The 2016 World Tour begins with the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. This is now a familiar race with habitual finish lines and known climbs but who wins is anyone’s guess given the starting slot on the calendar.
Here’s a preview of the race with stage profiles, the contenders and pretenders for stages and the GC plus TV listings and finish times.
Things begin with a 51km criterium on Sunday, the “People’s Choice Classic” it’s not part of the stage race but still a UCI race and a chance to see shiny bikes and sprint trains in action.
Stage 1: Prospect > Lyndoch, 130.8km – Tuesday
An uphill start with a King of the Mountains climb to incite a breakaway to go clear before the race heads to Lyndoch for several finishing laps. It should be a day for the sprinters and if they miss this chance they could be waiting until Sunday.
Stage 2: Unley > Stirling, 132km – Wednesday
The race leaves the Adelaide suburbs to lap around Stirling. The finish is familiar and knowledge counts here, it’s an uphill run to the line with an awkward approach that rises and falls. Timing matters here, go too early and you can be swamped and dropped. Punchy sprinter Juan-José Lobato won here the last time, before that it was the fast-finishing climber Diego Ulissi. It’s a vital finish for those hoping to win the race overall too as the time bonuses help while anyone sat on the wrong wheel could see a gap open up in front of them and the time losses quickly add up.
Stage 3: Glenelg > Campbelltown, 139km – Thursday
All the sprinters can hope for here is some racing in the legs and a sun tan. 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% before a fast descent into down and a flat finish.
Stage 4: Norwood > Victor Harbor, 138km – Friday
Another regular location, Victor Harbor has often rewarded sprinters. A couple of years ago the race split in the seaside crosswinds. This time sees a more hilly approach with the late climb of the Crows Nest Road above Port Elliot and if the wind gets up it’ll be very damaging for some GC contenders. Crows Nest is 4km at 6% but that’s with a short drop early on the climb included meaning the next 3km are solid climbing with some 10% or more sections. Anyone gapped will struggle to get back on especially if the wind is up and there’s only 20km to go. Blow here or miss the move and you could lose a minute or more, fatal for a race that’s usually decided by seconds.
Stage 5: McLaren Vale > Willunga, 151.5km, Saturday
The crucial stage of the race with Old Willunga Hill. The race tours the vineyards and the coast 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 and a wide road most of the way. As ever vineyards conjure up sybaritic images of wine-tasting but the racing cyclist knows otherwise, the low vegetation means exposed terrain where a small breeze can be enough to split things up.
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. It’s a tactical finish, being on the right wheel matters as the speed is so high, the idea is to ride the slipstream of your rival and then strike out as late as possible but before everyone else. Simon Gerrans has pounced several times on here and its one for the puncheurs.
Stage 6: Adelaide, 90km, Sunday
The traditional curtain-closer criterium with 20 laps of the 4.5km circuit with two intermediate sprints along the way. There’s the last chance for a sprinter and because the race can be so close the intermediate sprints and finish line can still decide the overall result, if not the winner then the top-10.
Time Bonuses: 10-6-4 seconds on the finish line every day and 3-2-1 at intermediate sprints
We’ve got very little to go on, even the Australian road race championships was a sleeper race with Jack Bobridge’s excellent raid neutralising all the others. But here goes…
Simon Gerrans is the prime pick. If you had to plump for a prototype winner Gerrans has it all. He can sprint fast to take time bonuses – that’s him pipping Greipel above – and he can cope well with punchy climbs, he’s excellent at sniping wins which matters in a race with set-piece moments. Plus he comes with a strong, motivated team and he’s a local, or at least an Australian. He’s won the race before too. Team mate Daryl Impey is a good back-up plan too.
Rohan Dennis won last year in part thanks to his surge in Paracombe when others were watching Cadel Evans, then Dennis marked Richie Porte on Willunga. Now Dennis will be the marked man and find it harder to slip away but he’s got the raw power and strong team. He’s in form having just won the Australian time trial title. BMC Racing team mate Richie Porte is the pedigree pick, he’s got an increasingly long list of stage race wins to his name and can race aggressively to take time bonuses. Dennis has been talking up his chances to win again but is this to create an opportunity for Porte? Of the two I prefer Porte as the lighter, more explosive rider for the climbs.
Diego Ulissi has done well here before and has good skills to position himself right for Stirling, the Corkscrew, Crows Nest and Willunga. Lampre-Merida team mate Louis Meintjes is an outsider for his climbing skills too but an infrequent winner. By contrast new signing Marko Kump is a prolific winner, at least he was last year as a big fish in small pond Euro races, his speciality is uphill finishes so worth watching even if the form is a mystery. Climber Tsgabu Grmay was 11th last year too.
Who to pick at Team Sky? Normally Geraint Thomas would be best suited and he’s come close to winning the race before but shifting goals and a busier winter means he’s spent less time training in Australia than usual in the past few years. Instead Sergio Henao could be one to watch as he’s a punchy climber who’s come from the Colombian summer. On paper Peter Kennaugh is perfect for a course like this but an unknown quantity form-wise.
Rein Taaramäe is often good for an early season win and if he doesn’t seem to like the heat, the forecast says it’ll only be 25-30°C next week instead of 40°C. He’s part of a Katusha team that includes Tiago Machado who’s cracked the top-10 before, just, in 2013 while Igor Silin is a tough climber too.
Astana always come with a strong team and L-L Sanchez has often done well in this race and forms a useful tandem with the mercurial Lieuwe Westra. Lars Boom will be interesting to watch as he’s good in explosive finishes and has been doing some cyclo-cross racing so could come sharper than usual although he’s way to bulky to feature up the Corkscrew climb.
