We’ve seen the joeys and the koalas … but now we see that the Lion of the Peloton™ has arrived! Sheree gives us the low down from the men’s presser.
Excitement is mounting, despite the unusually cool climatic conditions here in Adelaide. Santos Tour Down Under race director, Mike Turtur, introduced the new race template that makes the event more appealing for all-rounders while still leaving some stages for the sprinters. This is the strongest field in the race’s history and he particularly welcomed the wearer of the rainbow jersey.
Double world champion and cycling superstar Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is making his second appearance at the race and said that, at the moment, he is only focusing on the first part of his season. He’d travelled to Adelaide early, visited friends in the Hunter Valley, and completed an important block of warm weather training after a month off the bike. He played down suggestions of going for the overall, saying:
We have Jay McCarthy here and it’s a big race for him. We want to help him go for GC, and we’ll see what the legs can do, I don’t think I can win the overall. There are some difficult, hard stages but we can figure it out day by day in the race. Jay McCarthy is better for that kind of finish.
Sagan felt that a good outcome would be not to crash (he crashed here back in 2010) and to come out of the race in good form, having found his race rhythm. When asked where he felt he might go well, with a twinkle in his eye, he replied: “Downhill!”
Four-time TDU champion and runner-up at the recent Australian national championships, Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) always looks forward to the event and this year is no exception.
It’s always a big goal for me and the team. It’ll be difficult to top last year but the team will do its best. Stage two is the new queen stage, that’ll be where the race selection is made. Having a second summit finish makes it more difficult for me, so while it’ll be a tall order to win this edition, we have another fantastic option on the team, one of the world’s best climbers, Esteban Chaves.
Richie Porte (BMC) hasn’t raced since the Rio Olympics and, while admitting that he didn’t know where he was form-wise, he was looking very lean and keen.
I haven’t raced for five months, so I don’t really know where I am, but I’m super motivated and for me this is the most enjoyable and my favourite race of the year. I’d love to win this race and see my name on the stairs. (The steps to the team hotel have the names of the race’s winners). But I’ve been in better form in the past and still finished second.
Pinpointed as the pre-race favourite by Orica-Scott’s DS Matt White, Porte wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not he intended to attack on the Willunga climb. However, he too wanted to see how stage two’s Paracombe climb changed the race. BMC also have other options with former winner Rohan Dennis (2015) and Miles Scotson, who is making his WorldTour debut after racing away with the national road race championship last weekend.
Another former winner, Cannondale Drapac’s Tom-Jelte Slagter‘s Tour almost ended prematurely when he narrowly avoided being taken out by our own VeloVoices’ photographer! Once he’d gotten over that close shave, he said:
I’m very happy to be back here. I have very good memories and it’s already been four years since I was last here. I am excited to be back and we’ll try to come close to our 2013 result even though it’s getting harder, our goals and ambitions remain the same: to try and win a stage and do well on GC.
The stage is set for a rip-roaring spectacle and, if I were a betting girl, I might have a few Aussie dollars on Mr Porte getting his name on the steps of the Adelaide Hilton. But first up is Sunday’s criterium, the People’s Choice Classic,which will be one for the sprinters.