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Tour Down Under Preview

 

A look ahead to the Tour Down Under with the stages, contenders, TV coverage and more. It’s billed as the hardest edition yet but this is a matter of degree, it’s still a fine race where time bonuses often shape the final result as much as any climb.

There’s a criterium this Sunday but it’s separate from the stage race which begins on Tuesday, an exhibition event in downtown Adelaide. It’s still important as it’ll show us who is sprinting well.

Stage 1 – 150km, Tuesday 21 January: a likely sprint finish in the Barossa valley. There are five laps of a 30km circuit. The race heads for Angaston where there are two intermediate sprints at 15km and 75km and on the way out of town they climb Breakneck Hill but may not break a sweat as it’s only a short bump but the mountains jersey is on offer at 46km and 106km. The finish line is a long flat road.

  • Forecast finish time: 2.45pm ETA / 4.15am GMT / 5.15am CET / 11.15pm EST (Monday)

Stage 2 – 136km, Wednesday 22 January: the traditional Stirling stage with four laps of the hilly finishing circuit. The road rises to the line, levels out and then rises again. This is often a sprint from a reduced group and shapes the final result, any gaps between riders can count and the time bonus are precious.

  • Forecast finish time: 2.25pm ETA / 3.55am GMT / 4.55am CET / 10.55pm EST (Tuesday)

Stage 3 – 131km, Thursday 23 January: an uphill sprint into Paracombe. The race has used this finish before and each time the stage winner has taken the overall lead and kept it. The stage crosses Cudlee Creek which is one of the bushfire damaged areas. The approach to the final climb is crucial, the twisting Gorge Road will see teams scrapping to place their leader near the front for the final climb. Torrens Hill is 1.2km at 9%, a sharp effort and then there’s a flat section just before the line.

  • Forecast finish time: 2.25pm ETA / 3.55am GMT / 4.55am CET / 10.55pm EST (Wednesday)

Stage 4 – 153km, Friday 21 January: a likely sprint finish but watch out in case the wind gets up as the road from Mount Torrens onwards is exposed as it runs along ridgelines. The finish in Murray Bridge has its technical moments with a left turn onto a road that rises and falls and then there’s a sharp right turn with 300m to go.

  • Forecast finish time: 3.10pm ETA / 4.40am GMT / 5.40am CET / 11.40pm EST (Thursday)

Stage 5 – 149km, Saturday 25 January: a probable sprint finish but in 2016 the climb up Brown Hill/Crow’s Nest Road and the run to the finish saw the race split. The finish in town is flat with a right hand bend with 700m to go, a left bend with 600m to go before the finishing straight.

  • Forecast finish time: 2.45pm ETA / 4.15am GMT / 5.15am CET / 11.15pm EST (Friday)

Stage 6 – 152km, Sunday 26 January: the classic Willunga stage, laps of the vineyards before climbing Old Willunga hill twice, once to roll through the finish line, the second time for the end. Willunga Hill is the key, it’s 3km at an average if 7.5%, a steady gradient and a wide road most of the way and exposed if there’s any wind too. 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. Forecast finish time: 2.25pm ETA / 3.55am GMT / 4.55am CET / 10.55pm EST (Saturday).

Time bonuses: 10-6-4 seconds at the finish line and 3-2-1 seconds at the intermediate sprints.

Open for business: You’ll have seen the wildfires on the news but the state of South Australia has been relatively spared. The course does cross some areas ravaged by a fire but it’s been extinguished. If you’ve tuned in for the race before you’ll have spotted the way the TV coverages switches from race coverage to advertorials promoting local places as a tourist attraction. It’s this “open for business” and “come and visit” message that the race wants to get across in an normal year, and even more so at the moment. As long as emergency services aren’t too pressured the race will go on, the women’s Tour Down Under is taking place as normal. There are still serious ongoing fires on nearby Kangaroo island and air quality could be a problem if the wind blows from the west but for now it’s fine.

Embed from Getty Images

The Contenders
This is a delicate race, the road-going version of a track points race where tiny gains early such as an intermediate time bonus can make all the difference. With no time trial nor a big summit finish the race is often very close, no more than in 2018 Daryl Impey was tied for time with Richie Porte but won on countback, he’d placed higher across all the stages than Porte. In the past decade there’s been an average of 41 seconds between first overall and tenth on GC. This year’s route apes 2015 and 2017 because of the Paracombe finish, to call it a summit finish is too much but the finish does open up time gaps and could shape the race result as much as Willunga.

