2013 Santos Tour Down Under preview

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Tour Down Under

There’s a race on. It’s becoming a cliché to say we should talk about the sport instead of scandal, races instead of revelations. So here it is, a proper World Tour race packed with big names, Australian sunshine and it’s all just a few days away.

Here’s a stage-by-stage preview, a look at the contenders, the jerseys as well as what time you can expect to watch the finish on TV.

When does it start?
Some say Sunday and others say Tuesday. Tuesday is correct because Sunday is just an exhibition criterium that doesn’t count, some fun and the publicity for the winner makes it worth a scrap. We’ll stick to the race.

The format is six stages held in South Australia and the race is based in the state capital of Adelaide. Scroll down for individual stage profiles and analysis.

Stage 1
Tour Down Under Stage 1 profile
135km. After a neutral start that gets going by the Adelaide velodrome before they head for the hills of Golden Grove. You can see the climbing on the profile, rising as the road twists, ideal for the early break to go. The first climb is 4km long and averages 5% but climbs in steps with a nasty ramp near the top. If the profile looks repetitive above, it’s because there are three laps around the finish in Lobethal.

A sprint stage looks most likely but as is often the case in the race, some climbing to make it hard. The field can split, sprinters can get heavy legs and the finish can be chaotic with tired riders. Lobethal is German for “Praise Valley” – one of many places named by German immigrants – so it would be fitting if André Greipel won here, no?

Stage 2
Tour Down Under Stage 2 profile
The Corkscrew Road climb at the end of the stage is crucial. Coming after Kangaroo Creek – what else? – this road doesn’t take its name from the local wineries, instead it’s got several hairpin bends, a rarity for South Australia and an obvious draw for local cyclists. The climb is 3.7km long and the gradient hits 10%. A launch pad for a win? Yes but not easy. We’ll have to see how teams get over the climb, if the sprint trains can marshal the chase on the descent. The final 3km profile shows how flat the finish is, there’s almost no corkscrew twisting on the way down, only the pop of a podium champagne bottle for the winner. Worth watching for the Corkscrew climb and its steep ramps.

Stage 3
Tour Down Under Stage 3 profile
A circuit race with the climb to the Eagle on the Hill lookout to start . If everyone is waiting for Willunga Hill on Stage 5, maybe today will be as decisive if it the five lumpy laps can wear down the riders. But it doesn’t seem to be hilly enough, it might take a surprise or some weather to mix things up.

Stage 4
Tour Down Under Stage 4 profile
This looks like a day for the sprinters once the first climb is out of the way, Kersbrook Road on Humbug Scrub – great name. The race heads into the Barossa Valley, famous for its wines. Watch out for crashes, many Aussie roads have a strip of dust and gravel alongside the tarmac and desperate riders could try to use this as they compete for space on the run into the finish only to wipe out.

Stage 5
Tour Down Under Stage 5 profile
The Queen Stage. First it’s McClaren Vale and a ride past its wineries and then a spin past the sea at Aldinga, a circuit that’s repeated again and again.

After 120km the circuits end and the race turns to the hills. Old Willunga Hill is the key moment with 3km at an average if 7.5%, a steady gradient most of the way. Normally this will determine the overall classification and the main contenders will set the pace on the first climb before giving everything on the final climb. Worth tuning in for.

Stage 6
Tour Down Under Stage 6 profile
A victory parade, this is a criterium style stage in Adelaide.

Valverde Gerrans TDU

The Contenders
Let’s break this in two groups. There are several sprint stages that it’s worth listing the sprinters first because they’ll play a big role in the race. Then we’ll pick a second group of overall contenders.

The trouble is that we have no guide to form, only reputation. The state of fitness is hard to predict, especially for the overall contenders because whilst they want this race, few can afford to be in peak fitness now, there are bigger objectives in the coming months.

Sprinters: Matthew Goss (Orica-Greenedge), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo-Tinkoff), Mark Renshaw (Blanco), Andrea Guardini (Astana), J-J Rojas (Movistar), Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM), Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Andrew Fenn (OPQS), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).

