The enormous inflatable yellow bike is again in Adelaide’s Victoria Sq., the boys’s and girls’s WorldTour riders have arrived from all around the world and the Australian biking summer time is heating up. It will possibly solely imply one factor: the Santos Tour Down Underneath is able to roll.
The early-season Australian stage race was final a part of the WorldTour again in 2020, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and triggered lockdowns all world wide. A nationwide occasion was held in 2021 and 2022 as a consequence of journey restrictions, however Australia is again open for enterprise and it is just proper that the Tour Down Underneath is again on, as soon as once more providing a warm-weather begin to the biking season.
“As a season opener the Tour Down Underneath works rather well,” EF Schooling-EasyPost directeur sportif Tom Southam tells Cyclingnews within the crew space after Alberto Bettiol and the opposite riders in pink returned from a journey.
“We now have this week earlier than the race, when all of the groups are available in, get settled in and able to race. It would not occur like that in lots of races however the Tour Down Underneath has a pleasant build-up to the season and the race. It additionally builds the expectation and pressure earlier than the race.”
As a WorldTour race, with early-season status and a now larger than ever haul of UCI rating factors up for grabs, the Tour Down Underneath is a crucial begin to the brand new season.
“You at all times wish to begin effectively right here,” Southam says. “It’s the primary massive race of the yr and it’s a WorldTour race, so everyone is watching. Everybody in Europe is watching, everyone in America is watching, so we at all times take this race critically.
“There are a couple of conventional European groups who come and ease their approach into the season and that is honest sufficient. However we take a look at it as a possibility to get going early and get what outcomes we will.”
Australia’s residence races
The riders are staying within the Hilton lodge overlooking Victoria Sq.. The lodge foyer is roofed in big posters of former winners, together with 2020 males’s winner Richie Porte and girls’s winner Ruth Winder. The ladies’s race remains to be solely half the size of the boys’s, however this yr it’s a part of the WorldTour for the primary time, and a mixed males’s and girls’s occasion appears the right method to begin the season
Victoria Sq. has already been changed into an enormous Tour Down Underneath village, with a motorcycle expo, leisure space and household zone, crew zone and even a ‘knock-off’ space, the place individuals can collect for a drink after the racing.
The riders have been acclimatising and finishing one closing block of coaching earlier than tapering for the beginning of the racing. Temperatures of 37°C are forecast for Friday and Saturday earlier than a rain bathe brings in much more racing-conducive temperatures for subsequent week.
There are 28 Australian males within the 140-rider peloton and 30 Australian girls of their 78-rider peloton, with many anticipating the ‘locals’ to dominate each races after most of them had been in a position to benefit from the offseason at residence, coaching within the Australian summer time for one in every of their largest targets of the yr.
The Jayco-AlUla crew are searching for residence success in each the boys’s and girls’s races after the shortage of a serious Australian race left them deprived compared to their French, Belgian and Spanish rivals. Michael Matthews has returned to race the Tour Down Underneath after a decade of specializing in the European spring Classics, whereas Simon Yates can also be in Australia and able to tackle the race, with assist from a powerful and motivated Australian assist squad.
Jayco-AlUla need to rating a haul of rating factors to start the 2023 season with considerations concerning the WorldTour relegation battle that affected racing a lot in 2022 and can proceed to take action in 2023.
How the boys’s race can be gained
Each the women and men journey a night criterium on Saturday, with the ladies’s Tour Down Underneath beginning on Sunday and lasting three days. The boys’s six-stage race will get underway on Tuesday and ends on the next Sunday atop Mount Lofty within the Adelaide hills.
The phrase on the streets of Adelaide – and particularly within the crew space – is that Matthews can be an total contender, preventing with Adelaide native Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) and maybe new Australian champions Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jay Vine (UAE Group Emirates) for the winner’s ochre-coloured jersey and big trophy.
Matthews highlighted the warmth and his must adapt shortly when talking to Cyclingnews on Wednesday after a morning journey. He solely arrived from Europe final Wednesday however completed second in Sunday’s nationwide championship highway race, a direct present of his kind and ambitions.
Simone Giuliani was on the latest nationwide championships for Cyclingnews and he or she believes three-time winner Amanda Spratt can be exhausting to beat within the girls’s race after her transfer to Trek-Segafredo. She included Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez) and the Jayco-AlUla duo of Ruby Roseman-Gannon and Alex Manly in a listing of contenders in her full preview (opens in new tab) for the Ladies’s Tour Down Underneath.
Southam was within the EF Schooling-EasyPost crew automobile on the males’s nationwide championships after spending the winter in Melbourne. He expects the Australian riders to dominate the ends in the boys’s Tour Down Underneath.
“Matthews is a favorite,” Southam says when requested by Cyclingnews to make a top-three prediction for the boys’s race.
“Then there’s Jay Vine, who simply gained the nationwide time trial title after not having an important highway race. I feel he’ll be up there too.
“I do not understand how he is going however the race is suited to a rider like Pello Bilbao of Bahrain Victorious. He can do a very good prologue TT, dash for the time bonuses and climb effectively for the hilly phases. However a European hasn’t gained this race since Tom-Jelte Slagter of the Netherlands in 2013 and there’s a motive for that. I feel the house riders are at all times going to have a bonus. They only need it extra and put together extra for it.
“If it will get actually, actually sizzling, then the race may very well be muted however the long-range forecast is for it to chill down, so extra riders can come into play and the race may very well be tremendous open and actually thrilling. I am type of hoping the temperature stays low.”
A brand new, harder race route
The addition of a prologue time trial and the alternative of Willunga Hill with Mount Lofty ought to make for a better race, with the winner selected the ultimate ending line atop the hill that overlooks Adelaide.
“New race director Stuart O’Grady has designed a race that’s tougher than we have seen earlier than,” Southam suggests.
“There are fewer alternatives for the sprinters after which these two actually quick phases with 3000 metres of climbing in a January race. It’s going to be fascinating to look at.”
The 5.5km prologue will determine the primary normal classification is just not lengthy sufficient to determine the general race.
“It will produce small time gaps and we’ll go into the highway racing with a pecking order. The kind of riders that may do effectively within the TT are the identical sort of men who can do effectively within the total GC,” Southam predicts.
“I feel it will set up issues straightaway. We’ll know who’s going to drag on day one and perceive which approach the race goes to go. I imply, if Matthews wins the prologue,it is fairly clear which approach the race is gonna go.”
Can he beat former time trial world champion Rohan Dennis?
“He gained a 6km Paris-Good again in 2016, so why not right here? It is a totally different time trial to typical too, as a result of it is highway bikes,” Southam says.
“I feel that’s a good suggestion. You should use an aero bike, aero helmet and you need to use a disc wheel however that’s about it. Although I am certain some individuals will tweak their positions too. All the children love their slender bars today, don’t they?”
Seconds can be gained and misplaced on every stage with the end on Mount Lofty having the ultimate phrase.
“That final stage is so quick and goes straight uphill,” Southam warns. “There may very well be a choose group of 30 or 40 riders after they go excessive of Mount Lofty for the penultimate time, then we now have to see what occurs and particularly what occurs on the climb to the end. It’ll determine every little thing.”
Adelaide, the peloton and the world of biking can’t wait to see if these predictions come true.