The pro cycling season kicks off today with the Tour Down Under. Finally! It feels longer and longer between the end of the previous season and the start of the next. But thankfully the wait is over and we are away.
The Tour Down Under is one of the easiest races of the year for a pro cycling staff member… once you actually arrive!
The logistics of shifting all of the kit necessary to support a team through a week-long stage race across the world is daunting and expensive, and it’s almost like the race organisers then make everything else simple to make up for this
Teams stay in the one hotel (the Hilton — nice), have a large, air conditioned space for the mechanics to work in just across the street, are placed directly above a supermarket so soigneurs don’t have to travel far to stock up their boys, and there are police escorts to the start of each race taking the stress of planning departures and routes away from directors and drivers.
The catch is that it is not a great race to prepare for the Spring Classics for exactly the same reason — it is too easy.
Stages are rarely longer than 160km, and when you are preparing for races in 4-8wks time that are over 250km in a day, this is exactly the wrong time to only be riding 150km. Hence very few of the Classics big hitters are at the race.
This is one of the reasons why we see no Cav, Cancellara, Gilbert, Hushovd or Farrar on the start-line.
This is going to be a good week of racing though — the organisers have finally put in a hilltop finish, meaning that it will most likely be decided by more than just bonus seconds in sprints (although Cam Meyer barely bucked that trend last year having won a stage in a break and held off challenges from the sprinters).
Who will win?
It’s hard to see Andre Greipel not continuing to pick up stages — he has been a dominant force in Adelaide over the years.
Matt Goss and GreenEDGE will be desperate to pick up a win or two, and on the hilltop finish blokes such as Cam Meyer, Simon Gerrans, Mick Rogers, Edvald Boassen Hagen and Alessandro Ballan could pinch the stage and possibly the overall win for the race.
I’m massively looking forward to it.
Read more from Toby at his site, Tobbloganning.