So you read our first piece on 6 Hot Tips of what not to miss at the Santos Tour Down Under, booked flights and accommodation and you’re now only days off rolling in to Radelaide. The National road titles ran last week with the winner Heinrich Haussler already gracing the streets of Adelaide in his new national champion jersey. The question now – armed with what to do when the racing isn’t on, what exactly should you be looking for while the racing is underway? With all the koala and kangaroo cuddling that the riders do, surely they’re not taking this race seriously?
Without getting too in-depth about how the UCI (the chaps who run professional cycling) structure their race calendar and team rankings, it’s worth noting a couple of points and how they affect the racing. Bear with me on this, I promise it will provide some café cycling props when you dazzle your friends with your knowledge.
• The points awarded for the overall General Classification win in the Santos Tour Down Under is the same as winning a Monument one day Classic like Paris-Roubaix or de Ronde van Vlaanderen. Even fifth place in the Tour Down Under is worth more points than an overall win in a smaller stage race.
• Points are what a lot of riders worth is calculated by. It could also mean more leadership opportunities for them later in the season and places the team car closer to the front in subsequent World Tour races. In short, riders want as many points as they can.
• The UCI has also released new points allocations for wearers of each classification jersey at the end of each stage. Teams aren’t too happy about the suddenness of this news. However assuming they get rubber stamped, expect the King of the Mountain and Sprint classification jersey will be even more hotly contested this year.
With this in mind, these are some of the riders in each classification that you should look out for.
The Pros say it’s impossible for a rider to hide form.
Richie Porte’s dominating win in the National time trial last Thursday shows he is a rider on song. The Nationals road race didn’t go according to plan for him (and unlikely he would have beaten Haussler in the sprint) but he won on Willunga Hill last year and is my pick for the man to beat.
Cadel Evans, in spite of being only weeks away from retirement, is both in great shape and knows what is required to make the TdU podium. His BMC team is strong, they mean business. Orica-GreenEdge’s team similarly is strong and aside from having the veteran Daryl Impey to try and sneak a sprint win, they are all in the service of Simon Clarke. The punchy climber is perfect for the parcors that normally determine the final TdU GC.
He wasn’t mentioned by any commentators pre-race, but after the win last Sunday Heinrich Haussler announced to the world that he is back. Winner of a stage in the 2009 Tour de France coupled with a thrilling 2nd in Milan San-Remo that same year, the ‘Heino’ we were hoping to see again has returned. The BikeExchange Stage 5 up Willunga Hill could hurt him. But then we did see Simon Gerrans hold on last year when Cadel threw all bar the kitchen sink at him. IAM have a strong team and with the other option of Jarlison Gomez, their rivals might not know which card IAM are going to play until it’s too late.
It’s a little harder to know the form of the overseas-based GC riders. However guys like Thomas Dumoulin, Domenico Pozzovivo, Ryder Hesjedal and Luis Leon Sanchez arriving, you can be sure they’re not here for a pie floater. Sanchez has won the race previously while the others have Grand Tour and World Championship wins between them.
The Gorilla, Andre Greipel, isn’t a fixture at this year’s TdU. However the winner of last year’s People’s Choice Criterium, Marcel Kittel, returns. And on raw speed alone, it’s going to be hard for any of the others to match him. Steel von Hoff, fresh off defending his National criterium title, has the craft and the form to challenge. Etixx-Quickstep’s Gianni Meersman and Drapac’s Wouter Wippert are also very rapid boys. Only they will need to ensure their lead out trains are perfect if they is any chance of challenging Kittel.
I know it sounds like the sprints are a foregone conclusion, only this is no reflection of how slow the competition is but rather on how fast Marcel moves. The German’s final 100 metres is as impressive as his hair.
King of the Mountain
The winner of this jersey could come from anywhere. Adam Hansen was the only wearer of the jersey last year, so picking this year’s winner could be as scientific as pulling a name out of a hat. Realistically, teams with a GC aspirations won’t be sending a rider out to bag KOM points. So look to teams like Lampre-Merida, Drapac, Movistar, Trek and Tinkoff-Saxo to all try and get a man in the early break and see what they can pick up.
2015 Tour Down Under Stage Previews
In spite of bushfire ravaging the areas around the routes for stages 1 and 3 of the Tour, there have been no changes to the races. As for what to expect for each stage, here’s a little preview.
People’s Choice Classic
While not counting towards the overall race, the crit around the gardens is both a good chance for the riders to get in their first competitive hit-out for the year and a great chance for a youngster to show his wares. 2010 saw some kid called Peter Sagan in a break with Lance Armstrong – and we all know what backside-pinching career he’s gone on to have from there. So eyes peeled, you could be watching the next superstar of cycling along East Terrace.
