It's finally here! The moment we've been waiting for all winter is so very nearly upon us. In the early hours of Tuesday morning (UK time) the Tour Down Under kicks off and the 2016 WorldTour season gets underway
Here is what to look out for over the course of the six stages in and around Adelaide.
The 21-year-old pocket rocket has started his season with a bang, winning the Mitchelton Bay criteriums as well as the Aussie Crit Championships. The nationals road race didn’t go to plan for him, but he bounced back to claim victory at the People’s Choice Classic on Sunday.
There are a few sprint stages for the fast men to target, starting with stage one on Tuesday. A lot of the flatter stages are still reasonably undulating, allowing for a breakaway to possibly take the spoils. But mark my words, Ewan will be in the mix for a win before the race is out.
Old Willunga Hill
Rarely is a pretty innocuous hill so widely celebrated, but Old Willunga Hill has a legendary status in the world of cycling in that it’s the first summit finish of the WorldTour season.
Granted, it’s not challenging enough to entice the real climbers to the race, but 2.9km at seven per cent is enough of a climb to sort out the general classification.
The Strava KOM is held by someone mysteriously named ‘Pichie Rorte’, but we’ve got no idea who that could be. Young Pichie went up Willunga in 6:39 on January 24 last year – the same day that Richie Porte won the stage ahead of Rohan Dennis…which is a coincidence.
The general classification battle
Pichie Rorte, sorry, Richie Porte will be among the favourites for the general classification this year, having finished second last term. But now riding alongside defending champion Dennis it’s unknown quite how much freedom he will have to go for glory.
Dennis has openly stated that the Tour Down Under isn’t one of his main goals this year, so that could mean that Porte will be given a free run at the title, but BMC won’t have it all their way.
Geraint Thomas leads Team Sky and is more-than capable of smashing it up Willunga, while three-time winner Simon Gerrans is always one to watch.
Domenico Pozzovivo probably has bigger fish to fry in 2016, but he likely won’t say no to a chance to thrash his legs up the summit finish and this all makes it an exciting race to watch.
Pictures of road signs with kangaroos on them
It seems to be a cycling snapper’s favourite thing to do when Down Under, so expect to see plenty of pictures of the peloton passing road signs with various wildlife warnings on.
Kangaroos are the obvious danger, even though you’ll face a serious challenge to actually spot one on the route. Koala bears are a little to lackadaisical to bother disrupting a bike race and I’m pretty certain crocodiles don’t make it as far south as Adelaide unless they’re huge cycling fans…
Team Sky’s British legion
Five of Team Sky‘s seven riders are from the UK. It’s either an imperialistic statement from the British team or a sign that they’re really looking to win the race this year (very likely the latter).
Thomas leads the team and is supported by the powerhouses that are Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe – preparing for the cobbled Classics – as well as Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift.
If that quintet wasn’t strong enough, Sky have also sent Sergio Henao to boost the climbing on offer and Salvatore Puccio to add another engine to the motor.
Don’t be surprised to see a number of these guys in the top 10 at the end of the race.
Yellow jerseys are all the rage in cycling events – especially those run by Tour de France organiser ASO.
The Tour Down Under does it differently though, with the leader getting to wear an ochre-coloured jersey. Situated somewhere between ‘Rust’ and ‘Melon Yellow’ on the colour charts, ochre is a colour used as body paint by the Aboriginal people and pigments are plentiful across the country.
New bikes, new helmets, new sunglasses – few teams will by debuting their new wares at the Tour Down Under.
Katusha will be using the new SRAM Red eTap this year, while Trek have created Project One custom bikes for all of their riders in the race.
And you know those Kask sunglasses you’ve been waiting for? The boys in the Drapac team will be sporting them this week, so keep a look out for them.
We’ll be bringing you the best of the new technology from the race in the coming days.