What you need to know about the 2020 Men’s Tour Down Under
Words - James Raison
Images - Santos Tour Down Under @cauldphoto
It’s Tour de France time so that means the Tour Down Under organisers cruelly release the next route while we’re blearily sipping our coffees and arguing about dropped seat stays (they’re great BTW). So, let’s take a dive into the 2020 Men’s Tour Down Under (MTDU) route.
THE QUICK TAKE
Some TLDR takeaways for the 2020 route:
Race organisers have done a great job using familiar elements to make an interesting parcours. It’s a template event but this year has taken many of the best parts of previous years.
The Willunga Hill finale is still Sunday in 2020 and falls on Australia day. That’s going to be a massive day.
There’s 3 up-hill finishes with Stage 2, 3, and 6 looking crucial for GC.
The mass-participation fondo has been moved back to Friday and very inconveniently finishes in Murray Bridge. It’s good to see a new stage finish but will be a logistical pain for those who need to get back to the city.
It’s going to suit the fast-finishing climbers again.
It’ll probably be grotesquely hot again.
Stage 1 is one of the least interesting I’ve seen in the MTDU.
SCHWALBE CLASSIC - SUNDAY 19 JAN
The Sunday pre-MTDU prize money criterium has shifted from the eastern parklands to the inner-CBD. It’s nice to see a change of scenery and the buildings should make for a fun backdrop. The new course could provoke some exciting racing with five 90 degree turns, and one that’s even more acute. It’ll feature sprint prizes at laps 5, 10. 15, 20, and the finale coming aftyer 30 laps.
ZIPTRAK STAGE 1 - TANUNDA TO TANUNDA - 150 km - 21 JAN
The race will kick off properly from the Barossa town of Tanunda with 5 laps of a 30 km circuit adding up to 150 km total.
Traditionally Stage 1 is run aggressively with a swag of riders trying to escape into the breakaway to chase the first KOM jersey and sprint points, and stage-contending teams looking to control them. It’s sparse for points of interest with plentiful straight roads and a predominantly flat profile. There’s two sprint points in Angaston, and two KOM points out of the 5 ascents of Breakneck Hill. It’s a short climb that won’t do much to slow the peloton and is unlikely to dislodge any sprinters.
You can bet the farm on a bunch sprint finish with around 7 km of near-straight run to the line in Tanunda.
For the spectators: It’s a hard day to watch for punters on bikes because of how far from the city the race is. This one could be best enjoyed in front of a TV.
NOVATECH STAGE 2 - WOODSIDE TO STIRLING - 135.8 km - 22 JAN
The ever-popular Stirling finishing circuit makes a welcome return. It’s always given an exciting finale with sprinters and puncheurs duking out the up-hill finishing stretch. It’s also one of the best stages for spectators with the Stirling circuits within 20 km of the city. Welcome back Stirling finish!
Stage start is in Woodside where the race rolls for 4 laps of the area. They’ll re-connect with Onkaparinga Valley Road and plough through Oakbank and Balhannah before cutting through some wonderful countryside on their way to Hahndorf. It’s a steady drop into Mylor before the finishing circuits begin.
It’s a torturous drag from Mylor to Stirling at race speed before the race turns around and flies down through Heathfield on its way back to Mylor again. Early season legs will see many in the peloton shed out the back as the stage and GC contenders scramble for the decisive time bonuses at the line.
Expect the overall MTDU winner to finish high up on this stage.
For the specatators: A truly fantastic course to get out and watch. The stage covers 135km but the total race area is compact. You can catch the start and follow the action through to Balhannah and Hahndorf before reaching Stirling for the finish line. It’s a quick ride up the Old Freeway bike path to get back into the city.
SUBARU STAGE 3 - UNLEY TO PARACOMBE - 131 KM - 23 JAN
Another cracker stage for Thursday from the King William Road retail and cafe strip to the punchy Torrens Hill Road finish. Rohan Dennis launched his decisive GC winning attack on this finish in 2015. It’s too steep for the sprinters so expect the overall contenders to throw everything at this stage.
Forget the finale for now, there’s a badass stage to look forward to. The race is getting sent up the Eastern Freeway which gives spectators plenty of spots to watch from the adjacent Old Freeway bike track. It then flies around the back of Mt Lofty and down into Picadilly Valley and up Bonython Road. The race heads over to Lenswood before plunging down Fox Creek Road before hooking back to Lobethal.