Hostworks Stage 1
Not the flattest of stages to kick off the 2015 Tour Down Under. Beginning with two circuits that starts in Tanunda, both sprint points will be passed before the race racks up 61km (of a 132.6km stage). Expect teams challenging Marcel Kittel to try and keep the race together until then and steal some sprint points – which they’ll likely need if they have plans to win the jersey overall. A break will go and fight it out for the KOM points atop of the brutal pinch up Checker (sometimes appropriately known as ‘Chucker’) Hill. However with the run-in from there to the finish being all downhill, it would take a brave man to predict anything other than a bunch kick.
Riders to watch: the sprinters will be having their day. But look for Uni-SA and Drapac to get a man in the move and try and nab the KOM points.
southaustralia.com Stage 2
Again not the easiest of starts for the peloton – uphill and with the first (and only) KOM point at the 30km mark means any team chasing that jersey (as well as the one defending it) are going to be battling it out until then. The finish in Stirling has become a staple in the TdU and always a bunch finish. The intermediate sprint points should be gobbled up by the members of the break away, looking for the cash bonuses up for grabs, but this will ultimately be another stage for the fast men.
Riders to watch: the fight for the right mix of riders to make the break-away should be interesting, with the Aussie teams again hoping to be represented. Perfect day also for the likes of Lars Boom – 2014 Tour de France stage winner and here to use the TdU to prepare for the Spring Classics – to get in the move. He moved from Lotto-NL Jumbo to Astana and will be one of the team’s main riders in the Classics.
Thomas Foods Stage 3
It was a stage that also started in Norwood in the 2011 Tour Down Under that saw the break stay away and the general classification turned so much around that Cameron Meyer was able to hold on for the overall win. The race heads east instead of south this time, but with another uphill start fatigue could be starting to factor in to the sprinters teams who the rest of the peloton will ask to reel the breakaway in. The joker in the pack is the KOM point. Only 1km from the finish line, the team currently holding the jersey could decide to help ensure a sprint finish – relying on the chaos of the lead out trains in the final 3 kilometres to leave those precious points with a random rider. The saying that ‘a lot of the action in the TdU occurs in the final 15km’ looks like it could very well hold true.
Bupa Stage 4
With a route that is predominantly north/south, the first 40km along the coastline and winds predominantly from the east/west if there is a stage that has the potential to unexpectedly shake up the race, this could be it. Whether it’s echelons within the peloton (ala Saxo-Bank in the 2013 Tour de France) or the break using them to create a powerful selection and beat the bunch home, any rider with GC aspirations will need to be on their A game.
Riders to watch: if the prediction of a non-climber holding the KOM jersey is again the case, this is their big chance to secure the jersey. Willunga Hill will see the faster climbers likely take all the points and a Stage 6 scramble in the criterium to shore up the jersey is as desirable as Brussels sprouts for dinner.
BikeExchange.com.au Stage 5
Willunga Hill. The BikeExchange stage 5 is like an old pair of slippers now. Comfortable, predictable and normally very warm. The early break will go but there’s too many teams with GC riders for them to survive. KOM points for each cresting of Willunga Hill. No rider vying for the overall is likely to be first over the top on the first ascent, so KOM jersey will be safe. How the second lap plays out will be anyone’s guess. Recent years have had some thrilling finishes – only the past two winners in Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde aren’t racing. Leaving a few more pure climbers to do their best to shake punchy rouleurs like Louis Leon Sanchez, Thomas Dumoulin and Heinrich Haussler.
Riders to watch: dark horses like Maaten Tjallingii and Michael Rogers certainly have the ability to stay with the pack.
Be Safe Be Seen Stage 6
The Adelaide town centre kermesse is another favourite fixture. Deceptively tough, 2011 showed that it can make for a nail-biting finale if there are riders within a few seconds of the overall leaders. The sprinters though will have their final opportunity to fine tune their lead out trains – don’t expect a break to come away with the win today.
Riders to watch: any rider who has been aggressive throughout the race will be looking to get in a move during the stage to put their name firmly in the minds of the judges for the Most Combative Rider jersey. Also the Teams Classification jersey can make for a handy little pay day for a team that’s had a consistent tour. So look out for rider you wouldn’t normally figure on backing themselves in a bunch kick trying to get up there for a high final stage placing.
Hope this helps you get excited for what will be another exciting start to the racing year and a huge opportunity to see some of the best riders in the world grace our roads – bringing some much needed joy after all the recent bushfire losses for the unfortunate South Australians. No Gerro this year, but Aussie riders well placed to be the top of the tree in the 2015 Tour Down Under. I won’t be there, so have a pie floater for me!