Quite a list. Greipel and Kittel stand out with Guardini and Démare as the young pretenders. Greipel is there with most of the wagons of his Tour de France sprint train like Roelandts, Henderson and Sieberg. Garmin come with a strong train and the plan is to place Farrar but watch the likes of Steele Von Hoff, a versatile and impressive neo-pro.

Overall contenders Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Edvald Boasson-Hagen and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Tiago Machado (Radioshack), Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Max Iglinskiy and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), J-J Rojas, Andrey Amador and Eros Capecchi (Movistar), Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Peter Velits (OPQS).

That’s a long list but how do you chose amongst these? Well pick someone who can sprint once they get to the top of Willunga. They need to get the time bonus as well as put distance into the others. My pick would be Boasson-Hagen, sixth last year and apparently he’s been training hard over the winter, logging a 40 hour week in December. Defending champion Simon Gerrans is in good shape after the Aussie nationals. Rojas is an outside pick as a sprinter who can climb, able to win time bonuses on other days, perhaps Matt Goss goes here too?

Jerseys
Tour Down Under Jerseys
The leaders jersey is ochre, like the soil of the Australian outback. Note the time bonuses, 10 seconds for the winner of each stage, six seconds for second place and four seconds for third. Intermediate sprints offer three seconds, two seconds for second and one second for the first three too.

Young riders are under 25 and the Competitive jersey is for the most aggressive rider. UCI rules state you can only have four jerseys in a race so we might not see all six in the race, two will be for podium ceremonies.

TV: unlike previous editions the stages will be broadcast live in Australia. Hopes for an unrestricted livestream have been dashed so cyclingfans and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for video streams.

I fear Australians might find hours of live broadcast each day not as thrilling as the TV channel promises but be sure to catch the last half hour each day. The finish each day is expected between 2.00pm and 3.00pm but give it some leeway.

  • 3.00pm in South Australia = 5.30am Euro time = 8.30pm PST = 11.30pm EST

An unknown rider alongside Australia’s Pat Jonker (Big Mat)

History
It’s the 15th edition of the race and if you want a history of the race, complete with the ID of the the unknown rider above plus Phil Liggett dressed as a policeman, see last year’s Tour Down Under race history post.

Is it a proper race or a training camp in the sun?
This pops up from time to time and my reply is that it’s a proper race, albeit a sunny prologue to a long season.

  • Yes it’s sunny and yes some riders will use it for training. Note some riders use the Tour of Flanders as practice for Paris-Roubaix
  • Some riders could going home with broken bones and it’s certain many will rub shoulders and elbow each other for sprint placings
  • 548 UCI points are up for grabs, as many in the Tour de Romandie
  • 100 points go to the overall winner, as many as you get for winning Roubaix or Il Lombardia

It just could be much more. The course is flat and the stage with the Willunga Hill finish is not hard, it’s just the riders force the pace so much to prompt a selection otherwise they’ll lose the overall to the sprinters. A time trial stage is a logistic problem, it’s World Tour so the idea that riders should do it on their normal road bikes doesn’t work so well but teams can’t fly out hundreds of TT bikes and special wheels just to use them for 20 minutes. Still the race is lucky, if it appeared in August people would mind more but after the off-season people will take any race they can get. Think of it as a prologue to the season, it’s a fine way to open the season in bright sunshine. It works.

For me the question is really about other Australian races. The country has its own pro team, supplies a large number of pro riders and a big following. There’s room for more high level stage racing and maybe to include a high status one day race at this time of year.

TDU link

Note this is a blog post but there’s a copycat page which you’ll find linked at the top of the screen. If you visit and want the same info again, like a stage profile or TV listing, then it’s easy to find the “Tour Down Under” with the links above.

Tricky Dicky January 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I think the quality of the race is improving each year. This year, stages 2, 3 and the “Queen” stage all could result in a GC shake-up with hilly classics-style riders coming to the fore rather than pure sprinters. Note that just a few years ago, Greipel won the GC.

Even if it may not prove to be as enthralling as some of the big European races, it is one of the best races you could hope to attend in-person, especially if you have your bike. You can get to different parts of each stage by bike and even ride home with the pros at the end of each stage, who are all usually relaxed and in good cheer.

