The race is far from over and tomorrow’s stage finish on Willunga Hill will change everything, more on this in a minute. Before this I wanted to look around the race and see what’s what, from TV coverage to photofinish “controversy” and the Wouter Mol fan club.
First many Australian fans are enjoying the local race, those in Adelaide get the racing on their doorstep and some from other states have made the trip down to watch the race. But those hoping to watch the race on TV are finding things harder. The TV rights deal changed and it’s now on Channel 9 instead of “home of cycling” SBS. Now you don’t need to know your Australian TV channels, only that Channel 9 puts its coverage of the race on at 11.00pm. There’s no live coverage and many are frustrated.
The good news
Aussie fans are frustrated but that’s largely because this race is increasingly viewable. No longer fun in the sun, it’s got everything you’d expect from a big race, from crowds to cracked collarbones. The race was created to promote the region and I’v feared it was always a politician’s pen stroke away from cancellation but it seems to be gaining traction. In recent years politicians have used it as an expensive stunt for photo opps with Lance Armstrong but the event looks viable by itself.
If the coverage is delayed, so were the results today. Some people thought Daniele Bennati caught Gerhard Ciolek for second place and there was some brief confusion over this and a moment of controversy when the official results came out. But the photo finish settled things. In the video clip above Ride magazine’s Rob Arnold speaks to the man running the photo finish camera and gets an informative reply about the technology behind this crucial piece of race equipment.
André Greipel’s been enjoying the open stages. He’s got a formidable lead out train but has impressed with his raw power, team mate Adam Hansen says he hit 1940 watts in training. That’s huge by any measure, some top sprinters peak at 1500W. Greipel is a big guy and needs more power to displace the air around him so the extra power is good but he’s less aero. However he’s looking better on the bike. He used to have a bit of a choppy sprinting style with his body moving a lot – shoulders and hips – but he looks more stable now; whether this is by design and work or just an impression isn’t certain yet but he’s worked to make himself more aero.
I think the 2012 season could see some really exciting sprints and can’t wait for the day when we get Greipel and the others from the TDU alongside Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, Tom Boonen, Denis Galimzyanov and the others who have yet to start racing. Then raw power matters but team work and tactics will count for a lot too. Maybe we’ll have to wait for the Tour de France for the sprint show down. In the past sprint finishes could be boring but I can’t wait.
My wish has come true. Last year I wrote about having the finish on Willunga Hill and we’ll get this on Saturday’s stage. The climb is 3km long with an average gradient of 7.6%. For comparison it’s longer than La Redoute in Liège–Bastogne–Liège but not as steep or it’s a bit like doing the first five hairpins of Alpe d’Huez. It’s a climb big enough to do damage to the bunch and the overall winner should be decided here.
Simon Gerrans and Edwald Boasson-Hagen both have a few seconds lead in the overall classification ahead of others and stand out as favourites but there are many more just behind. Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez once rode up the climb together but they’re rivals now. Tiago Machado is a strong climber. Matthew Lloyd is in form. And there are many more.
Non per la sua durezza, ma per l’emozione
Like many climbs used by races Willunga is not the hardest in the land – Australia has ski resorts in case you didn’t know – but it is the one chosen for the race and it’s enough to prompt a selection. But it’s also enough to create a good atmosphere. Liquigas’s Alan Marangoni said he’d always remember the climb “not for its difficulty but for the emotions“.
Last year I featured stories of Greenedge signing riders during the race. This time they’ve been more public about signing Michael Matthews once his contract at Rabobank ends. It fits, Matthews is Australian and Greenedge can offer him a lot of support. Then again just how many sprinters can one team have?
The Dutchman from Vacansoleil-DCM was picked by Aussie fans as their “obscure pro”. I’ve covered the subject in more detail and to repeat this is a fun and supportive gesture and not meant to belittle a rider. They’ve got fan t-shirts and he’s getting support along the way. He’s had a tough time being in the crash on the opening day and is 69th overall.