All signs point to a close GC battle with a balanced parcours
Words: James Raison
Images: Santos Tour Down Under @cauldphoto
The course for 2020 should produce very close racing with the mainstay Menglers Hill Summit finish removed. That’s often where some of the biggest time gaps are made. GC could go to a sprinter or puncheur, with little for the pure climbers to separate themselves. It’s entirely possible that the final sprint on Stage 4 decides the winner.
Before the route guide I’ve got some general thoughts on the WTDU:
It’s more accessible to fans than the Men’s Tour Down Under (MTDU) because of its lower profile. The riders are absolutely lovely and are always keen to mix with the crowd. There’s fewer barriers, smaller crowds, and a very friendly vibe at the start and finish lines. It’s a genuine pleasure to be around.
There’s no announcement on TV broadcasting and little reason to expect 2020 as the year the WTDU hits the small screen. As in 2019 that’s a damn shame. The organisers have done well sending the race through towns multiple times. It gives more reason to go and watch the race, particularly the stage finishes. There will be a mega crowd in the CBD on stage 4. So get along and cheer!
Keep an eye out on post-WTDU festivities where some of the pros come out. Last year the Trek Segafredo team raced at Attaquer Hot Laps, and a couple of pros contested the Port Adelaide Cycle Club Roller Derby. It was awesome. Quite a few riders stick around after WTDU to train.
ZIPTRAK STAGE 1 - HAHNDORF TO MACCLESFIELD - 116 KM
The Women’s World Tour rolls in anger from Hahndorf; one of South Australia’s tourism hotspots. There’s some race neutral kilometers around the town before rolling out and down to Echunga. WTDU organisers love an undulating course to kick off the hostilities and this stage looks like it’ll be run very rapidly, especially with a sprint point after only 8 km. A breakaway likely won’t be allowed to form before that first trip through Echunga.
The route then veers towards Macclesfield where it’ll make its first trip through the start/finish line the head West towards Meadows. Once through Meadows there’s a 30 km loop through a KOM point at Kuitpo before running through Meadows again. The race then starts the first of two loops that again take in Echunga, Macclesfield, and Meadows before the final downhill sprint into Macclesfield.
For the spectators: The stage takes place fairly far from the city but the loops mean there’s some good spectating to be done with 3 trips through Meadows, Echunga, and Macclesfield. Those who make the trip for the finish line will be treated to seeing the riders a good number of times, and enjoy the post-race fun.
NOVATECH STAGE 2 - MURRAY BRIDGE TO BIRDWOOD - 114 KM - 17 JAN
A painful looking profile that’s going to be tough from the gun. The start town of Murray Bridge have thrown a lot behind the 2020 Tour Down Under with an MTDU finish and WTDU start.
The race leaves Murray Bridge for the dead chipseal of the Old Princes Highway. It’s an open, hot, and windy part of the world in January so the stretch through Monaro, to the Kanmantoo sprint point, and into Nairne will be tough.
It’ll be a fast drop down Junction Road to Balhannah and then onto Onkaparinga Valley road to Mt Torrens. The finishing town of Birdwood will host the second sprint point before a pitchy lap through Gumeracha, Kersbrook, and a KOM point on Christmas Tree Ridge with roughly 10 km to go. Those final kms will sap the strength for a likely bunch sprint to the end in Birdwood.
For the spectators: Birdwood is the place to be. It’s not too far from the city and will see both a sprint point and stage finish. It’s quite accessible up Gorge Road for those on bikes.
SUBARU STAGE 3 - NAIRNE TO STIRLING - 109 KM - 18 JAN
Stage 3 for the WTDU sees the women using the same finishing climb as the MTDU, but a more beautiful run in. It’s going to be a war of attrition with climbers, puncheurs, and sprinters all capable of taking the win.
Nairne will host the stage start, with fresh tyre tracks left from stage 2 running through the town, before seeing the race off towards Lobethal and the first sprint points. Leaving Lobethal, the course runs through Charleston and back along Onkaparinga Valley Road through all of the towns we saw on stage 2 and the stage 1 start town of Hahndorf. The peloton then heads South towards Echunga before turning North and heading to Mylor.
The next 44 km will likely be the most beautiful and exciting of the race. Aldgate Valley Road returns in 2020, a favourite with local cyclists for its beauty and seclusion. It’s the first stretch of the 3 laps that run uphill to Aldgate and through Stirling before bombing down the rapid descent through Heathfield and back to Mylor.
Lap 2 sees KOM points awarded on Avenue Road after Stirling, guaranteeing a very fast bunch starting the final lap. The several kilometer drag to the line is a war of position and attrition as the teams will try and dislodge any sprinters they can. Its final kick is uphill, guaranteeing a fantastic finish.
For the spectators: A cracker stage that finishes close to the city. Stirling is about 20 km from the CBD and easily reach by bike via the Old Freeway bike path.
SCHWALBE STAGE 4 - ADELAIDE - 42 KM 4:45 PM - 19 JANUARY
This one is easy to explain: a city crit with 5 left and one right turn. Smart money would be on some road rash by stage end. As mentioned above, it’s unlikely to be a procession because the GC will still be contested.
For the spectators: This is going to be quite an event with the final WTDU and pre-MTDU criterium back-to-back in the heart of Adelaide, right next to the Tour Down Under Village. Thankfully it’s been returned to the evening timeslot after the earlier start in 2019 led to low attendance and confusion about when to show up. Get there and cheer loud!