 3km climb and some of them can win 5-10km prologues, if not hold time gaps down.

Anonymous: the arrival of the UCI points means that whilst the event is an expenses-paid trip for some, it's becoming increasingly beneficial to race.

To all, one final thought is that the UCI is saying "don't make it too hard" and has a role in determining the parcours that you might not have realised.

Touriste-Routier January 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I think the majority of riders appreciate the gentle parcours, well at least those who reside in the Northern Hemisphere do. It is a long season, so I am sure it is nice to go into something without having your climbing legs established,

If riders need to prepare for a harder event, only to be forced into a lull period where there are few races, I think it would backfire on the event, and fewer names with later season ambitions will appear in earnest.

It is OK to have training races. It is OK to have UCI World Tour races; they don't necessarily need to be one and the same.

I do like the idea of having a 1 day race in the near proximity though.

dbrmuz January 19, 2011 at 2:48 am

I've obviously not been paying due attention-what happened to the Tour Classic (or whatever it was) that was a one-day race the day before the Tour Down Under proper?

TheInnerRing January 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

That's more short criterium dbmruz. I was thinking of a race between two towns on a hilly route.

dbrmuz January 19, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Ah yes,silly me.I was actually having a hard time recalling anything at all about the pre-race race,so thanks for reminding me.

Your idea sounds great-there are hills around,be good if they got used.

Anonymous January 20, 2011 at 6:22 am

The race should be held in Tasmania.

Of course it's impossible for Australia to expect to compete with the spectacular scenery of the Grand Tours, but as far as showcasing the best of South Australia is concerned, the TDU currently does this very poorly.

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