Tour Down Under Race Review

Sunday, 26 January 2014

It was the seconds that made him first. Simon Gerrans won the Tour Down Under after consistent performances allowed him to take time bonuses all through the race. On the first day he took third place in an intermediate sprint behind a breakaway and later beat André Greipel to win the stage and get more time. The maths would impress Albert Einstein as the faster Gerrans sprinted, the more time he gained.

Bonus time: if there were no time bonuses Cadel Evans would have won. But there were and Gerrans wins so there. And rightly so because he was all over the race and backed by the strongest squad too. Richie Porte and Evans each had impressive stage wins with Gerrans always close behind.

The moment the race was won? Gerrans was consistent all week but if there was one defining moment maybe it was on Old Willunga Hill. Richie Porte attacks early despite a high wind. Cadel Evans has to respond as the Sky rider is only 33 seconds down on GC and there’s a 10 second bonus waiting on the finish line. But as Porte rides away for the stage win Evans pays a price for his efforts and gets caught and passed by Simon Gerrans who finishes third and collects the four second time bonus to lead the race by just one second.

TDU 2.0: The event has been run since 1999 but this year had an upgraded contest. The event has gone from a string of sprints to a place where Cadel Evans can flourish. First Mengler’s Hill, then the circuit around Stirling, Corkscrew Road the next day and Old Willunga Hill. Hardly Alpine but that’s perfect, just enough to put a few photons of daylight between each of the riders rather than see huge time gaps and a settled GC. You wonder if the next step in a time trial but arguably the inclusion of a varied course means it’s not needed. The race had a bit of everything with climbs, bunch sprints and even crosswinds.

Tactics 101:It’s the kind of race you could show to a friend because there’s predictable action every day. However it’s just a taster as the tactics were simple and each day’s viewing was concise, the action only happened in the last 15 minutes of the stage.

Jack HaigHe’s young, an Australian U23 champion and riding for the UniSA team. No, not Caleb Ewan who hopefully readers already know by now. Instead Jack Haig was the revelation of the race. A mountain biker, he’s aged 20 and has only been racing on the road for a short while. Last year he lead and won the NRS Series of elite road races in Australia, riding with the Avanti team. The squad has changed its name over the years but manager Andrew Christie-Johnson keeps bringing on talent. He’s helped Porte, Nathan Haas, Steele Von Hoff and several others onto bigger things, a conveyor belt to rival the Australian track squad. Haig’s got twin goals of success in the Commonwealth Games mountain bike race and more glory on the road. You wonder which team will sign him first but he’s said before he wants to take his time with any move to the pro ranks. Cycling Central have an interview from May last year if you want more. In 1999 a mountain biker called Cadel Evans won the best young rider competition too.

A few thoughts on other riders. A lesser revelation was Nathan Haas. A third year pro he’s impressed with his ability to climb and sprint. When Jens Voigt retires Adam Hansen could fill the role vacated but for now he’s been on team duty but good enough to take the mountains jersey and get in the top-10. Another ersatz Voigt was Will Clarke, the Drapac rider going in numerous breakaways and winning the most aggressive rider award on three days.

A surprise in the top-10 is Katusha’s Egor Silin. Who? Once an amateur tipped for the top he never improved beyond third on a stage of the Dauphiné in his first year. Two years at Katusha, two at Astana and now back to Katusha. “Sil” (Сил) is Russian for power or force.

Angelo Tulik

Ripper! (thanks to Rolling in the Heat)

Feel the rash
Less cheerful was the accident rate. Racing is risky but the Tour Down Under saw several accidents and seems more dangerous than the infamous Three Days of De Panne. But the first race of the year is always awkward. Reflexes and reactions have been lost over the winter and riders are back on carbon rims are just two possible explanations.

Christian Prudhomme Andy RihsThe Tour Down Under is also a lot more than a race. Australian fans travel in from afar to enjoy the week, they can ride out to see each stage and then pedal back with some competitors. Others come from further afield and it looked like cycling’s version of the Davos Forum with the wealthy and powerful flying in. Brian Cookson was there along with the Tour de France’s Christian Prudhomme and BMC’s Andy Rihs. Prudhomme wasn’t there to learn, ASO have a contract with the race to distribute TV rights.