Mitchelton-Scott are the home team and bring a very strong squad. Daryl Impey has won the last two editions of the race. While others were enjoying their off-season in October, Impey was back in training to try and win his third edition. He can contest bunch sprints, he’s punchy for the hilly finishes and can hold the pace on Willunga. But aged 35 things won’t be getting any easier and the Paracombe finish is harder for him. Cameron Meyer is the new Aussie champion and won the race back in 2011 and is another rider made for this race, he’s got quick finish and can climb Willunga with the best but his career wins on the road are small. Lucas Hamilton had a great time at the Aussie championships and is one to watch on the climbs but he probably won’t be hustling for time bonuses. Mitchelton-Scott also bring Simon Yates, his form is unknown and he could be working in the hope others repay him later this year but has been out in Australia for some time.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) is about to turn 35 as well. He’s won on Willunga every year since 2014 but has only won the race overall once in 2017. Just repeating the Willunga win would be a solid start to the season. His problem is the other stages, he’s not going to be taking time bonuses in the sprints so he needs a strong punch in Paracombe and then a repeat on Willunga again. As much as he’s a fixture here the form now is unknown after a tricky 2019, he hasn’t raced the Aussie nationals.

Rohan Dennis (Team Ineos) has won here before, he won in Paracombe (pictured) and can handle a climb like Willunga very easily, remember only he could match Egan Bernal on the mighty Furkapass in the Tour de Suisse. Pavel Sivakov and Dylan van Baarle bring support for the overall.

Nathan Haas (Cofidis) could feature but how to win? He’s quick in some sprints and looks to be in good form after the nationals. George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) climbs fast and is both a precious helper and an ambitious rider and team mate Chris Harper one to watch this season. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) starts his alternative season – he’s riding the Giro, not the Tour – here. He could feature on Paracombe and Willunga but says he’s coming for experience rather than podiums; his team mate Andrea Vendrame could be more suited but his form’s unknown.

Astana bring L-L Sanchez who is often a fixture in this race – he won it in 2005 – but more recently tends to place than win while Omar Fraile is punchy. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) has often done will in this race but how to win? The same for Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe). Ben Hermans (Israel) is strong on these climbs, Rob Power and Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) could make the top-10, Neilson Powless (EF Education First) is strong but a World Tour win, even here, seems a big ask.

Finally a sprinter could still win as long as they can ace several stages. Win three and they harvest thirty seconds of time bonuses which might do the trick if they can limit their losses on Paracombe and Willunga. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is perhaps the best climber of all but it’s hard to see him winning all the time when Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Elia Viviani (Cofidis) are in the field.

Ritchie Porte, Rohan Dennis
Daryl Impey
Simon Yates
Cameron Meyer, Nathan Haas, George Bennett
Ulissi, McCarthy, Power, L Hamilton,

 

Weather: the long range forecast says it’ll be mild, a top temperature of 27°C and the chance of rain.

TV: it’s live on Channel 7 in Australia and on the Tour Down Under but probably geo-restricted. It’s live on a range of channels outside of Australia, Youtube channel GCN is showing it but it may be restricted if another broadcaster has the rights in your home country, see the Tour Down Under broadcast page for more. The forecast finish times above are just that and the peloton can run early or late but such is the Tour Down Under than you can usually tune in for the final 15 minutes of each stage and not miss anything significant.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Luke from Bendigo Saturday, 18 January 2020, 10:59 am

    Delighted to be visiting Adelaide again this January – the town puts on a great show for the race. Staying in Glenelg which is an awesome beachside suburb with plenty of things to do for both kids and adults.

    Curious to see how Cam Meyer goes this week. Awesome form to boss the competition at the hilly Buninyong champs last week, he let out an almighty roar of delight (louder than the whole crowd combined!) when crossing the line first to claim the National Jersey. I’d love to see the jersey competing for glory but overshadowed by Yates and Impey in his team.

    Also can’t wait to see Chris Harper in action. Cracking national TT performance but not a real chance in the nationals without any teammates.

    Thanks for the preview – can’t wait to see the first WT race of the year in person!

  • Ecky Thump Saturday, 18 January 2020, 2:08 pm

    Great to see the race going ahead and best wishes to all in Australia.
    Regards the fires, I read an article where the outline of Australia was transposed onto a map of Europe and the sheer scale of the disaster was brought into sharper focus for me.
    We’ve seen DQS pledge to go carbon neutral (Microsoft too in recent days) and this is an approach that everyone has to undertake now.
    The TdF has a huge carbon footprint for instance and bringing the WT around the planet to Australia has to be addressed too. Otherwise, without such a change, it risks looking like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burns.
    Sorry to post about the fires at some length.