To sum up, it’s a nice little race but it is a scandal that it is deserving of so many World Tour points. That reflects more on the idiocy of the UCI than on the race organisers though.

bikecellar January 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Looking forward to this “starter course” to the season more so than usual for obvious reasons, fly in the ointment is the timing, being UK based I am not keen enough to be viewing at 4:30 am but will no doubt find some video coverage. Agree with the pick Gerrans/Boasen Hagen. Game On.

Duncan January 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Bring it on. Think it’s on Sky for those in Britain.

Dave E January 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Speaking personally as I can’t stand football, snooker, darts, etc. that Sky Sports show, I won’t be Speaking personally as I can’t stand football, snooker, darts, etc. that Sky Sports show, I won’t be spending £250ish for a year’s subscription to Sky Sports to watch the only pro-tour bike race they show.
It’s my opinion that if the TdU were to consider moving coverage of their race to a free-to-air European sports channel that has a cycling pedigree in the way the ToC/US Pro Challenge/GP Montreal etc. do, not only would they showcase their country to a wider tourist market and have the potential to increase the value of the road side advertising (think of the wonderfully unapologetic way they show the roadside adverts in the Tour of Poland), they would also get more support for their race among the wider cycling community
That said as I love this sport I will watch the live stream.

Panda January 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

In Australia the TDU is being televised on the Nine Network which is one of the three big commercial free-to-air networks, not on SBS (which is a publicly funded network) which is the go-to place for cycling coverage usually. The fact that they’ve picked up the rights (even during the cricket season) goes to show the increased popularity of the sport here.

Nine has set up a mini website at http://wwos.ninemsn.com.au/tdu2013/ and is promising live streaming, hope it’s available worldwide!

jeffrey swainhart January 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

It’s been hot as blazes in Australia of late, mid 40’s C, hope their bikes don’t melt…

Adrian Holman January 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Back to racing! Thank goodness!

Nick January 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

That Best Young Riders jersey looks like a bunch of the veteran racers got together and said, “Okay, let’s poke a little fun at the young guys. You want a jersey, take this!”

I didn’t realize how much I missed reading about upcoming races. Bring on the season!

Gerald January 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

It is nice to see the season kick-off. But I find that the Tour de San Luis is looking more interesting. It is only a 2.1 but the stages are more varied. Three stages for sprinters, two for climbers, one time-trial and one probably for a break-away. The stages are longer (170km average, 20km TT), 5-6 climbs that are 8-10km long, going up to more than 2000m for one of the climbs. As the saying goes, the riders make the race, but I think the Tour de San Luis offers a better stage for a race than the TdU.

The Inner Ring January 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm

That’s becoming a very good race too and I think it’ll be streamed via the internet too.

Gerald January 19, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Great, I did not know it would be streamed on the internet, thanks for the tip!

Bundle January 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm

This race has a lot of room for improvement. The course looks like an “active holiday programme” for 45-year olds. And those jerseys… :(

chris January 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I live in Adelaide and this is a great little race. Stage 2 is a big change that shows the development of the race that started last year with the hilltop finish of Willunga hill. Its not just a sprint fest anymore, but its not really too hard for the pros who are building form for the season.
The corkscrew on stage 2 has some proper steep pinches of around 20% which should break the sprint trains up. The descent to the finish line twists and turns along a valley floor beside a stream so won’t lend itself to an organised sprint chase. The first 5 over the top will be contesting the win for the stage and maybe the whole race.
Weather forecasts are cooler for the week than lately with high 20s to low 30s and even a bit of rain later in the week.
Should be fun

Sam January 20, 2013 at 1:27 am

I am always perplexed that people want the TDU to be more (difficult) or less (valuable). It is a nice race that fits well in the calendar and is enjoyed by the riders, the spectactors and the South Australian government (who bankroll it).

The TDU offers a lot of points because the UCI wants teams racing on the other side of the world in January. The TDU isn’t overly difficult because the UCI wants teams racing on the other side of the world in January. Less points, or more difficult racing would discourage teams from sending their stars.

BarkingOwl January 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

Finally we get back to some racing.

Mind you I am looking forward to the moment when some journalist from Channel 9 who has followed cycling for 5 minutes asks Gilbert, Schleck or Boonen their opinion on Lance Armstrong and recieves either a cold, hard stare or roll of the eyes!