Cameron Meyer‘s switched to Dimension Data and the one time track prodigy still has the talent to surprise and looked smooth on Willunga last year. A win seems unlikely but he could pace himself into the top-10. Nathan Haas can cope with short climbs and finishes fast, it’s hard to see him winning overall but the stage to Stirling suits if he can control himself, too goes too early too often; time it right and a spell in the ochre jersey awaits.
Another rider trying to recapture past promise is Moreno Moser and there are signs of improvement, whether the gradual pick-up last year or his speedy Strava times in South Australia right now. Cannondale also bring neo-pro Paddy Bevin who can sprint and climb while Simon Clarke is a punchy rider who can help too. Michael Woods is a good climber but the hills of South Australia could be too short for him.
Ag2r La Mondiale bring human dynamo Alexis Gougeard, you’ll remember he won a stage of the Vuelta after burning everyone off his wheel. Domenico Pozzovivo is another top-10 candidate and this year’s route has more climbing than ever but it’s hard to see him getting the better of people named above while Cyril Gautier and Christophe Riblon offer more options.
Among other outsiders there’s Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling, he’s just won a local non-UCI race in Colombia so the form is coming and he’s a versatile rider with a decent finish in a small group; but he rarely wins while team mate David Tanner is a tough climber worth watching. Lotto-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin is a classy hire who could thrive if the cultural shift of joining a Dutch team doesn’t overwhelm him; if not team mate George Bennett might be a safer pick. Tour de France stage winner Simon Geschke took his win in the Alps but is more suited to short punchy climbs. Movistar’s Ruben Fernandez made the top-10 last year and could feature again while Jesus Herrada is a versatile rider for hilly courses. Tinkoff’s Michael Valgren is a classy rider but is he aiming for something bigger later this year? Trek-Segafredo’s Julian Arredondo almost vanished from the results in 2015 after a promising 2014 season so we’ll see if he’s wintered well in warm Colombia while team mate Jack Bobridge is in great shape but can he sprint for the wins and outclimb the others? Hard on any given day and now he’ll be a marked man with the green and gold Aussie champ’s kit. Finally the sleeper candidate is Rafael Valls, he emerged in last year’s Tour of Oman to take the summit finish stage ahead of Tejay van Garderen and now with Lotto-Soudal he could feature on the climbs but this race looks too punchy for him.
|Richie Porte, Rohan Dennis
|Geraint Thomas, Diego Ulissi
|Cameron Meyer, Sergio Henao, L-L Sanchez, Daryl Impey
|Moser, Kennaugh, Taaramäe, Valls, Pantano, Kump, Haas
A quick scan of the sprinters as they’re likely to feature here too. Caleb Ewan is the local pick and the form pick and perhaps his only concern is sharing resources on Orica-Greenedge with Simon Gerrans who may also want to take time bonuses here and there. Juan-José Lobato was a stage winner last year and returns for more with Movistar. Dimension Data have a sprint train in search of a sprinter, will they put Nathan Haas, Mark Renshaw or Tyler Farrar on the pointy end? The same with Giant-Shimano who will probably count on honorary Australian Koen de Kort. Ditto Lotto-Soudal who might use Pim Ligthart.
IAM Cycling’s Matteo Pelucchi pops up to win World Tour races now and then and has the power and the kamikaze flair to do this; he’s got Leigh Howard who could win too. Team Sky have Ben Swift who’ll have to freestyle things but is used to this thanks to a track pedigree; the same for former British team mate Adam Blythe now with Tinkoff. Trek-Segafredo have Giro points jersey winner Giacomo Nizzolo and Kiel Reijnen for back-up. Wouter Wippert‘s stage win last year helped him sign with Cannondale, now he’s the house sprinter expected to deliver. Katusha’s Alexey Tsatevich can mix things in the sprints some times. Steele von Hoff has won stages before and returns with the composite UniSA team while Brenton Jones is local team Drapac’s house sprinter.
|J-J Lobato, Matteo Pelucchi, Wouter Wippert, Giacomo Nizzolo
|Howard, Blythe, de Kort, von Hoff, Kump
Forecast finish times
Stage 1 – Tuesday: 2.34pm ETA / 5.05am Euro time / 11.05pm EST in US (Monday)
Stage 2 – Wednesday: 2.33pm ETA / 5.04am Euro time / 11.04pm EST in US (Tuesday)
Stage 3 – Thursday: 2.44pm ETA / 5.15am Euro time / 11.15pm EST in US (Wednesday)
Stage 4 – Friday: 3.06pm ETA / 5.35am Euro time / 11.35pm EST in US (Thursday)
Stage 5 – Saturday: 3.02pm ETA / 5.32am Euro time / 11.32pm EST in US (Friday)
Stage 6 – Sunday: 3.30pm ETA / 5.30am Euro time / 11.30pm EST in US (Saturday)
ETA is local time in Adelaide and these are estimates supplied by the race and note the variability in case you’re getting up early or staying up late. If you think it’s a pain, remember Australians and others get this all year with the classics and grand tours.
What to watch? Rather than limiting yourself to particular stages, aim to watch a little of each. Unlike a long classic or grand tour stage all the action and tactics come very late in the race, you’ll rarely miss much if you tune into the last 10 minutes each day, Stage 4 is the exception with the Crow’s Nest climb further from the finish.
Where to watch? It’s on Australia’s Channel 9 and Gem and there’s a livestream page to watch on the web. British viewers can see it on Sky, French viewers on BeIn, Universal HD and NBC Sports in the US and more countries see the race website.