    • MJMC Saturday, 18 January 2020, 4:02 pm

      A genuine question about carbon footprint – I understand there is a big footprint involved in getting riders/teams to OZ but I thought this might be offset by how the TDU is staged, with no transfers and stages starting and finishing close to Adelaide.

      Any thoughts on this and also if there are any carbon footprint lessons (good or bad) that can be learnt from the TDU or other races around the world…

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 19 January 2020, 1:08 pm

        Flying out the peloton and all the bikes, tools etc will add up. It’s something parts of the sport are concious of and we’re beginning to see responses like Deceuninck-Quickstep, the Tour de France is looking at electric or hybrid vehicles for the publicity caravan etc but it’s small steps. The big question is how much does the sport encourage people to get cycling, does it make cycling look cool to people or does the peloton make cycling look complicated, hard etc? It’s probably a mix of both.

    • Kevin K Saturday, 18 January 2020, 8:44 pm

      There have been several articles about how misleading those Australia fire maps are. A quick Google search will bring up a few. Not that the fires aren’t horrible, but they aren’t the armageddon that some are making them out to be. If you’ve been watching the women’s race, you’ll see that as Inring pointed out, this area of Australia has done fairly well. And right now the temps haven’t been too bad at all.

      On that note, the Women’s Tour Down Under has been fantastic! I’ve managed to watch all three stages so far with a few hours delay, and both the racing, and the coverage, has been top notch. Incredibly close, lots of drama, lots of top notch riding. Here’s hoping Ruth Winder holds on tomorrow, and that the men’s race is as good.

      • Luke from Bendigo Saturday, 18 January 2020, 10:55 pm

        I don’t mean to underplay the traumatic losses of life, property or wildlife, but note that 99% of Australia has *not* been burned. Overlaying with a European example, 1% of England’s land area is the same size a half a Luxembourg. So there’s still plenty of Australia to enjoy – come and visit!

        As noted by MJMC above, the TDU is lower carbon footprint due to no transfers. It also contributes to a cycling culture in this country that promotes bike riding – a very green form of transportation.

        And back on the cycling, I can’t wait for the sprint battles, starting with tonight’s crit stage!

        • DaveRides Sunday, 19 January 2020, 7:33 am

          All the stages are going ahead as planned, in fact the women’s race has already passed through some of the areas affected by the Cudlee Creek Fire on two separate days. Only if a new emergency starts in the area will anything need to be changed, and the weather for the next week doesn’t look like it will go that way.

          The men’s race will have stage 2 start at Woodside (a town heroically defended by the CFS) with a local circuit, will pass through the area on stage 3, and will pass along the northern edge of the affected area (plus through the area burned in the 2015 Sampson Flat Fire) on stage 4.

          There was consultation with local community leaders on this issue, with an overwhelming response of wanting everything to go ahead as planned. It will be a big boost for the local economy immediately, and also a great advertisement to the world that the Adelaide Hills communities are strong, resilient and open for business.

      • Terrey Hill Sunday, 19 January 2020, 10:57 am

        It may not be Armageddon, but 12 million hectares burnt this fire season already, dozens of human lives lost and up to a billion animals, as well as 1,700 homes lost in NSW alone, is a little more than horrible, I’d say. And ask my wife, who has just returned from volunteering in southern NSW for the charity BlazeAid, who help reconstruction in the rural and farming communities that have been absolutely devastated. Even my simple road trip from Sydney to Canberra this weekend reveals the scope of the devastation, both by fire and drought. And not to mention the weeks of poor air quality me and my young family have been breathing in Sydney. Perhaps I’m being unfair in my criticism, but anyone who seeks to minimise the events of the past few weeks needs to their head out of the sand. Just talk to your local RFS volunteer.

        • Terrey Hill Sunday, 19 January 2020, 11:07 am

          “get their” (edit)
          I agree, though, that the race should go on – any fire-affected community that relies on tourism dollars needs every cent it can get at the moment.

        • Kevin K Sunday, 19 January 2020, 12:29 pm

          I wasn’t minimizing it at all. My comment was to Ecky T that those maps superimposing Australia over Europe or the US, with massive portions of Australia shown to be on fire, have been called out as being misleading and sometimes fraudulent. And many of the people calling them out are in Australia, with the point that grossly exaggerating the fires is not helpful.

          • The Inner Ring Sunday, 19 January 2020, 1:25 pm

            Bushfires are a part of life in Australia, eg some plants have evolved with seeds that only germinate after a fire. But the scale of the fires and the damage seems unprecedented this time, there’s been a long drought before too which has kept things bone dry. Staying with the sport – which doesn’t matter as much but it’s this blog’s subject – the TDU is trying to contribute with fundraising and publicity initiatives. We’ll see how the Herald Sun Tour works in Victoria as the state has been under a lot more pressure and even if the route ends up being away from the fire, can they use the police to close roads when they might be needed elsewhere, can the road be blocked by the race when it might be needed any minute by a fire truck etc?

  • Lukyluk Sunday, 19 January 2020, 8:06 am

    As happy I am to see a WT race in Australia (my country of adoption for a few years now) the Tour Down Under has always struck me as a strange addition to the calendar. Australia takes sports very, *very* seriously and enthusiastically, but road cycling really isn’t understood here. The only place where you’d expect to have a decent cycling scene would be around Melbourne, yet the race is all the way in Adelaide… To make matters worse, despite absolutely stunning landscapes and typically sunny weather, I never found the place to be particularly friendly to leisure cycling either : bad tarmac, very slippery roads, and very unfriendly drivers (at least where I live, in northern NSW).

    Also, there needs to be a limit to advertising and naming rights for those competitions. Cycling was never subtle in that regard, and I’m well aware that the sport needs the cash, not pushing for “purity” here, but going to the official TDU website is enough to make your eyes bleed – there’s a sponsor name in virtually every hyperlink on their home page.

    • webbovich Sunday, 19 January 2020, 11:40 am

      Have you been to the race Lukyluk? What you write does not fit with my experience when living there, or when visiting.
      Of all the major cities in Australia, Adelaide may well have the best terrain for cycling.
      Your comments did align with my NSW experiences though!

      • Lukyluk Sunday, 19 January 2020, 1:16 pm

        Haven’t been to the race, unfortunately, but my wife hails from there and I fly there on occasions, tried cycling several times around Adelaide and around the Barossa & McLaren Vale, as well as Kangaroo Island. I always left feeling that the place could be an absolutely amazing venue for cycling, but isn’t, because of the reasons above.

        I’ll admit my experience is limited though, so it might just be bad luck or wrong advice. Also I’m not a local by any stretch, and someone who knows his way around might have a much better time than I did.

        I’ll stress I meant no offense to the region, which I love for so many other reasons, and even less to people living there.

  • Richard S Sunday, 19 January 2020, 10:15 am

    The TDU is kind of like what the Vuelta used to be like – only targeted by native riders. It’s these sort of races that really water down the ‘World Tour’ label. For the vast majority of riders this is a pre season friendly.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 19 January 2020, 1:18 pm

      Less so today, it’s been an expenses-paid training camp and holiday before but now if some are using it for training, it’s the same as others using any other race for training. You only have to see the crashes etc as a pointer to the pressure and in the coming days I’ll revisit the UCI points system but you get as many points for winning Down Under as you do for Paris-Nice, the Tour de Suisse and placing a discreet 6th overall is worth the same as 10th in the Tour de France, a stage Down Under gives you more points than one in the Tour of the Basque Country. So riders and teams know it’s a big deal and it’s a clever place to collect precious points. Cycling is a conservative sport and many still have their “the season doesn’t start until Omloop/Paris-Nice etc” habits though.

    • Larry T Monday, 20 January 2020, 7:35 am

      +1

      • Larry T Monday, 20 January 2020, 7:36 am

        Ooops! +1 for Richard S’ comment, sorry.

    • Paul Monday, 20 January 2020, 10:39 am

      Ironic that you say the most successful race outside of Europe is ‘watering down’ the Worldtour. No one is saying the TDU needs to be treated as seriously as a grand tour. Perhaps a better analogy would be a WC qualifier.

      • Larry T Monday, 20 January 2020, 12:36 pm

        I won’t speak for Richard S, but awarding the same number of WT points for a win at the “Vacation down Under” vs one of cycling’s 5 Monuments is just…..wrong.

        • Paul Monday, 20 January 2020, 1:12 pm

          I mostly agree, but that’s an issue of points allocation for one week races rather than the quality of the TDU.

          • Larry T Monday, 20 January 2020, 5:28 pm

            IMHO riding around for a week in OZ in January is simply not comparable to ANY of the 5 monuments. After more than 2 decades only two TdU winners also have a Monument win, while none of them have even a single GT victory. Before I get the fauxtrage about dissing the race – my point is not that TdU is worthless, a win there just doesn’t deserve the same points as winning a Monument.

    • CA Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 12:01 am

      Look, you might have a field made up mostly of Aussie’s, but many of them are absolutely flying right now so it’s a solid race for anyone who made the trip.

      Now, with that being said, obviously it’s early (although Larry T is commenting so this definitely must be a real race!) and why would anyone comment that this isn’t as big as a Monument… haha… no non-Monuments are as big as a Monument, that’s why Monuments are called Monuments! Even 100 year-old races that aren’t Monuments aren’t comparable to Monuments.

      This is a solid pre-season race, a great way to visit Australia and I’m pumped for the racing to start! Thanks Inrng for the preview and I’m so glad the new decade of racing has started!

      • Richard S Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 12:00 pm

        Well yeah, it is a solid pre-season race. Just like Liverpool playing Juventus in Los Angeles in July is a solid pre-season workout. But nobody cares about the result. I’m sure its a nice day out for local fans, and the Aussies are well up for it at this time of year, but that’s about all you can say. It kind of has the feeling of one of those post-tour crits when the local rider (Porte) is allowed to win in front of his family and friends. Its along way above the Tour of Saudi Arabia or wherever they’ll be going next I suppose.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 2:52 pm

        Gotcha! I wasn’t going to comment on TdU at all based on my “real race” ideas but I was too tempted by Richard S’ comment.
        I put TdU in the same category as the now-defunct Tour of California or the old Coors Classic – nothing wrong with any of ’em (especially if they’re in your neighborhood) but as Richard S says, “nobody cares about the result” and IMHO the winners don’t deserve the same WT points that the winners of MSR, P-R, LBL, The Ronde or Il Lombardia receive. That’s just wrong.

      • CA Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 5:05 pm

        LOL – I do absolutely agree that the WT point schedule is bananas! 100% races at the third tier (Tour of Cali, Aussie, Poland, most of the 1-week races other than Paris-Nice, and a few other) need much different point schemes – significantly lower.

        Anyways, with that being said, the result absolutely matters! QS clearly went all in for the win and judging by the quality of sprinters on hand no one can argue this wasn’t a big race.

        In my judgement of the racing season, a win on this level counts as a win. And that’s what matters. Did the Bay Crit the other night count in my books for 2020’s win tally? NOPE, people were on steel bikes for crying out loud, but TDU stage wins count. Nobody gifted the stage to QS today, they went all in and brought riders in solid form.

        • Larry T Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 2:34 pm

          Your “NOPE, people were on steel bikes for crying out loud,” cracked me up! 🙂
          How did anyone ever make it around the block before bikes were made from carbon fiber?
          The same way they played tennis with a wooden racket or flew planes with propellers.
          How long before someone writes, “NOPE, people were on carbon fiber bikes for crying out loud”?
          Thank gawd you still have to pedal ’em!!

  • cp Sunday, 19 January 2020, 8:45 pm

    small question: does the exhibition criterium “count” as an official pro victory in any way? toward standings, etc., or for team bragging rights?

    • RayG Monday, 20 January 2020, 12:14 am

      It’s on the UCI calendar with a class of CRT. No idea how many points that provides.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 20 January 2020, 1:11 am

        No points (to cut a long story short lots of pros used to ride criteriums and other similar races and today the UCI has managed to get all these races on their calendar, even the, ahem, fixed ones) but the position on the calendar as the first men’s race of the year and it being on TV makes it a point of interest and pride, it’s an early test for sprinters and their leadouts.

    • DaveRides Monday, 20 January 2020, 1:30 am

      No world ranking points for the criterium.

      With the TDU itself being less of a sprinters race than it has been in the past, the big benefit of the criterium is that teams with sprint trains can get the band together and put in their first ride of the year in competitive conditions.

      Non-sprint teams can benefit too, it provides an easy opportunity to get some good photos of the team’s new colours in action with a good background of big crowds along the course.

  • Sam Monday, 20 January 2020, 5:45 am

    Ewans sprint last night made an impression, especially after spending the whole race tail-gunning. I think it’s fair to say that he’s the man to beat for the sprint stages.

  • noel Monday, 20 January 2020, 6:45 pm

    I wonder if Porte has figured out yet that being razor sharp up Willunga in Jan isn’t helping his TdF chances… someone give the youngster a nudge please….

    • CA Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 12:05 am

      He could soft pedal up Willunga and it wouldn’t change his TdF chances (he’s never had a chance to win TdF – just purely doesn’t have the legs for it). Honestly, you need to let riders win whatever races they want to win because it adds to their legacy. Some riders ceiling is to win 1-week races plus Willunga each year, others is to win the Tour, others (me) rides to work really fast… we all have our niche.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 8:34 am

        And some of us just wanna have fun 🙂

  • Matt F Friday, 24 January 2020, 7:52 am

    Thanks for the summary Inrng. It’s a shame that a number of obviously Northern Hemisphere based commenters feel the need to denigrate the race. Their loss.

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