Traditionally, the TDU is a sprinter's race. Although there are a few bumps and rolling hills on some of the stages, they all generally came in to a fast, flat finish. This changes slightly in 2012, with one stage finishing at the summit of Willunga Hill - is not a mountain by any stretch of the imagination, but may be enough to knock the sprinter's out of contention.
It will likely end up as a fine balance. Will the bonus seconds won by the sprinters over the 5 stages be enough to fend off the winning margin of the 'climber' who triumphs on Willunga?
Well, time to put my money where my mouth is. Here are my tips for this year's Tour Down Under.
Winner - Andre Greipel
Greipel, this year racing for the new Lotto-Belisol team based in Belgium, is for me the clear favourite for this race. He always hits Adelaide in great form (he is a two-time winner of this event), and this year is no exception. Add to that he is racing for a new team (formed from the split of OmegaPharma-Lotto), who will be keen to get some early results to announce their presence in the peloton.
Podium - Edvald Boasson Hagen
EBH is racing this year with Team Sky. Full of talent, this Norwegian powerhouse will be great competition for Greipel. While I don't think he'll win, he'll come very close. He can also punch hard up the climbs, meaning he has a chance to hold on at Willunga.
Podium - Heinrich Haussler
I'm a huge fan of Haussler, who races with Garmin-Barracuda, and I believe he'll be the best placed Australian in this race (that's right - it won't be a GreenEdge rider!). He showed great form at the recent Australian Championships, even though he missed out on a result, and I believe he'll feature heavily in Adelaide.
Other riders to watch:
- Jonathon Cantwell. A new signing for SaxoBank-Sungard, and an Australian as well, he'll be super-motivated to prove to his new employers he's a worthy signing.
- Mark Renshaw. Another Aussie, he is most famous as Mark Cavendish's lead out man for many years with Team HTC. He has now branched out on his own, and is the team leader for Rabobank. Even though he is probably basing his training to peak later in the season, expect him to have a go at some stage wins here.
- Alejandro Valverde. Back riding for Spanish team Movistar after a two year suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Valverde is a punchy climber, and so wouldn't ordinarily succeed here. However, this being his debut race after such a long time on the sidelines, he may be looking to make an early statement about his intentions and ability in 2012.
It should be a great race this year, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out! Television coverage in Australia is on Channel 9. The first four stages will only get highlights late at night (very disappointing Channel 9!), but the final two stages on this weekend will be televised live.
Here's to some safe and exciting racing in Adelaide. I wish I was there!!