Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Tour Down Under 2014 - preview & predictions

The Tour Down Under (TDU) is far from the most prestigious event on the international cycling calendar, despite its status as one of the top tier World Tour events.  But for Australian cycling fans, it is held dear as our own little Tour de France.

Being in the 'wrong hemisphere' means as cycling fans we are used to viewing the professionals while trying not to fall asleep on our couches. We have to try and not cheer too loudly either, as the rest of the house is fast asleep...

As a result, and due to its placement during the summer school holidays, the TDU is hugely popular here. Many fans make a pilgrimage to Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia, while others enjoy watching the racing with the sun still up.

The Race Itself

The TDU is a 6 stage race in South Australia.  That doesn't include the People's Choice Classic - a pre-race criterium held two days before stage 1 that all competitors participate in.

In recent years, the race has been a sprinters' paradise.  German powerhouse Andre Greipel has feasted on the many flat stages, racking up stage wins and plenty of World Tour points.  This year, however, the stages are little bumpier.  Certainly not mountainous - far from it - but enough to level the playing field a little and give the roulers a chance to win.

The Battles to Watch

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) vs Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)

Two of the very best sprinters in the world, both hailing from Germany.  The result from the People's Choice Classic (Kittel first, Greipel second) shows that they came to Adelaide to win.  Will be fascinating to see who can dominate and take early season bragging rights.

Greipel & Kittel sprint to the line during the People's Choice Classic

Cadel Evans (BMC) vs Richie Porte (Sky)

Two Aussies at opposite ends of their careers - Cadel having achieved so much already, and Porte on the cusp of stepping up as a Grand Tour contender.  Both riders are targeting the Giro d'Italia this year, and the TDU provides us with a tasty entree to this battle.

In reality, neither are probably particularly worried about each other this week.  But as a spectator you can't help but feel that this race will be the first shot in a long 2014 battle between these two great competitors.

Caleb Ewan (UniSA) vs Public Expectation & Potential

Still a teenager, and set to join Orica-Greenedge late in season 2014, Ewan has bucketloads of potential.  Many are expecting, probably unfairly, that he'll be able to match the World Tour sprinters in Adelaide.

I'm a huge fan (already!) of Ewan, and am looking forward to seeing how he goes against the big boys.  But let's let the young fella enjoy the experience, rather than suffocating him with any more expectation...

Team Drapac vs The Race Organiser

Stepping up to the Pro-Continental level in 2014, Drapac Cycling Team have had a long running battle to win a spot (as a Continental team) in the TDU.  They have finally gotten their coveted spot, and will be looking to justify it with a showy performance over the 6-day event.

Who Will Win?

The obvious choice is Simon Gerrans (Orica-Greenedge), who showed with his strong win in the Australian Road Nationals last week that he is in terrific early season form.  He will be tested though by the likes of Cadel Evans and Richie Porte, who will be looking to rack up some early season victories to bolster their own confidence leading in to the northern hemisphere spring.

Was the Aussie Road Nationals podium a preview of the TDU podium?

For the other big names, like Frank Schleck (Trek), Robert Gesink (Belkin), and Jurgen Roelandts (amongst others) - well, we'll have to wait and see if they are treating the TDU as a week-long training camp, or as an early season target race.


Australia's chance to briefly be the focus of the world cycling community.  Home viewers can watch all stages live on the Nine Network's free-to-air digital channel 'Gem' - check your guide's for details.

Don't miss this chance to watch fantastic cycling at a civilised hour - I'll be glued to the set watching as much as I can. I'll be cheering loudly for Cadel for the overall, and young Caleb Ewan for a couple of confidence-boosting performances in the sprints.  Enjoy!!

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