Australia Gets The Wheels In Motion For Season-opener
The Santos Tour Down Under, part of the UCI World Tour, launches the new international season in South Australia (17-22 January).
Australia’s greatest cycling race takes in the leafy wine country and Port Willunga’s beautiful beach, as well as testing the peleton with the summit of Mount Lofty.
Fans are in for a treat right from the start, with Adelaide’s centre playing host for a prologue brimming with highly technical racing.
The quintet of Rohan Dennis, ex-Tour de France winner Caleb Ewan, Jai Hindley, Michael Matthews, Ben O’Connor will be flying the flag for Australia.
Dennis (Jumbo-Visma team) is a former winner of the race. He may struggle on some of the steeper inclines but tends to perform well in shorter stage races.
South African Daryl Impey (Israel-Premier Tech), another past champion of this race, is among the leading contenders to succeed overall.
Impey’s team-mates include Melbourne’s Tour de France stage winner Simon Clarke, sprint experts Italian Giacomo Nizzolo and up-and-coming New Zealander Corbin Strong.
Australian national champion Luke Plapp, France’s Hugo Hofstetter, Spain’s Pello Bilbao, Switzerland’s Marc Hirschi plus the Great Britain trio of Ethan Hayter, Simon Yates and former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas will also be chasing top honours.
Although the odds have yet to be released, those who fancy a flutter can check out leading bookmakers such as PlayUp Australia closer to the date to see which riders are among the favourites to challenge for the yellow jersey at each of the five stages.
EFEX Prologue (Adelaide-Adelaide) | 5.5km, 17 January
Dennis, the former world time trial champion, is a local hero and will be trying to make an early impact along the Adelaide Riverbank route.
The inaugural yellow and sprint jerseys are up for grabs along a course that includes War Memorial Drive, MacKinnon Parade, Bundeys Road and Victoria Drive.
Stage One (Tanunda-Tanunda) | 149.9km, 18 January
The peloton passes through Tanunda four times, each with a category four climb of Menglers Hill before the stage finish. The king of the mountain (KOM) points will be collected at 58.2km and 110.4km.
All eyes will be on the sprints, with a pair of sprints in Tanunda at the 45.6km and 97.8km marks.
Travelling through Bethany on Barossa Valley Way before trying to blitz the line in Murray Street should have the followers ringing their cowbells loudly.
Stage Two (Brighton-Victor Harbor) | 154.8km, 19 January
Beginning in beachside Brighton before sprints at Aldinga’s Snapper Point (33.6km) and Yankalilla (71.7km), riders will descend into Victor Harbor.
With almost 2,500 metres of climbing, the KOMs are a category two ascent at Parawa Hill (87.2km) and category one at Nettle Hill Road (133.9km) before the final push to the Esplanade in Victor Harbor.
Stage Three (Norwood-Campbelltown) | 116.8km, 20 January
Following a straightforward start in Norwood, the peloton navigates the category two Ashton climb (9.6km).
Sprints take place through Lobethal (29km) and Williamstown (64km), with KOM points from the brutal category one ascents of Checker Hill (82.2km) and Corkscrew Road (111km). There will be a race to cross the finish line in Campbelltown.
Stage Four (Port Willunga-Willunga Township) | 133.2km, 21 January
Port Willunga is a picturesque starting point before the race through McLaren Vale’s vineyards.
Instead of ascending the slopes of Willunga Hill like other races, the peloton tackles a route that takes in McLaren Vale wineries d’Arenberg and Penny’s Hill.
The pair of KOM ascents both take place in Willunga at 51.4km and 92.3km respectively. The penultimate stage’s sprints are scheduled for Aldinga’s Snapper Point at the 69.5km and 110.4km marks.
Riders face a slightly uphill push to the line on the main street of Willunga, with fans treated to some aggressive racing.
Stage Five (Unley-Mount Lofty) | 112.5km, 22 January
Riders will leave the inner-south suburb of Unley to travel towards Devil’s Elbow, followed by four passes of 25km that loop through the Adelaide Hills.
The pair of sprints take place along Greenhill Road in Uraidla at 15.3km and 67km respectively.
Mount Lofty makes its maiden introduction to the Santos Tour Down Under race, with the peloton battling it out for KOM points in front of Mount Lofty House at 33.8km and 86.8km.
The finale along Mount Lofty Summit Road should see fans out in droves to cheer the peloton along, and witness first hand who will claim the first yellow jersey to get the new UCI WorldTour season off in style.