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A Safe Format

The Tour Down Under is done and feels like watching a repeat with the identical venues, the same cast and a familiar story. View it as prologue to the season ahead and it’s a successful format.

It’s first and foremost a race and a delicate one. Intermediate sprints and finish line time bonuses make all the difference, in fact “countback” – where riders tied on time for the overall classification get ranked based on their cumulative stage placings during the race – is frequent separator, it’s been needed to pick the winner in recent years and this year’s edition saw four riders tied for time behind Richie Porte but Diego Ulissi finished second overall and Dylan van Baarle fifth because of their placings during the week. As such every stage counts making it a subtle race where a sprint stage is as important for the overall contenders as it is for the sprinters.

You could spend longer pouring over the results sheet than you do watching the TV coverage. You rarely need to tune in for more than the final ten minutes each day, ideal for Europeans who can set the alarm clock, watch ten minutes and go back to bed untroubled by any adrenalin rush and you can count on one hand the number of times a breakaway has thwarted the sprinters during the last ten years. It’s perhaps not the best advert of the sport to Australians who tune in on the mainstream Channel 7 although they’ll cheer the home success from the likes of Caleb Ewan and Richie Porte.

It’s all very familiar, the same towns, the same roads and the same results. This year had a twist, after six years of winning the Willunga stage, Richie Porte finished… second. Lotto-Soudal’s Matt Holmes went in the breakaway and had the energy to latch onto Porte’s wheel as he came past on Willunga and sprinted for the stage win, looking as surprised as the rest of us when interviewed on TV. Porte still finished second and won the race overall again.

Should the race preserve the subtle format? Or are these microscopic differences proof that there’s not much of a race, certainly there’s not enough to tease the riders apart? It’s the World Tour but one of the rare few top stage races without a time trial stage, something Richie Porte is calling for; the Volta a Catalunya doesn’t but has big ski station summit finishes instead. There are good arguments not to have a TT. All the bikes are freighted to Adelaide and flying out 120 TT bikes just for a 10-15 minute stage is a big ask. They could have a time trial on road bikes but for a sport reliant on promoting bike manufacturers it is not a good look if half the peloton clip on tri bars and ride almost as fast. The sporting aspect matters, hold a time trial and the field would given an instant hierarchy, you could lose the tension the close finishes provide.

The same roads even if the environment was different in places

The format isn’t fixed. It was not long ago it was an expenses-paid training camp and shiraz tasting club for a share of the peloton and a set of sprint stages. Today’s it’s hard fought and has sought out more climbs but this is relative, André Greipel isn’t winning the GC any more but it’s predictable. So what we see today isn’t fixed although geography and economics impose conditions. It’d be a long transfer to find more mountainous routes which defeats the hub and spoke model of the race, and a far away finish might not be able to pay much in hosting rights. The Willunga hill finish for the final stage works but in part because Porte has the jump to attack and get away, the day he’s not racing any more is the day this finish might be less exciting and we go back to a race of small differences.

It might feel like the prologue to the season but it’s valuable. The UCI helps: win and you get 500 UCI points, the same as Paris-Nice, the Tour de Suisse or a Monument classic. As such this tempts teams to Adelaide with points on their mind. But this only goes so far, send a rider or two in peak condition and you only get one shot because the next big points scorer, the UAE Tour, is a month away so a rider in peak form today risk turning stale by then. The solution sounds like moving Down Under a couple of weeks later? Only the race really doesn’t want to move (so it won’t) and if it did then lots of other races would be done long before the World Tour calendar starts which is an odd look.

Conclusion
As a season opener the Tour Down Under works, a chance to see team kits and bikes in summer sunshine. It’s come a long way in recent years with the Willunga “summit” finish now the final stage to promote suspense. For all the improvements it still feels formulaic and you only need watch the final few minutes of all six stages. Cycling races can often be like this but not every day, every year. Fixing this isn’t easy, there’s no giant mountain pass in range… and if there was Richie Porte would have won anyway although there’d be no challenge from Daryl Impey. The terrain and format make for a subtle race that’s for connoisseurs and commissaires alike.

  • Photo credits: Chris Auld photo courtesy of the Tour Down Under

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Larry T Monday, 27 January 2020, 3:50 pm

    “They could have a time trial on road bikes but for a sport reliant on promoting bike manufacturers it is not a good look if half the peloton clip on tri bars and ride almost as fast.”
    Thank gawd someone’s looking out for the beleaguered time-trial bicycle industry!!
    Don’t some of the “sandbox races” have chrono stages using standard road bikes without causing economic doom to those who make and sell these goofy chrono-specific contraptions? Couldn’t we leave those to the tri-jocks?

    • TDog Monday, 27 January 2020, 5:40 pm

      “They could have a time trial on road bikes but for a sport reliant on promoting bike manufacturers it is not a good look if half the peloton clip on tri bars and ride almost as fast.”

      I thought this sentence was subtly incisive and scathing. Interesting and well crafted.

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 1:49 am

      I believe there have been times where there has been a gentleman’s agreement to only use road bikes in a TT stage, but there isn’t any rule which can make it mandatory.

      I have suggested numerous times that this is an issue where the race organisers should have control. Introduce a real rule that could allow a stage race organiser to declare before the race (at least 60 days before the race, i.e. before the stage of teams formally being invited to enter under the regulations) that each rider must complete all the stages on the same model frame, except if they use a neutral service bike is used.

      If all the riders are using road bikes for the TT stage and there’s a real rule to prevent one team breaking ranks to buy the win by bringing in TT bikes, it won’t be possible to make any comparison between the TT bikes and the road bikes.

      There is a recent precedent for trialling sporting rules in WT-level races (the three second rule on sprint stages, first trialled at the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de France before being generally adopted) so I would suggest that the context of the TDU would be the ideal time to trial this rule and review its application before opening it to all race organisers.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 9:10 am

        That would be interesting! Choose your weapon – a “climbing” bike: light or an “aero” bike: fast, and then bolt on the geek bars and a disc wheel for the chrono? I’d rather have the geek bars and disc wheel banned as well but your idea would be an interesting experiment, one that some organizer somewhere should try out.

      • Koon Friday, 31 January 2020, 6:52 am

        This is basically how Vuelta a San Juan runs. They don’t allow TT bike.

        And the TT bike industry, while niche, has its own local grassroot community with strong commitment. See the British TT scene. People take this seriously and it’s a very fun series of event to participate. Yes the fastest guy will almost always optimise for every single watts but its very often you see people turning up at your local tt event with a standard road bike. After all time trialling is very much beating your own record as much as beating the other fast guy.

        • DaveRides Friday, 31 January 2020, 3:37 pm

          My understanding is that it’s a gentlemen’s agreement and there isn’t any regulation that can be enforced if a team wants to bring their TT bikes to San Juan. So long as it remains a lower level race, the transport costs involved mean that it’s unlikely that any team will want to break ranks and bring their TT bikes with them.

          Mike Turtur has said previously that he would not take the TDU down the path of a TT with race bikes until it could be done properly with real regulations. High quality organisation of the race is how the TDU earned its place in the cycling world, the race can’t afford to throw that away and start doing things by halves.

  • cd Monday, 27 January 2020, 3:58 pm

    They need to mix it up a bit. I never tune in. Maybe a TT up Willunga and then down the other side and up something else. Have it same day as a crit maybe. Find some gravel? A points race like Velon does? Something, please.

    • not yoda Monday, 27 January 2020, 4:12 pm

      Thanks timely commentary given the changing of the guard at the Race Director position after more than 20 years. It has been hinted that Stuart O’Grady will have his own twist.

    • CA Monday, 27 January 2020, 5:14 pm

      Stuart O is going to be the next director of the race? That’s interesting.

      I like this race for what it is, a chance for in form aussie’s to burn off some steam after nationals. Why not add a Kiwi or Asian race afterwards (could be pro-conti) afterwards?

  • Morten Reippuert Monday, 27 January 2020, 6:39 pm

    500 pt. is a joke. No one on the euro scene relly cares about an extended kermesse on the other side of earth.

    • Larry T Monday, 27 January 2020, 7:53 pm

      +1 My only real issue with this event. Warm-up, preseason, kermesse, whatever-you-wish to call it, it’s all OK with me until you give Richie Porte the same number of points for this win as the winner of one of the 5 Monuments. As they like to say here in Italy: PAZZESCO!!

      • RQS Wednesday, 29 January 2020, 7:36 am

        And when you put it like that you start to realise why Porte is so heavily valued in the transfer market. Bankable points despite being race ineffective the rest of the season.

    • CA Monday, 27 January 2020, 8:30 pm

      I don’t care what part of the planet the race is on… but I agree, a stage race in January should never be worth as much as a monument.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 8:35 am

      The TDU is primarily a tourism event that takes place during Australia’s long school summer holidays. The format (hub and spoke) and date are pretty much immutable. If old school Euro diehards, such as yourself, don’t care for the racing, then don’t follow it. For those of us that make an annual pilgrimage to the area to enjoy the first class road, gravel and MTB riding on offer, combined with some race viewing and first class food, wine and hospitality, we care deeply about it.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 9:02 am

        But the points system is still ludicrous. This race is not worth the same as a monument, or Paris-Nice.

        • Eskerrik Asko Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 11:26 am

          But why should we, as cycling fans or spectators, care an iota about the points system? If you pardon the expression, there should be a similar set of rules for those who follow road cycing as the Velominati have written for those who ride road bikes. “Do not pay any attention to how many points are awarded!” should be among the first. If you know how many points the winner gets, it only means you’re a nerd and if you compare the number of points awarded in different races and proceed to voice your opinions at every opportunity, you’re just like the slow guy in full pro team kit and a high-end bike.

          The only point and purpose of the points system is to motivate the teams to send stronger teams and riders who are there to race and to collect as many points as possible (and not just to train for the more important races) – and this is very much a good thing because it improves the level of the racing and broadens the map for the sport.

          Whereas Monument win would still be a Monument win even if the winner was awarded 200 points less than the TDU winner…and teams and riders would still plan their seasons accordingly…

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 11:40 am

            I tend to ignore the rankings – comparing stage racers to sprinters is near meaningless – but the points system is influential at times for teams, for example had Boasson Hagen not won a stage of the Dauphiné last year Dimension Data/NTT would have been relegated and Nizzolo would not have won a stage in the TDU this year because they wouldn’t be riding it.

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 12:09 pm

            I don’t care about the points, but they do decide relegation, and it would seem pretty unjust if a team were to be relegated on the basis that another team had placed one better in the TDU than they had in the Ronde.

          • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:38 pm

            The question needs to be asked though – what is the purpose of the points ranking?

            I would suggest that it is not ever anything to do with having a season-long championship, because that’s an irrelevance in road cycling. If a team tops the ranking but does so without winning a grand tour or monument (as Movistar has done a couple of times) they get treated with derision!

            I would suggest that it has been a very deliberate decision by the UCI to give some of the races outside Europe higher points scores than they would if the rankings were to be used purely for a merit-based season championship, as a method of providing some reward for the teams which put in an effort at the events outside Europe.

            It’s not just the TDU that this applies to. The two kermesses in Canada are as well.

            The same goes for awarding teams the points earned by riders racing for their national teams, it’s a method of giving the teams something in return for releasing their riders to compete for their nation and supporting their training for World/Olympic events.

            A similar parallel exists in the motorsport world, where the 24 Hours of Le Mans carries only twice the number of World Endurance Championship points as a 4-6 hour race, as a way of rewarding the teams which commit to the whole championship instead of just turning up for Le Mans.

        • plurien Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 11:32 am

          This is merely a criticism of the UCI. Nothing to do with the organiser who’s consistently produced a top drawer event with excellent TV coverage for us to enjoy. Chapeau, and good luck to O’Grady.

          • Nick Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 12:33 pm

            @inrng: NTT might have ridden the TdU. Any WT team that gets relegated on sporting grounds is entitled to invitations to WT races the following season, under rule 2.15.193.

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 12:34 pm

            You’re right Nick, had forgotten that.

          • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:59 pm

            And there was also the theoretical possibility that Total Direct Energie might decide to accept their automatic invite to the TDU as the #1 ProTeam.

            With some of the manoeuvring going on in the Australian petrol supply world, there’s a slim possibility that Total could return as a public brand here and Bernaudeau might be told to turn up and support the brand.

            From a purely cycling perspective though, I doubt that Bernaudeau will want to come here again after how things went for them last time they came here under the Europcar name. On their first ride after arriving, Thomas Voeckler rode into the back of a stationary car and broke his collarbone – allegedly as result of being distracted by a girl in a bikini!

    • Anonymous Wednesday, 29 January 2020, 3:53 am

      People outside the euro scene don’t really care what the euro scene thinks. If they did you wouldn’t have half the peloton from outside Europe, riding bikes and components that aren’t from Europe and races dominated by teams domiciled outside of Europe. Yes, the best races are clearly still in Europe but the vast majority of the progress in this sport in the past 30-40 years has not been made by Europeans. Long live the TdU and good luck to the euro scene with their Etoile Besseges! What a cracker.

  • SilverSurfer8 Monday, 27 January 2020, 7:58 pm

    It does feel a bit predictable, GC-wise. I think the fault lies less with the race organizers and more with the teams. Richie has said this race is very important to him, so he shows up ready to win. Everyone else, not so much. If more teams brought riders serious about winning it, things would be more interesting.

    Sure, they could change things up. Adding a time trial could easily work. Not allowing bar extensions would address the ‘fear of losing time trial bike sales’ issue. Who even buys those bikes?

    Throwing in a gravel stage would be fun. Gravel is so hot right now.

    A little change here and there would help. Let’s see what Stuart comes up with!

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 1:54 am

      A gravel sector (after crossing the Myponga Reservoir dam wall) was included back in about 2000 or 2001, way ahead of its time and way ahead of even Strade Bianche.

      There are some great gravel roads around the Willunga area that could be used to mix up the stage held in that area. It’s a great tourism district and the local council has supported the race very well so it deserves a stage, but there’s no need to keep the stage exactly the same.

  • Digahole Monday, 27 January 2020, 8:05 pm

    It was oh so close to some crosswind action this year which would have livened things up, but no such luck.

    I’ve always thought a stage race on the south coast of NSW would be great. Beautiful scenery (although not at the moment sadly) and loads of 300 – 500m altitude climbs that would allow a race something like the Tour of the Basque country.

  • SYH Monday, 27 January 2020, 8:24 pm

    It’s pretty much just an excuse for me to look at the pretty new team kits and bikes. Plus the coverage starts at 6PM on the US west coast, which is nice.

    the Volta a Catalunya has Montjuic Park which is always a fun city circuit – it doesn’t have to be a city course (are there any non-flat cities in Australia) but a more classics-like rolling circuit than Willunga could add some spice to an otherwise predictable tour.

  • CA Monday, 27 January 2020, 10:16 pm

    Regarding the competitiveness of the race and spicing up the GC picture, honestly there isn’t much to do. As it stands Porte seems to be the only GC rider who is willing to accelerate his form peaks for January 15 each year in order to win it. We will see what happens when Porte is a little older.

    Sometimes the best change is no change and let things progress naturally.

    But, for crying out loud, reduce the points on hand!

    • Gabriel Monday, 27 January 2020, 11:19 pm

      Little older? Like 50?

  • Joe K. Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 8:02 am

    With so much land mass and variety in terrains throughout Australia (and New Zealand even) would like to see more of a mixed bag of course variations for the stages. If so, then even an extended two-week version could prove to be fine viewing for this “pre-season” opener. But for now, feels like going to bed with the old Mrs. in a 20 year marriage–gets the job done but no more hidden surprises!

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 8:56 am

    They need to change things or they’re going to lose what international viewers they have.
    And Porte should have realised many years ago (it perhaps no longer matters for him) that to be in peak form for grand tours you shouldn’t be winning races in January.

    • Digahole Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 9:26 am

      I really don’t like the lazy and repeated arguments about Porte’s TDU vs TDF form.

      2016: He won on Willunga, placed 3rd on GC at Paris-Nice, 4th at the Dauphine and 5th at the Tour after shredding the peleton in service of the winner for most of the race
      2017: He won on Willunga, won Romandie, 2nd at the Dauphine then cartwheeled into a rock wall at the Tour

      A lot of people seem to dislike Porte and that’s fair enough, sport is all about characters and how we relate (or don’t) to them, but winning on Willunga was an excellent preparation for him just 3 and 4 ago so the argument that it’s bad prep for him to peak in July is clearly wrong.

      • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 9:36 am

        I’d agree with that, Porte is very good at 10-30 minute uphill efforts but being consistent across three weeks is still his big challenge. But being so good for the TDU has probably hampered him in the Vuelta which he’s tried but has come after a very long season for him.

        • Adam Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 10:55 am

          Have always thought the Vuelta is the GT that suits Porte most. Perhaps he isn’t interested in it, or is burnt out by then, but it’s a shame he seems destined to never win a GT.

          • TourdeUtah Monday, 3 February 2020, 11:47 pm

            More often than not, RP has seen his seaason end with injury before the TdF finishes.

        • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:52 pm

          It’s an impossible question to answer, because there’s no way to tell if Porte is “so good for the TDU” or if he is still treating it as the season opening shakedown and just going slightly better than some of the other guys.

          If you look at the list of riders who have beaten him on GC over the 5 times he won at Willunga Hill

          Once we have hypersonic transport, it will be possible to have a <1 hour transfer to have a Tour de France stage in Adelaide and see how much faster they climb Willunga Hill when in peak form 😉

          • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:00 pm

            Finishing that thought…

            If you look at the list of riders who have beaten him on GC over the 5 times he won at Willunga Hill but didn’t win the GC, it doesn’t make a strong case for him being anywhere near peak form for the TDU. In 2018 he could only take 8 seconds over Daryl Impey on the climb, and in 2019 Impey was on the same time – but if he was in peak form he should have taken at least 40″ on Impey each time

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 11:48 am

        Nothing to do with like or dislike, it’s just that there must be a reason no other grand tour contender peaks so early.

        • Dan Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 1:49 pm

          2017

          Mollema won San Juan and came 7th in Giro
          Nibali came 8th in San Juan and 3rd in Giro and 2nd in Vuelta

          2019

          Alaphillipe came 2nd in San Juan and led the Tour until stage 19
          Carapaz came 6th in San Juan and won the Giro

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:37 pm

            Exactly. None of the GC contenders (Mollema isn’t and never has been) – are focusing on winning these early races.
            Alaphillipe may have a bit more, but he wasn’t considered (probably not even by himself) a GC contender at that point.
            And grand tour winners never have. But maybe they’re all wrong and Porte is right.

          • CA Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 8:06 pm

            Dan – you’re proving the argument that you shouldn’t peak for TDU or San Juan if you want to WIN the Giro, TdF or Vuelta.

            Plus, Alaphillipe was never a real contender to win and nor was it his goal to hit the TdF to win when he was doing San Juan.

            Regardless of this debate, Porte is doing nothing wrong, he’s a great rider and it’s awesome that he can win his home tour in January. He could put everything together and be in the form of his life and skip TdU and he purely doesn’t have the legs (and never did) to beat Froome, Wiggins, Thomas, Bernal, Contador or any other TdF winner over the course of 3 weeks (well, maybe Oscar Perreiro). We need to applaud TdU for it’s uniqueness and for the great race it is. It promotes one of the biggest cycling nations and in this current year it helped to showcase how difficult things are because of the fires (and the environmental ramifications)…

            Cycling’s calendar often doesn’t make sense, but that’s the beauty of it! Compare cycling to the stoic Football or US Football calendars that have games on the same pitch once a week or any other major sport where it’s the same boring old playing field. Cycling has multiple hours/days events all over the globe over unique courses and challenges all year long. It’s the best period.

            Plus… it has bozo’s like us to debate it endlessly! Long live the Inrng.

      • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:46 pm

        I agree about the lazy and incorrect claims about Porte’s form.

        Porte’s problem in July is not his form, that has been fine most years as the stats show. His early start to the season and early mid-season break is a structure that he has made work quite well.

        His issue is putting it all together and having the mental strength to be ‘switched on’ and racing for the whole of every stage. It’s a very different task to when he rode the Tour working for Froome, as in those years he would do his effort and swing off to cruise into the finish (including rolling down any descent following a Cat1/HC climb) and even get the odd day without any responsibility other than finishing while guys like Rowe and Stannard bore the load.

        I reckon Porte would benefit from switching up his program to race Tirreno-Adriatico instead of Paris-Nice (as Cadel Evans did in 2011) as he could do with the tougher mental workout.

      • RQS Wednesday, 29 January 2020, 8:44 am

        I’m not sure many people make that argument here. I don’t think he is hated either.

        More a case that he has failed to really reach his potential, and has gone backwards since leaving Sky. He’s a very likeable person from his interviews.

        He has shown himself to be highly suspect to racing tactics. I think it was the Dauphine when Jakob Fuglsang won when Froome pointed out that he probably ought to chase him, and there was that wheel swap which saw him lose any hope of the Giro.

        It’s more than he has shown the ability and promise to do something and the big win has never materialised. As such his career now hinges on 500 points in January every year. He might as well enjoy the rest of the season as a tourist in the peloton.

  • plurien Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 9:05 am

    Is there anything to prevent an ITT segment within a road race?
    1 Obvious title sponsor for this, better than any indoor cycling app as already accepted by the UCI.

    2 Although it’s individual, the GC leaders would get boost from team collaboration.

    3 Teams may or may not collaborate and

    4 There would be an advantage in being ahead OR dropping back before the segment start so as not to lend boost to other teams.

    5 Simple-to-understand individual segment times are added to GC.

    6 Riders must complete the stage with GC time as normal and GC is calculated a second time. (Trivial because chip timing)

    7 No bike-type/aero kit dilemma for the riders as it’s within a RR stage, thus saving face for manufacturers who still have RR kit in the race.

    Can foresee some really interesting tactics around the leading GC riders wanting to use their teams up, whilst also needing to finish the stage in contention. They also need to do this without lending help to other teams, so they would separate themselves without need for published start orders – a kind of weird cousin to getting your sprint train set up. Standard no fighting rule applies!
    Call it …Segment ITT on GC

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 3:48 pm

      You’re basically talking about incorporating the MTB Enduro format into road racing!

      It would be an interesting concept that would be worth trialling in a couple of low level races.

      • plurien Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:21 pm

        Wee..ll I do organise mtb a bit, so I know the difference. Main one being that you don’t have 120 or so riders going into an enduro stage segment together/apart and then needing to regroup for a later stage finish way after the segment ends. The roads are a bit wider too.
        Apart from that, er, it’s exactly the same; the leaders must try for a quick time.

        It really is time to try new stuff. The Hammer Series shows mass TTT does sort of work but if one thing didn’t take on, it’s no reason to stop. Timing a segment would be like putting a TTT in the middle of a RR for some teams, while others might opt to help each other out and more could try to solo. A GC contender would ideally like to hang back into the segment, blast through it and catch the main bunch just as the segment ends. Trouble is you won’t succeed if everyone is doing the same so it leads to effort and invention. Other teams could try to pull away early but everyone could draft. And so on…

        And did I ever tell you about the non-team time trial? Forget 20 teams of 6. Make it six teams of 20, all ‘teams’ made up with one rider from each squad. See how that splits GC for the bigs. There’s a meet the riders evening lottery spectacular with DSs choosing their seeded riders as each ‘team’ captain. Which GC contenders would get cooperation and which would have to drag them round, only to be dropped near the end. Hehe.

        • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 6:22 pm

          Somewhat loosely, of course!

          Segment times have been tried for KOM classifications, but I haven’t seen any reports on how they went with regards to whether spectators/viewers could understand what was going on.

          As for your last suggestion, a similar suggestion was made in the cricket world after an arbitrary countback decided the World Cup last year https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/27201128/nine-better-ways-deciding-2019-world-cup-winner

    • CA Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:10 pm

      Instead they should have a segment swimming leg to start the road race and then a segment running section after the race to spice… ahem… I’m sorry to make it extremely boring… oh wait, isn’t this already done? I think I’ve heard of this before… don’t tell me, it’s coming to me… isn’t it a sport that favours doctors who can drop $15,000 on a race entry fee and another $12,000 on a bike? But, the riders don’t go very fast/hard and basically train at below basemile pace for 75 hours per week?

  • Steve Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 10:53 am

    While the TDU might not be perfect, it is about the best it can be.

    Australia consistently finishes in the top 10 for the UCI ranking, and cycling is popular here, so at least one elite level race is not to much to ask.

    The date can’t really be moved, which means it is too early for those training for the serious northern hemisphere races. The date also works well for the Australian school holidays. The Adelaide Advertiser quoted a figure of 115,000 spectators for the Willunga stage, something that can’t be achieved at other times of year. Moving the date also wouldn’t work for the teams. Why would any team with any ambitions for the spring classics want to be racing in Australia, in completely the wrong conditions, in March?

    The location isn’t ideal either. Australia has some climbs that, while not quite as tough as the Alps, are still serious. Mt Hotham is 1300m over 30km, with ramps at 9%, and and Mt Buller is 15.2km at 6.2%. But what European pro wants to race up these in January?

    Other parts of Australia have other challenges, such as wind, heat, rolling terrain, altitude. No team however wants to have to set up team buses, deal with transfers, different types of bikes etc, to enable a race to use this terrain, on the far side of the world, in the off-season.

    The two races I would describe as the Australian classics (Melbourne-Warnambool, 1 day ~300km, since 1895, and the Sun Tour, 4 days, UCI 2.2, since 1952) would be great to re-purpose into a mini season within a season, but the teams don’t want to race in Australia for 6 weeks at the start of the year.

    The organisers have no real option but to listen to the teams, otherwise they would come with only nominal teams. Even normally that happens. Teams like FDJ and Movistar certainly didn’t seem to be trying to win much at this years edition. A few years of this, and the race would die.

    Given these constraints, the race is about as good as it can be.

    • Richard S Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:45 pm

      Completely random question… in Europe obviously Christmas and summer are at opposite times of year. So we get a summer holiday (at school) and a Christmas one. In Australia they fall at the same time so do you lot get a winter holiday just to break it up a bit?!

      • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:05 pm

        Four terms of school each year.

        6 or 7 weeks of holidays in summer
        2 weeks around Easter time
        2 weeks in July (usually coinciding with the Tour)
        2 weeks in spring

        The different states have the holidays offset by a week to spread the load on the tourism sector.

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 5:18 pm

      The things that make the TDU work despite its limitations in the context of the international cycling calendar is the outstanding quality of organisation (which stems back to its roots as one of the replacement events for the Australian Grand Prix, which in its Adelaide iteration was regarded as the best organised GP on the calendar) and the fact that a much larger overall event has grown around the men’s race.

      The organising team are well aware that some teams will use it as a training race. They now use that to help inform some of the elements of the course for the following year, by asking the teams what they would like to see the next time around. The women’s race this year, for example, went away from having hilltop finishes in favour of more classics-style courses with rolling hills after last year’s consulting with the teams.

  • Paul Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 1:19 pm

    I’m not sure where the idea of long transfers to find big mountains is from. Adelaide has a 10km@5% climb 5kms from the city. The problem is that it’s difficult to close roads around that area and that Turtur thinks it would be too hard. Even other parts of the hills could be used for a stage similar to Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Paracombe and Willunga are some of the flatter parts of the hills and Flerieu.

    The race is owned by the government of South Australia so it will never leave the area around Adelaide.

    • DaveRides Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 4:24 pm

      I wouldn’t rule out seeing a stage across Mt Lofty or finishing there soon. It’s working out how to lay out the logistics area around the stage finish that Turtur has cited as the obstacle, not the road closures. The same roads get fully closed for special stages of the Adelaide Rally every December without a problem.

      A stage to Mt Lofty might be best tried by the women’s race director Kimberley Conte first, as it has a smaller finish line setup. Once that’s worked, O’Grady could work out how to adapt it for the men’s race.

      I wouldn’t rule out a sprinters stage being contested on Kangaroo Island in the next couple of years as part of the state government’s plan to assist the return of tourism to the island after this summer’s bushfires. There would probably be a bit of gravel included.

      • Sam Friday, 31 January 2020, 7:43 am

        I think a stage finish at Mt Lofty makes a lot of sense – either via the freeway or Greenhill Road. I understand they need a lot of space for the finish, but there is quite a large carpark at the top, or you could simply have the riders ride down after – a fair number of them do so from the Stirling stage finish anyway.

  • Nathan Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 7:33 pm

    If I’d followed your advice and only watched the last ten minutes of the final stage, I would’ve missed the moment of panic when everyone realised that if they didn’t shift gears then Joey Rosskopf might win the race.

    In the end it was never in doubt, but only after Mads Pedersen took nearly two minutes off the breakaway almost single-handed, and Michelton-Scott suddenly clocked that their poker game was going to end up hurting them as much as anyone.

    Maybe I’m not enough of a connoisseur, but I enjoyed watching!

    • CA Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 7:54 pm

      Mads Pederson is looking really strong.

      Because he’s not necessarily the type to be a frequent winner, you hope the rainbow jersey doesn’t prevent him from putting these types of efforts in all season long. It’s an amazing sight to see the entire peloton being pulled at such pace by the rainbow bands.

      Then perhaps he could really go for one of the Classics, preferably in brutal weather conditions sometime this spring.