There’s a cluster of sprint and KOM points in the next kilometers as the race starts lapping Inglewood, Houghton, and Paracombe before launching its final assault on Torrens Hill Road. It’s 1.2 km averaging 9% for the climg - check it out on Strava - which is only a 3 minute effort for the pros. History tells us it’s long enough to create gaps so be sure to catch this finish if you’re in the area.
For the spectators: Another great stage for spectators that stays accessibly close to the city most of the time. It’s a great mix of roads too and the kind of course that local cyclists would ride on weekends. Those on bikes can easily catch the race in multiple places. Catch the race in Piccadilly Valley before following the race route down Fox Creek Road and towards the finishing circuits and the final climb. It’s an easy roll back into the city from Torrens Hill Road down Gorge Road.
STAGE 4 - NORWOOD TO MURRAY BRIDGE - 24 JAN
Race organisers have thrown a curveball with Stage 4. The second half of the race is rolling over new roads and a brand new finish in Murray Bridge.
Norwood Parade owns the Friday stage start again, seeing off the race as it heads to the beautiful Gorge Road pictured below. The race turns off and heads through Kersbrook and WIlliamstown before turning Southeast to run through Mount Torrens and Tungkillo.
The peloton will plummet down through Palmer and towards the Murray River at Mannum. It’ll make for some spectacular helicopter shots as the race follows the river, and for some hard riding as the region’s heat and heavy roads take their toll on the riders.
All evidence leads towards a bunch sprint up the main street of Murray Bridge with a decisive sharp turn at 300 metres to go. It’ll be slightly uphill and could suit the lighter sprinters.
SOME NOTES ON THE CHALLENGE RIDE
This is going to be a tough day out for those several thousand cyclists taking on the currently un-named challenge ride.
It’ll be a pleasant first half climbing gradually up to Mt Torrens. The stretch from Norwood to the highest point is very nice indeed. From there it could get tough.
The area around Palmer, Mannum, and Murray Bridge are notoriously harsh places to ride. There tends to be strong winds whipping across the open farm lands, high temperatures, and coarse chipseal highway surfaces. The best way back to Adelaide is the Old Princes Highway. Be sure to fuel up before leaving Murray Bridge because it’s a decent stretch before getting supplies in Nairne or Littlehampton.
STAGE 5 - GLENELG TO VICTOR HARBOR - 149 km - 25 JAN
Glenelg start to Victor Harbor finish is a familiar combination but the course between them has been shaken up for 2020.
Instead of hugging the coast, the race will head inland after its Glenelg start and its seemingly mandatory trip down the Southern Expressway. 2020 truly is the year of freeways for the Tour Down Under. The race heads East after Old Noarlunga and climbs gradually from McLaren Flat up to Meadows before descending through Macclesfield and Strathalbyn. It keeps dropping until the bunch hits Goolwa and runs through Middleton on its way to MTDU regular climb of Crows Nest Road - check it out on Strava. It doesn’t sound like much with 6% average for 3.9 km but there’s a false flat section and short descent in the middle so much of the vertical gains are on 10%+ gradients. Previous editions have seen the race break up somewhat on this hill but come back together on the flying downhill run into Victor Harbor.
It’s a perennial sprint finish in Victor Harbor and the last stage victory opportunity for the fast men before the summit finish the following day.
For the spectators: It’s a good-looking parcours but unfortunately a tough one to watch from the roadside because of how much distance is covered, and how far apart start and finish are. The strip from Goolwa though Middleton and into Victor Harbor offers some great spectating options with plenty of action on offer for Crows Nest Road. For the interstate travellers shelled from a hard week of MTDU chasing, this could be a great stage to watch from a pub to save your legs for the epic ‘Straya Day Williunga finale.
BE SAFE BE SEEN STAGE 6 - MCLAREN VALE TO WILLUNGA HILL - 151 km 26 JAN
The Willunga Hill queen stage keeps the Sunday slot it earned in 2019 but this time falling on Australia day which could see some mega crowds lining the final climb.
There’s exactly nothing new to say about the course. It’’s the same one we’ve seen for the last few years now. It’s been owned by Richie Porte with 6 (SIX!!!) consecutive victories on the summit finish. Its 3 km at 7% is far from an Alp - check it out on Strava - but the intensity tends to blow the race apart. It’s not usually a place where the race is won though. Richie’s 6 victories have only netted one GC win. The GC leader at the start of the final climb tends to defend it by the finish. It’s a phenomenal experience being on the Hill though.
For the spectators: The annual Willunga pilgrimage has become legendary. Those in town should tack onto a bunch, roll out, and enjoy the biggest spectacle in Australian cycling. Stay safe!