Tour Down Under preview

The 2014 UCI WorldTour kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday) with the 16th edition of the Tour Down Under, the traditional curtain-raiser which sees the peloton rise from its winter slumber. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect.

The parcours

  • The Tour Down Under is run over six stages, starting on Tuesday 21st January and finishing with a city circuit race in Adelaide on Sunday 26th.
  • The race is largely sprinter-friendly, although stages one and three feature punchy climbs near the finish which may prove selective.
  • Stage five, which finishes at the top of the second ascent of Old Willunga Hill (3.5km, 7%-plus average) is likely to determine the overall winner.
  • If the race is close – and it usually is – time bonuses should ensure an exciting last stage, as GC contenders mix it with the sprinters.
  • Editor’s note: There were concerns that stage one might be postponed due to the risk of bush fires. However, race organisers confirmed earlier today that the stage will proceed as planned.

Fast facts

  • All 18 WorldTour teams will take part, plus local squads Drapac and UniSA-Australia. Each team has seven riders.
  • Unique among top-level races, the overall leader wears an ochre jersey.
  • Eight of the 15 previous winners of the race are Australian.
  • Stuart O’Grady, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) have each won the race twice. Both Greipel and Gerrans are participating this year.
  • Greipel has a record 14 stage wins, including three last year.
It's two from two at Tour of Belgium for Andre Greipel (image courtesy of Lotto-Belisol)

Can Greipel repeat his hat-trick of stage victories from last year? (Image: Lotto-Belisol)

  • The 2013 edition was won by Blanco’s Tom-Jelte Slagter, who now races for Garmin-Sharp. He’s not here this year.
  • The Drapac team includes brothers Bernard and Wesley Sulzberger.

Who to watch

Form is difficult to predict so early in the season. Some riders use this race to build form for the spring while others will already be near their peak in the hope of getting some eye-catching results under their belts early on.

With Mark Cavendish in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis, expect German powerhouses Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) to lay down some early markers in the sprints, although they may still be some way short of top form. Kittel has already drawn first blood, overhauling Greipel to win Sunday’s warm-up People’s Choice Classic, a mini-circuit race run over just 50km.

Can Kittel continue to dominate the sprints the way he did at last year's Tour de France? (Image: Tour of Turkey)

Will Kittel’s victory in Sunday’s People’s Choice Classic translate into stage wins in the main event? (Image: Tour of Turkey)

Despite Cav’s absence, Omega Pharma-Quick Step boast a formidable triple sprint threat. 2013 Tour de France stage winner Matteo Trentin is joined by top lead-out man Mark Renshaw and young Brit Andrew Fenn.

Home hopes will rest on BMC veteran Cadel Evans, Sky’s likely Giro leader Richie Porte and Orica-GreenEDGE’s Gerrans for the GC. In the sprints Renshaw and Garmin-Sharp’s Steele Von Hoff should also feature.

Other big names include Frank Schleck (Trek) and Robert Gesink (Belkin). But watch out also for OPQS’ Jan Bakelants, a stage winner and yellow jersey winner at the 2013 Tour de France whose characteristics are well suited to the parcours. Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler would also have been expected to liven up proceedings, but he’s out with a collarbone injury.

Finally, perennial fan favourites Jens Voigt (Trek) and Bernhard Eisel (Sky) will also take the start.

Bernie will not be short of birthday wishes from his many fans (image courtesy of Francesca Starbuck)

Ladies’ favourite Bernie Eisel will no doubt be as popular as ever (Image: Francesca Starbuck)

Race details

January 21st: Stage 1 – Nuriootpa to Angaston, 135km

January 22nd: Stage 2 – Prospect to Stirling, 150km

January 23rd: Stage 3 – Norwood to Campbelltown, 145km

January 24th: Stage 4 – Unley to Victor Harbor, 148.5km

January 25th: Stage 5 – McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill, 151.5km

January 26th: Stage 6 – Adelaide city circuit, 85.5km (18 laps of 4.75km)

Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Sky Sports in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

One thought on “Tour Down Under preview

  1. It has seemed like a long pre-season!

    Personally, i’m glad that Cav is not there, it seems too early for the Cav/Kittel/Greipel battle royale just yet…far better to ease into it with a bit of early sparring.

    I see the podium at the Aussie national’s lately was Gerrans/Evans/Porte (was that the order?) so i expect a bit of form from those three on home turf – the start of a golden year for Porte, or a final fling from Cadel?

    Either way, lots to talk about!

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