The 2015 WorldTour kicks off in Adelaide on Tuesday with the Tour Down Under. Are you ready for some racing?
- The Tour Down Under is run over six stages, starting on Tuesday 20th January and finishing with a city circuit race in Adelaide on Sunday 25th.
- The race is bookended by flat sprinter stages, with the degree of difficulty ramping up on the four stages in between, providing opportunities along the way for everyone from pure speedsters to classics strong-men and punchy climbers. There is no time trial.
- 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 – intermediate time bonuses should ensure an exciting final stage, as GC contenders battle it out for precious seconds.
- The parcours generally favours a punchy climber who fares well in the hilly one-day classics rather than a grinding climber: Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Gerrans has won three times overall, including two of the last three editions, but is absent with a collarbone injury.
Three to watch
Richie Porte (Sky): The newly crowned Australian time trial champion – he beat a quality field including Rohan Dennis, Jack Bobridge and Luke Durbridge – is in good form and will be desperate for a fast start to eradicate the memory of a miserable 2014 as he looks to mount a credible challenge at the Giro d’Italia, where he is expected to be Sky’s GC leader. A fine climber in his own right, he has excelled as Chris Froome’s lieutenant but has yet to match his breakthrough seventh place at the 2010 Giro, with his highest finish in six subsequent grand tours a modest 19th.
Heinrich Haussler (IAM): Now 30, the half-German, half-Australian rider is perhaps best known for a tough, tearful stage win at the 2009 Tour de France and a spectacular crash with Mark Cavendish at the Tour de Suisse the following year. But he’s also a rider with considerable classics pedigree: second at both Milan-San Remo (behind Cav) and Flanders in his peak year of 2009, and top-tens at Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and the Vattenfall Cyclassics since. Now back at WorldTour level with newly promoted IAM, he recently won the Australian national road race. Watch out for his green-and-gold colours throughout the race – any of stages two, three or four could see Haussler up at the sharp end.
Barry Markus (LottoNL-Jumbo): The early part of the season often sees the unveiling of a young sprinter who goes on to make an impact in subsequent years. Now 23, this young Dutchman first caught my eye with a creditable podium finish in a strong field at Scheldeprijs in 2013 – behind Kittel and Cavendish but ahead of Alexander Kristoff, Tyler Farrar and Theo Bos – but has had limited opportunities since. He should have more chances as a lead sprinter in the newly christened LottoNL-Jumbo (née Belkin).
Link: Official race website