2016 Tour Down Under Preview
The World Tour yet again kicks off with the Tour Down Under in 2016. The native contingent will yet again hit this race with all the form they can find, but a stronger international group within the European teams could provide a now rare foreign winner.
The People’s Choice Classic opens the race again, however this short criterium in Adelaide’s trendy East End doesn’t count to GC, in fact it needn’t be finished by any of the riders. It will however be a test for the sprinters taking part, and a rare opportunity for the Criterium champions such as Caleb Ewan to show off their jerseys.
A strong sprinter’s stage this, with lumpy terrain and the repetition of a sharp climb within the finishing circuit, a sprinter of Ben Swift or Caleb Ewan’s ilk will win here.
One of the traditional stages in this Tour, a more intensely rolling route than the day before awaits the riders, a punchier rider with a decent sprint can win here, but Lobato could repeat his win from last year.
The Tour revisits Corkscrew Road, a steep hill of decent length (2.5km at 9%) that pure climbers certainly have a chance on. The hill is crested before a madcap 6km descent to the finish line, where a solo winner will look to extend a gap to the line, or a small group dash for the bonus seconds could prove crucial by Sunday. Porte, Dennis and/or others will need to take time on Gerrans here before we reach his favourite Willunga Hill.
4: Norwood-Victor Harbor
There are two scenarios to this stage, either the wind blows in form the sea, or it does not. If so, there will be 15kms of fraught crosswind action, which even without any splits will tire the legs out for the drag from the finish, catching out those on a bad day. If not another stage for the strong sprinter, whoever took the flowers in Lyndoch or Sterling must be favourite here.
5: McLaren Vale-Willunga Hill
The third traditional stage this year, a double ascent of Willunga Hill (2.9km at 7%) is everything to this stage. A coastal run to start with, crosswinds are possible but teams will look to avoid the mistake made last year when riders pushed hard to create a split only to be swallowed back up and lose precious energy. Usually an all out fight, a detente is possible which could send this race to the bonus seconds available the next day on the streets of Adelaide.
Another criterium in the heart of the CBD, and the only one of the real stages for pure sprinters, Montefiore Hill (a small bump with a KOM stuck on it) notwithstanding. This stage will either be an exciting session of bonus second arithmetic, or a cool and calming look at the views around and in this great city of mine.
A varied route with many possibilities, consider this the Milan-San Remo of stage races, excepting the crits. Each day could be made difficult, and bonus seconds will count for everything, at the line and at the intermediate points.
**** Dennis, Gerrans
** Clarke, Porte, R. Fernandez, Pozzovivo
* Other, Ser. Henao, Meyer
Dennis and Gerrans are the obvious picks, as champion and past multiple champion respectively. Clarke should assume leadership with Cannondale and may well shine on his day, but Ulissi returning to Australia after his successful 2013 TDU before suspension should prove a sterner test to the Australians. Porte looks to be lacking in form as he changes his build up to the Grand Tours, while Fernandez and Pozzovivo performed very well last year and should do the same today. Meyer is a late inclusion based on a great ride at the Australian NC.
- After a fantastic 2014 and an awful 2015 plagued by crashes and subsequent injuries, Simon Gerrans will be the most intriguing rider to watch this year, as he seeks to rediscover form at the beginning of the season.
- Riders targeting Paris-Nice and Tirreno will need to show signs of form to be trusted by their D.S.
- Sprint stages could realistically go to anyone. Ewan will be on top form and will look to confirm a fantastic arrival last year.
- Where and when will the peloton split? It’s possible to win solo in Stirling and other largely flat stages, but will breaks like that succeed?
- Porte will trial his ability to work with a co-leader in Dennis, which will have ramification for TVG and later in the season.
I hope all of you enjoy my home race, the first race of the World Tour season!