C Grade Cyclist January 20, 2013 at 6:30 am

That ‘unknown cyclist’ next to Pat Jonker went onto some pretty big things… Still wrestles with his handlebars up the climbs though, and his ‘crazy pain face’ never left him… :)

Tipping EBH or the win. Can’t wait for the racing to start!!

lfx January 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

There is scope to expand the Herald sun tour – a race in Victoria in Southern Australia. Victoria is a great place to have a proper bike race, because everything is relatively compact to the capital Melbourne.
You have the Great Ocean Road for scenery (has a few hills as well), the Alpine region is not far away, with Mt Buller, Baw Baw and Hotham Falls Creek all having both the roads (i think one is even HC) and facilities (ski villages) to host hilltop finishes, as well as very large regional towns scattered at goodly intervals.
Even a race between Melbourne and Sydney would be a good idea, capturing both markets (with the capital, canberra, in the middle. very doable in a 1 week race.
A tour of Tasmania would also be able to provide some great roads and acenery (big world heritage areas with Hills), and access, but its a much smaller market spectator wise.
Problems include such minor issues as most of the good alpine country being on fire in the summer……

TomC January 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

RACING WOOP WOOP!!!

I have to say that i think the TDU is a good race, it seems to hit the right tone for difficulty this early in the year and is very popular with the fans from the looks of thinks. It can’t be a bad race, the points issue aside, if there are so many big guns willing to make the trip, if nothing else for some warm weather training! It never seems like the big guns go with huge GC or stage win aspirations so i’m not sure the points are the big attraction for them.

Darren January 20, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Was able to see video of last 5 km of People’s Choice Classic on youtube, uploaded
almost immediately after race was won! Niiiice!
If I want to follow live stream then I go to a site, cyclingfans, which has links
to all the sites that are streaming all the different races!
Let the games begin!!!

hoh January 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Saw the video on YouTube. Have to say, Phil has a good voice as a broadcaster.

Robert January 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Goss’s form was woeful in the Herald Sun Tour; he was better at the Aussie Nationals but still wasn’t brilliant – he couldn’t stay in a finishing bunch that included Steele Von Hoff (neo-pro sprinter with Garmin-Sharp if you don’t know who he is).

A lot of us Aussies are a bit puzzled why OGE left Bling Matthews out of the team, to be honest; on form he’s climbing as well as Gerrans (third in the Nationals TT a minute behind Luke Durbridge, second in the RR in a small group bunch kick again behind Durbridge who was the sole survivor of a start-to-finish break) and has a better finishing kick.

Abdu January 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm

+1 Robert
Gossy was porky by all accounts when he arrived back in December, then clearly suffered in the Bay Crits and Sun Tour despite those races being full of kids and locals. Hendo on the other hand raced in local crits in St.Kilda (Melb.) and dished it out big time. Hendo’s form is clear to see, as was pretty much every other Aussie. With you about Bling, he’s biting his tongue because he’s just joined, but he hasn’t put a foot so far turning up fit and being the best of the rest at the Nationals.
Here’s hoping Gossy can get fit quick, maybe he can win another MSR this year…?

clipperton January 21, 2013 at 2:42 am

i think one of the real drawcards of the tdu for the pros has been touched upon above – that they are able to stay in the same hotel for the duration of the race. i think quite a few of the riders with kids have brought the family down in the past.

Abdu January 21, 2013 at 6:09 am

Plus all the teams stay in the one hotel (Hilton) in central Adelaide, making it an easier week for the riders. Transitions are very short trips out to the race starts, most fans ride to see the stages.

I’ve heard team mechanics also set up on the street outside the Hilton, making it a hive for the true fan as well.

Teams often ride home from stages after the race, adding to the ‘training’ aspect and being great for fans. I’ve got mates who sent me photos from previous years of the bunch ride home, with race numbers on jerseys.

The relaxed atmosphere (hey, it is Australia) means most teams go out for dinner too, so expect to see lots of Twitpics of fans with the Gorilla having a steak, etc.

What’s not to like?

PS. The Channel 9 “sports reporter” has already blundered in, before the prologue stage yesterday he asked Phil & Paul about Lance…Phil handled it better than his clip a few months ago.

