- by Michael Bachman
- Published: 23 January 2017
Being an Adelaide local, having a World Tour race on your doorstep is simply brilliant, whether you are a cyclist or not. As the Tour Down Under creeps nearer, more and more cyclists take to the roads. Locals and interstate visitors participate in the BUPA Challenge Stage, many more cycle to and from each stage, the Tour Village is setup in Victoria square and becomes the epicentre of cycling and even the local newspapers start to cover cycling. You know that Australia’s biggest cycling event is about to start.
To the delight of the fans, it was an Australian affair this year in the Men’s event with 22 year old Orica GreenEDGE rider Caleb Ewan taking four sprint finishes and Richie Porte of BMC Racing taking two stages and the overall win. In the women’s 4-stage event that preceded the men’s race, Amanda Spratt took the GC win and Chloe Hosking took the jersey for the sprint leader.
There are three things that make Adelaide the place-to-be for one week in January each year and though this is not my first… or last Tour Down Under, here are three favourites from the Tour Down Under.
Tour Village in Victoria Square
Whether it’s a stinking hot Adelaide summers day (as it was on Stage 1 & 3) or overcast, there are loads of people relaxing in the areas setup for spectators, enjoying the food on offer, shopping for souvenirs, planning that N+1 purchase from one of the trade displays (many brands have a fleet of bikes to test ride in Adelaide’s great hills & beachside routes) or waiting post stage to see the riders return from the stage and watch their mechanics hard at work.
Being able to duck out from my office during lunch for a quick browse through the trade stands (pondering whether to buy a Santini TDU jersey) and admire some of the new bikes on offer – ‘bright and stunning’ is the new black. From the iridescent blue on the Canyon, to the bold yellow on the BMC, and to the more traditional red/black on the Scott Solace – black on matt black is now history. The cafes are kept busy providing food and the ubiquitous caffeine hit to weary cyclists and enthusiastic spectators alike who fill the many lounge chairs under welcome umbrellas and shade sails as they watch the racing action on the big screen.
Roads awash with cyclists
Whilst there is a steady increase in the amount of cyclists in the few months before the TdU, the leap in the week leading to the TdU and during is reveals a completely new level of cycling participation. This can cause some issues on the local roads, increasingly larger groups enjoy the brilliant local countryside and average bunch rides can swell to 30+ riders, but overall, the patience of most motorists and the behaviour of the cyclists is pretty good. I had a great group ride organised by International Cycling Executives (ICE) and a local business (Shape) which took in an early morning loop from the city, along the coast via Henley Beach and back to Glenelg. Some of the participants included Scott McGrory, Andrew McQuaid (yes, Pat’s son) and some of our current World Championship female track athletes – Ashly Ankudinoff, Amy Cure and Rebecca Waisak.
What I love is the mix of cyclists from the young to the old, the amateurs to the pros and everyone in between. It also includes those being introduced the joys of cycling for the first time who get to experience the new feeling of freedom as well as those mixing it with the pros and ‘stealing’ KOM’s from the locals.
In the past, Aussie cycling fans have tried to tack onto team training rides, this year it has taken a leap forwardwith teams opening up their training rides for others to join by posting the ride details on social media. It’s a great opportunity for direct interaction with fans who are happy to catch a glimpse of their heroes as well as try and ride with them, even if it’s just a short distance!
Roadside in Willunga
And the best part of all is watching those guys hammer it up the local climbs (Richie’s KOM up Willunga Hill is only 5 seconds shy of doing it TWICE as fast as I have ever done!) and hurtle down the descents along Gorge and Pennys Hill Rd at speeds that I can’t legally do, even in a car. To be amongst the huge crowds that approach those that we see routinely in the Grand Tours and Monuments is simply special.
This year, instead of watching the race up Willunga Hill, I watched the daredevil descent down Pennys Hill Road to get a different perspective on the speed of the peloton. They go uphill quicker than I can ever ride, but they descend even faster than I can contemplate. Speeds are often quoted as over 90km/hr and sometimes hitting more than 100 km/hr. The breakaway flew past us at 92km/hr and Robert Gesink hit a max of 97.2 !!)
Break flying past at 92km/hr
To get to our viewing spot, a mate and I rode out from home (near the city centre) taking in Belair Rd (3.7km @ 5.5%), down through Blackwood and up ‘Humpty Doo’ (2.5km @ 5.5%) and along with thousands of other cyclists, descended into Clarendon, headed right through Blewitt Springs and watched the start at McLaren Vale. We then rode up Willunga Hill (again with what seemed like the entire population of Adelaide) and settled down in the shade on Pennys Hill Rd waiting for the peloton to come hurtling past like a snake at high speed. We took advantage of the TdU tracker app to watch some of the action up Willunga Hill too.
Once that was done, we took a different route back home via McLaren Flat & Kangarilla to make it a great day out that incorporated 117km of riding, 1,680m of ascent, no Koala’s spotted, 3 coffees, a great Prosciutto & pesto Panini, two fruit juices (for sugar on the return trip) and 3 energy bars during the day !!
Roll on 2018 TdU – it can’t come soon enough. Oh, and the local paper is reporting that the Minister for Tourism, Leon Bignell, has has discussions with the UCI President (Brian Cookson) about bidding for the 2020 World Championships – I’m up for that !!