Can Evans win the Giro? This race has showed him back at the top and he seems to flourish when all is going well so he’s on track but this week was neither necessary nor sufficient. Similarly Simon Gerrans looked sharp but remember Milan-Sanremo is twice as long as one of the stage this week and the new climb of Pompeiana is longer than Corkscrew Road and Willunga combined. There’s little correlation between race winners and those thriving on Willunga Hill and performances in the spring classics. If anything Simon Gerrans is the oddity with success in the TDU and his 2012 Milan-Sanremo win. Seven riders in top-10 last year didn’t win a thing for the rest of the year; one was Jussi Veikkanen who won the Finnish nationals.

Meanwhile in Argentina
You might have heard the solipsistic question “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound“. It’s similar to “if Nairo Quintana wins the Tour de San Luis but it’s not on TV does it count?” The Colombian ace has been storming San Luis only we can’t see it so easily so it’s harder to assess.

Nairo Quintana San Luis

Conclusion: the biggest race on the planet? Of course not but after months of nothing it’s been an exciting week and both the Tour Down Under and San Luis set up plenty of the stories that will develop over the rest of the season. The Euro season starts next weekend.

Top 10:
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 19:57:35
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:05
4 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:10
5 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:27
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:30
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge 0:00:34
8 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:37
9 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol
10 Egor Silin (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:47

Stage wins: Simon Gerrans, Diego Ulissi, Cadel Evans, André Greipel, Richie Porte, André Greipel
Prizes: Points Simon Gerrans, Mountains Adam Hansen, Youth Jack Haig, Team Orica-Greenedge

Neil January 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

Great racing and it makes me want to book a flight for 2015 so I can see it for real. Good weather, big crowds – what’s not to like?

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 11:01 am

Add on the varied roads, a big concentration of fans and even the wine. Tempting.

Tim January 27, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I just got back from the second time going. I find a big benefit being able to book the one accommodation for the entire week. Unpacking once and not moving all around the country side is great. You can ride to virtually all stage starts and finishes, plus some KOM and sprint locations. Many 100km+ days…..but plenty of stops, bakeries and coffee during the long days.

Ablindeye January 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

Some good racing and a very enjoyable, varied start to the WT season. Made me wish I was in a different time zone so I could enjoy the race live. Appreciate I’m being Eurocentric selfish but I wish

Ablindeye January 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

…(continued :p) Appreciate I’m being Eurocentric selfish here but I wish the stages finished a couple of hours earlier or later to make mid week viewing more viable.

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 11:02 am

Look on the bright side, it’s only once a year. I wonder for the race if it’s appropriate to have it clashing with the tennis in Melbourne as this could suck up media attention but race director Mike Turtur is famous for doing it his way and surely has his reasons.

Ablindeye January 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

Apologies for the multiple posts – mobile/fat fingers playing up earlier…

In terms of it being just once a year, yes absolutely. I feel for those down under when it comes to the timing of races for 95% of the rest of the season. It’s more than reasonable that they get their home race at a time to suit local support. My human nature = always wanting more…plus a testament to the race that I would have loved to have watched it all live.

AndyGalloway January 27, 2014 at 4:39 am

… we in AUS suffer the worst possible time-shift for all of the cycling calendar – please allow us this one week at our leisure !!! Yours sincerely, Sittingupat2am- everynight for Classics-andGTs

GT January 28, 2014 at 7:10 am

Turtur will want to keep the current schedule, because it fits with the wants of the South Australian Government as well. The race is set up for spectators – more about tourism than a bike race for the State government. Its in the Aus school holidays, ends on a long weekend, and is centrally based. It’s just all so easy and convenient. I’ve travelled over from Melbourne a few times now. It’s hard to imagine a better week to ride (although it can get very hot) – an enormous cycling social event. This year just the wife and I, but if you stop for coffee in Glenelg first thing in the morning, there are countless bunches you can say gidday to and join up for a while. I was on Corkscrew Road for Stage 3 – there were so many cyclists, we had to walk out due to the velo-jam … On another day, we just packed a picnic, drove out and found a spot in the shade outside a winery, and the bunch circulated past 3 times.
And a tip for travellers – find accommodation close to the beach. After a 120-odd K’s in 40 degrees, you go for a sunset swim !!

Jerome January 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

Australian fans remember egor silin as he won the hill top finish of Arthur’s seat in next weeks herald sun tour of Victoria a few years ago, also a dynamite pick in older versions of the game pro cycling manager, he evolved to have climbing stats riviling contador

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 11:04 am

I put the Dauphiné as his best performance but did note the win, it’s just it wasn’t such a big race. Presumably his reputation preceded reality for the game data. I wonder if he plays? ;-)

George January 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Why didn’t Evans’ or Ulissi’s teams chance the break and try to win seconds on the intermediate sprints of the last stage?

Anonymous January 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Evans and Ulissi would have to be the ones in the break for that to accomplish anything. They would not have been allowed to form a gap.

hoh January 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I’m more surprised that they didn’t try to contain that break. There’s only 4 guys in the break against 14 in those two teams (12 if Evans/Ulissi aren’t doing any work).

Though there’s no guarantee that the two could trump Simon Gerrans on a sprint and they’d risk expose their leader in the finale if they burn their riders too early.

At the end of the day they are not eager enough to commit such craziness plus and there’s also the element of looking at each other.

Goonie January 27, 2014 at 1:13 am

Gerrans will win a sprint against Evans at least 90% of the time; furthermore, Evans would not only have to beat Gerrans, he’d have to beat Matthews, Goss, and Impey. Goss might not be the sprinter he was at HTC but if he can’t beat Cadel Evans in a sprint he should give the game away now.

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I think Gerrans is faster and he’s got a better team so it wasn’t worth it. But I thought other teams might try to sneak their riders past Robert Gesink who is no fast finisher.

MattyP January 28, 2014 at 4:25 am

Why didn’t (couldn’t ?) BMC on stage 4 stop Gerrans getting 1st & 2nd respectively on the two intermediate sprint points? Those bonus seconds were what won Gerrans the race, and where Evans lost it. Had BMC been able to do so then Evans could have possibly ridden differently at Willunga.

3rd time for me in Adelaide this year. Great time over there, as both a cycling and family holiday. Everything being centrally located is fantastic from both perspectives.

Razor January 29, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I think you will find that Cadel was boxed in very well for the first sprint / out of position and on the second he had a mechanical (dropped his chain?) and only just managed to stay on his bike.

Michael January 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I was rather pleased to see Daryl Impey in the top 10. Although it isn’t the most mountainous race, it’s a goo effort by a sprinter.

LM January 26, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I like the TDU more every year. I hope the UCI doesn’t change it’s WT status. Quintana has been a lot of fun to read about as well. Great start to the season.

Jesse V January 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Great insight as usual, but the typos and errors made certain sections hard to follow.

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Ha, it was typed too early in the morning, these 4.30am wake-up calls are too much.

Also for information I was in the middle of the piece when the website crashed and I got distracted. Readers might have got a blank screen over the last few days or slow loading when visiting the site but hopefully this is fixed now.

Dave January 26, 2014 at 5:26 pm

You could always ask for a refund…

The Commish January 26, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Not even going to mention Ullisi? Did you get hired by Gazzetta? He can’t get no respect. http://m.cyclingnews.com/news/ulissi-i-dont-feel-inferior-to-moser-and-nibali
Just kidding of course, love your articles.

The Inner Ring January 26, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Ha! I’ve long rated him and tipped him on here and he was a small disappointment until the last part of the season in 2013 when everything went his way. I tipped him to win in the daily the day he won the stage during the race.

spokeydokeyblog January 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Looks like the Tour Down Under is becoming firmly planted as part of cycling’s culture these days, rather than an affront to it or a ‘training race’. Helps us in the further north locations of the northern hemisphere remember what it’s like to wear shorts & short sleeves on the bike outside of the velodrome, it’s been a while. Fantastic work again Inner Ring.

norbs January 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

People complaining about timing? Please! Try doing the grand tours whilst living in Australia.

Sam W January 27, 2014 at 1:59 am

I get the feeling that the TDU is the blueprint for what road racing will look like in years to come: short and varied stages to create small time gaps, with a variety of winners; centralized around a base city; and laps and circuits for spectators. From what I gather about the UCI’s proposed calander changes, TDU fits right in.

a different ben January 27, 2014 at 4:14 am

I might have missed this earlier, but how many other WT races are there with time bonuses?

The Inner Ring January 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Plenty with the Vuelta, Giro and more, like Tirenno-Adriatico. The Tour de Romandie has had them,, I don’t know the count though as it changes from season to season.

Zarbio January 27, 2014 at 9:18 am

Terrific piece as ever, keep it coming oh, and don’t worry about typos!

Cilmeri January 27, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Spot on.

Robbo January 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I think if no TT means that teams can save a bit of $ hauling another set of bikes around the world (or suffer the consequences of choosing to ride road bikes in that event), then it’s a positive to not add the event. I don’t think the race needs it. TT may be a traditional element of a stage race, but I’m not sure it adds to the excitement or environment that’s created around the TDU.

WorldTour riders must be pretty happy to end up in Adelaide rather than San Luis; high temps, but likely no food poisoning and fewer ‘hijinks’ (reportedly) from the local teams and riders.

Abdu January 28, 2014 at 1:40 am

Apparently not if you’re Tayler Phinney. He has never raced the TDU but says the Tour de San Luis is a better race? As someone said, he’s cycling’s version of Justin Beiber. All haircut, no substance, really just a product of his parents rather than his own efforts, and just plain annoying to listen to.

This comment from Phinney came despite his team mate being run over by a local team car, and another rider being punched in the face by a local racer as well. There were riders dropping out with food poisoning all over the place, no TV coverage, local riders cheating holding onto car doors & motor bikes, and nothing from the UCI?

Sounds like they should try to upgrade by copying the Tour of Turkey.

Abdu January 28, 2014 at 1:44 am

Oh, I forgot to mention he did tweet how great the after-party was. Maybe he got to stay up late too?

He will ne known from now on as Cycling Beiber.

Robbo January 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I think if no TT means that teams can save a bit of $ hauling another set of bikes around the world (or suffer the consequences of choosing to ride road bikes in that event), then it’s a positive to not add the event. I don’t think the race needs it. TT may be a traditional element of a stage race, but I’m not sure it adds to the excitement or environment that’s created around the TDU.

WorldTour riders must be pretty happy to end up in Adelaide rather than San Luis; high temps, but likely no food poisoning and fewer ‘hijinks’ (reportedly) from the local teams and riders.

Tomasz Sikorski January 27, 2014 at 11:03 pm

“It was the seconds that made him first”
A clever introduction!

I cannot see Evans or Porte winning the Giro. The podium is possible. But Quintana is already the superior, no?

Abdu January 28, 2014 at 1:32 am

Yes, Egor Silin sticks in the mind for being the Katusha rider who smacked the Sun Tour up Arthur’s Seat last time. He is on the local Cycle2max website (pre-Strava) for his time too – 7 mins 56 secs. and it was his second time up as I recall.

Richie Porte did an 8 mins 11 sec in January for a corporate event pre-nationals, etc. but anything near 8 mins is a great time. Apparently Matthew Lloyd did two consecutive 8 mins up on a ride down from Melbourne (80km’s away), but that was back when he wasn’t a squandered talent…

The Sun Tour is on in a couple of weeks, I wonder if anyone will break that time? Another interesting thing to watch is the form, last time I vividly recall Matthew Harley Goss sitting in the venga bus up the back, fat and puffing, while Gerro and others were up the front working hard. Gerro won MSR that year, while the MSR win was gathering dust back in Gossy’s cabinet and he had a very poor year.

Joe K. January 28, 2014 at 8:57 am

The TDU seems to be the successful realization of what the French aspire to do with the TdFrance: a showcase of national talent with national champions on the podium on a large international stage. Kinda makes you proud to be an Aussie (even though I’m not:) Maybe Prudhomme was there to learn a few pointers, eh?

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