Abdu January 21, 2013 at 6:15 am

Here it is, scroll down to see the Astana rider with a beer bottle (“stubby”) in his jersey pocket…

http://www.cyclingtips.com.au/2011/01/tour-down-under-stage-5-willungamania/

Paul January 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm

A bit of local knowledge might be useful. The Stage with the Corkscrew is too short to drop most of the peleton, only 116kms. However, the descent to Campbelltown is the best surfaced road in Adelaide. They will be averaging 60-70kms along there. A 54T or 55T chainring could be handy. The next day around Stirling is forecast for 37 degrees. There is a 10km climb at 6% that the TDU could use but it starts in the suburbs so road closures could be tricky. Mike Turtur also seems to be very averse to making the race any harder. Saturday is Australia Day as well so some will set up BBQs on Willunga and start drinking at 9 or 10am.

The Inner Ring January 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for this, it’s harder to describe the roads without knowing them so well. One thing I’d like to know is the road surface on Willunga, is it smooth? I think they’ve put some good blacktop down but want to check as everything that makes the climb harder is important.

Paul January 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Willunga Hill is very smooth as well. It was resurfaced I think about 10 years ago and is only used by residents, cyclists and rally drivers. It is one of the few clims around Adelaide where the surface does not interupt your rythym. It starts with steep section that feels hard and really slows you down then you gradually increase speed, still with a couple of steep corners, for the remaining 2/3rds.

This is Luke Robert’s race on Strava from the 2010 Willunga Stage.
http://app.strava.com/activities/23084562#

inopinatus January 22, 2013 at 2:01 am

I agree; with rising local popularity there is so much potential for more stage racing in Australia.

But the Herald Sun tour was just downgraded from a 2.1 to a national event, precluding world tour teams. The state government of Victoria there is addicted to cars and squanders money on the Melbourne Grand Prix instead. Indeed cycling infrastructure spending there was cut to zero last year whilst billions more was earmarked for roads.

The situation is dire, local authorities are not cooperative; some club racing permits are impossible without personal connections, and the locally famous Tour of Bright can’t even get rolling road closures. The police, in a fit of nanny-statism, even make them use a taillight.

In the meantime club-level racing in Australia has seen a dramatic rise in attendance, and informal bunch cycling on Melbourne’s famous Beach Road attracts thousands of amateurs every weekend.

So someone’s missing a commercial opportunity, I just can’t figure out who, and the authorities are pretty hostile despite cycling being so locally popular.

benjy January 22, 2013 at 2:09 am

true dat, Victoria has all the good alpine climbs, Mount Hotham, Falls Creek, Mount Baw Baw, Donna Buang, Mount Macedon, Mount Buller, Lake Mountain would all make spectacular finishes for stages, plus being ski resorts they have infrastructure

but you’ll never get the permits

GT January 22, 2013 at 7:27 am

Regrettably, work commitments means I cant make it to Adelaide this year. But you have to be there to realise what a cycling celebration the TDU is. Others above have noted the centralisation around the city of Adelaide, the ease of access to all the stages, etc. I’ll add the terrific social aspect of the race. Take your bike, and it matters not if you are with a group or by yourself – every morning there are THOUSANDS of riders heading out of the city to the stage, and every afternoon they come back in. Joining up with a group is the easiest thing, and you’ll have an instant bunch of mates for a day, and most stages have a few loops, so you can stop in one spot under a shady tree if you want, the the peleton will come to you a few times. The geography means generally uphill in the morning before it gets really hot, and a downhill cruise back in the heat of the afternoon before a swim. (Adelaide is a beachside city). Then it’s into the shorts and sandals, and the pubs are chock-full of cyclists. Its a great holiday week.

The Inner Ring January 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

I’m tempted to moderate this post as it’s going to make many jealous ;-)

Sounds good and the riders are enjoying the racing and their time in Adelaide too.

Andrew January 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

I’m surprised that Gilbert didn’t get more of a mention for being in contention. Judging from the first stage he seems interested.

The Inner Ring January 22, 2013 at 9:15 am

He’s on my list above because he’s suited to the short climbs and he can sprint well to claim the important time bonuses. But as I hadn’t seen him racing yet it was hard to know what shape he’d be in.

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