Tour Down Under shorts

Friday, 20 January 2012

Willunga

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.

Greipel 2.0
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.

Willunga
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 climbnot for its difficulty but for the emotions“.

Australia Mol

The Mole Down Under

Dealmaking
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?

Wouter Mol
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.

Javi Polo January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I don’t have anything against this uphill finishes, and I actually was a big fan of them a couple of years ago, but I’m feeling that we’re having too much of them these days… even the Grand Tours are featuring more and more uphill finishes (just take a look at 2012’s Vuelta, it’s ridiculous!).

I think that they make races more predictable, because everybody stays in the pack until the foot of the hill. Agreed, then you have some minutes of great cycling, but I really like to see something happening before the final 5km! (that’s good for viewing races in YouTube though, somebody uploads the last 10 minutes of the race and you know that was all the story)

I admit I don’t know the place, and I’ve never even got to watch the Willunga stage on TV, but I’d personally prefer the finish line to be a couple of kilometers before the end of the descent… just like what they used to do at the Vuelta with the Xorret del Catí stages.

(About your last year’s article, I agree with the idea that a TT wouldn’t hurt either :)

Ilaria January 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I interviewed Alan Marangoni just after that TDU you quote and there he says something more about Willunga: http://allezandy.blogspot.com/2011/01/yes-we-likealan-marangoni.html :)

Scott M January 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I agree Javi Polo: I love watching the GC contenders battle on the last climb of the day but I seem to remember stages with a downhill finish for much longer afterwards: last year’s TdF with Thor’s two stage wins coming on/following the descents (stages 13 & 16), Voeckler ending up is someone’s yard coming into Pinerolo (stage 17)… Those finishes are just as exciting as any uphill slog, and stick in my mind much longer, and are certainly just as (if not more) challenging: Just ask Andy S last year what the TdF GC would have looked like without some of the finishes coming off the descents. No heroics on the Galibier without the descent the previous day.

Only live TV coverage of cycling we really get in Canada is the TdF, apologies for the Tour-heavy references… Manage to stream events online now and then but that’s mostly what I’m drawing from.

MT Dave January 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for posting that video. Excellent explanation, Fred.

Mike C January 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I initially glanced at the title and read it as ‘torn down under shorts’, as if someone had had their pants pulled down agressively …

Felipe January 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Greipel is really producing a lot of raw power. But I wonder about his power-to-weight ratio compared with the other sprinters. If I’m not mistaken, Cavendish is about 6-7kg lighter than him. He have been winning, but not dominating. It’s only the start of the season, let’s see how he’ll evolve during the year.

L_Islandais January 21, 2012 at 2:40 am

Let’s hope Kittel will join the group of contenders in the TdF.
This could cause a carnage in the opening stages though, as so many able sprinters will be hungry for winning.

Rob H January 21, 2012 at 5:44 am

Good to see Gerro in the ochre jersey coming into the final stage, also good to see ‘Piti’ Valverde not in the jersey. Hopefully it can remain on the back of a clean rider

kenny79 January 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

whats the story with 9 ?just before the bunch gets to willunga we get a sidestory from voss and 2 no nothing afl players ?yeah when i”m injured i ride the bike !why not concentrate on the job at hand and cover the race

Rob H January 21, 2012 at 9:06 am

To be fair, they did cancel an ad break to broadcast the entire climb uninterupted (something that SBS has failed at before)

AJS January 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

“I’m happy, I’ve had a two-year paid training camp, chasing summer, so it’s nice to be actually racing,” Valverde said at the finish. (http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/34427/Valverde,-Gerrans-to-fight-for-Tour-Down-Under-title)

Is Movistar allowed to continue paying a suspended rider?

daniel January 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm

In January’s Procycling magazine, Lotto’s team bike – the Ridley Noah FAST – is reviewed, and Ridley’s PR manager says that Greipel has been producing 150 watts more than he did last year.

Priestie January 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

@daniel correct Greipel’s PB was something around 1900W recently compared to last year which fell short of 1800W.

Unfortunately it most probably has absolutely nothing to do with the bike though ;)

Heather January 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

Not particularly overjoyed with the Ch 9 TDU coverage. 11+pm is too late. Also ad breaks drive me nuts.
Hope Ch9 does not do what Ch7 has done to Rugby Union i.e bury it in the graveyard shifts.
one of my co-presenters from 94.7The Pulse at Geelong(Vic) overheard an interviewer ask Robbie McEwen “what’s it like to win the T.D.F?” I can only assume that they meant the Green jersey (don’t know what Robbie’s reply was, wish I did.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: