The Australian Summer of Cycling is set to kick into overdrive as the Santos Tour Down Under kicks off next week with the Women's Tour Down Under (Jan 16-19), with the Men’s Tour kicking off the week after on the 21st of January. It’s had a bit of a shake-up this year, moving back a week from its traditional time slot, while the queen stage remains on the final day which should make for exciting racing until the very end.
Read on for our preview of the 2020 men’s Tour Down Under, including a look at the course, the stages that matter, and the riders you should keep an eye on.
The men’s racing at the Tour Down Under starts on Sunday with the Schwalbe Down Under Classic, a one-hour criterium in East Adelaide. This race isn’t part of the TDU proper — it doesn’t count towards the general classification — but it is raced by the same riders that will ride in the main event. The Classic is a great chance to see which riders are in form for the real thing, particularly the sprinters.
There’s a ‘rest day’ on Monday, and then the six-stage TDU begins on Tuesday.
Stage 1: Tanunda to Tanunda (150km) – A lumpy stage that starts and finishes in Tanunda. The peloton takes in five circuits of a 30km loop around the Barossa town. Whilst there are a few short pinches in the days stage, with a near 7km pan flat, straight run into the line, you can put the house on a sprint finish deciding the stage and the first Ochre jersey recipient.
Stage 2: Woodside to Stirling (149km) – A reasonably straightforward day that ends in the Adelaide Hills. There’s a couple of ascents of the Category 2 climb up Quarry Road to shake things up over the day however expect a bunch gallop to the line in Stirling.
Stage 3: Unley to Paracombe (146.2km) – A key stage in the 2020 race. History has shown that a win on the climb into Paracombe typically cements a win in the race overall. The day starts out under neutral conditions in the inner suburb of Unley before climbing up into the Adelaide Hills. The peloton will then ride into Cudlee Creek and through Chain of Ponds to reach Inglewood, where they will again take on the circuit linking it to Houghton and Paracombe four times before doubling back towards Cudlee Creek and descending Gorge Road. At Torrens Hill Road, the riders will dig deep for the final climb of the day into Paracombe (1.2km at 9%).
Stage 4: Norwood to Murray Bridge (152.8km) – One of just two stages in this years’ edition to not include a finishing circuit, stage four takes the Pelton up through the Adelaide Hills via Gorge Road before descending down into Palmer towards Murray Bridge. The second half of the days stage while flat on paper is said to be particularly difficult given the hot, barren climate of the region and the coarse chip seal roads. The finish into Murray Bridge is slightly uphill so could prove to benefit lighter sprinters or the puncheurs in the peloton.
Stage 5: Glenelg to Victor Harbour (149.1km) – The seemingly annual bunch gallop in Victor Harbour has now been moved up to the penultimate stage in the 2020 Tour Down Under. However, rather than following the coastline like previous years, this year’s stage five heads inland to Strathalbyn before heading down to Victor Harbour through Goolwa. The day’s KOM comes within the 20km of the line, however, expect the peloton to regroup into Victor Harbour for a dash to the line.
Stage 6: McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill (151.5km) – The traditional queen stage of the TDU, moved from stage 5 to the last day of racing. The stage includes two ascents of the now-famous climb (3km at 7%) and finishes at the top of the second. The stage itself likely won’t see any changes in the final GC battle, however, given the nature of the climb and the breakneck pace the second ascent is taken at, you can expect some fireworks to finish off the tour.
Deciding the GC
When it comes to stages that will affect the GC, there are two clear standouts: stage 3 into Paracombe and stage 6 (Willunga). The climbs are a similar length, but the finishes are very different.
The finish to Stage 3 is up and over the top of Torrens Hill Road before a 500m flat run into the line, meaning you can’t just be good uphill — you need to have a fast finish. A solo winner on this stage is a possibility (see Rohan Dennis’ win in 2015), so too is a small group coming to the line.
Stage 6, by contrast, is all about the climb of Willunga. As we saw with Daryl Impey’s back to back overall win last year and the year previous, you don’t need to be a pure climber to do well on Willunga — it’s short enough that the lighter all-rounders can get up there in very good time.
The winner of the 2020 TDU will need to perform well on both Torrens Hill Road and Willunga. And if recent editions are anything to go by, they’ll probably need to pick up some time bonuses along the way too.
With the TDU’s decisive climbs being quite short, it’s not uncommon for a handful of riders to be within close proximity on the GC. As a result, time bonuses at the finish of each stage (10, 6 and 4 seconds) and at intermediate sprints (3,2 and 1 second) can become vital.
This tilts the advantage in the direction of the all-rounders with a fast-finish (think Daryl Impey) — riders who can pick up time on a handful of stages, as opposed to the pure climbers who have only two stages where they can realistically take time (think Richie Porte). As a result, it makes it all the more important for climbers to take as much time on the climbs as they can.
Moving the Willunga stage to the end of the race likely won’t create a different outcome than if it was the penultimate stage. But it’s a good move — that final stage around Adelaide tended to be a bit of an anti-climax with the GC having been decided the day before. Now it’s likely we won’t know until the final metres of the TDU who will win the race overall.
Looking at the start list, there are a handful of riders that stand out as potential overall winners:
Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) – The two-time defending champion and one of the most versatile riders in the peloton. He can sprint, he can climb, and he can be in the mix on virtually any terrain. The short climbs of TDU suit him perfectly, so too does the fact time bonuses often prove so crucial. He can feature high up on just about every stage this year, and with a strong team behind him this will likely be the strategy.
The South African always brings good form into the early season and he’ll be motivated to win TDU for an unprecedented third year running.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) – Porte has won the last six times the race has gone up Willunga and he’ll be the favourite to take number six. The question will likely be whether he can add to his overall title in 2017, or whether he’ll be consigned to yet another podium finish (Porte’s been second on four occasions).
We’ll see on Torrens Hill Road how Porte’s fairing but it will be Willunga where Porte needs to take the most time — he won’t be able to rely on picking up time bonuses on other stages like Impey.
Nathan Haas (Cofidis) – A very similar rider to Jay McCarthy, Haas is good uphill and has a strong sprint. He peaked at TDU in 2017 with second on Willunga but slipped to fourth overall on the final day. While Haas will likely be riding in support of Viviani on the flatter days, how Haas goes in the GC will depend, as with most riders, on how he performs on stages 3 and 6.
Rohan Dennis (Team Ineos) – The reigning time trial world champion has a new team in 2020 and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the new environment. It’s not entirely clear he’ll race for GC but if he does, and he’s in good form (his ride in the Aussie Nationals time trial suggests he is), he’s a shot at the podium, if not a repeat of his 2015 victory.
Paddy Bevin (CCC) – Bevin’s spent much of the past few years riding in support of his teammates but he took his opportunity to lead at last year’s TDU with both hands. He took a surprising sprint victory over Peter Sagan and held onto the overall lead up until a fall forced him to retire on the final stage. Bevin has proven to be a fast finisher and climbs well — he won on Arthurs Seat at the Sun Tour in 2015 and was top 10 at the TDU in 2016.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) – Yates comes into this year's Tour Down Under with much anticipation placed on his shoulders, while it's unclear on whether he has GC aspirations, you can put the house on the fact that he will be a marked man on the uphill finishes into Paracombe and on Willunga Hill.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) – A perennial Tour de France hopeful and one of the world’s finest climbers, Romain Bardet is heading down under to kick off his season for the first time. Look for him to shake things up on the two hilltop finishes into Paracombe on stage 3 and up Willunga on the final day.
While two stages will suit the GC contenders, four should suit a bunch sprint of some kind. And with a handful of world-class sprinters on the start list, we’re set for some great battles. Here are the men to watch:
Elia Viviani (Cofidis) – Viviani has been somewhat of an enigma at the TDU in recent years, with the event catapulting the fast-finishing Italian to top the list as one of the most successful sprinters’ in the world the last few years. While Viviani bids adieu to “The Wolfpack”, joining French-based Cofidis Credit Solutions for 2020, given the strength of the squad around him There’s no reason to suggest he won’t continue his winning ways in 2020.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) – After an impressive debut season with dutch , Caleb Ewan is motivated for a big 2019. With Roger Kluge coming across to spearhead his lead-out train, Ewan looks to be in a great position to kickstart his 2020 with a few wins for his new squad.
Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation)– One of the most powerful sprinters and a former winner of the TDU overall, Andre Greipel returns to the WorldTour peloton in 2020, and returns to Adelaide with a brand new team. With a sprint train focussed on delivering the “Gorilla” to the finish line on the flat stages, expect Greipel to feature on the four flat stages in this year’s tour.
Following The Race
In 2020, the TDU will be shown on Australia’s Seven Network for the second year running. Broadcast times differ from day to day, as does the channel the race is on (Channel 7 or 7TWO), but you can find all the details you need at the TDU website.
A live stream will also be available on 7plus, the Seven Network’s online streaming platform. The official Twitter account of the TDU is @tourdownunder and the official hashtag is #tourdownunder.
Of course, if you’re in Adelaide and you can get out to the race, you absolutely should. Adelaide has some of the best riding in Australia and there’s no shortage of group rides every day that will allow you to explore the region while watching the pros race past.
For more information, daily race results and great deals, check out our dedicated Tour Down Underhub right here, at BikeExchange