We've had 24 hours of re-hydrating and crying in a broken ball on the floor. Even so, we've decided 2018 was the best Tour Down Under ever! Here's why.
Words: James Raison
1. The racing was ridiculous
How do you script a 6-day race that ends with two riders who have different skillsets finishing on identical time? You don’t. You just don’t.
Australia’s climbing sensation Richie Porte tied with Michelton-SCOTT’s selfless South African all-rounder Daryl Impey, the latter winning on countback. The parcours, mixed with horrendous heat, was an equaliser of abilities. Sprinters, all-rounders, and climbing puncheurs were duking it out on every stage for precious positions and time bonuses. The drama was incredible. The suffering was hard to watch. Every finish was a nail-biter.
The Tour Down Under used to be a sprinter's race several years ago. We're glad it's changed to its current format. The route might seem a bit bland sometimes with well-trodden stages used each year but you can't criticise it for being boring racing.
2. The WTDU is on the rise
The Women’s Race is gradually moving forwards.
Let’s cover some of the less-than-ideal aspects before continuing. The lack of broadcast is a damn shame, and one that really limits media’s ability to cover it. Plus there’s still the accomodation inequity that sees the women in dorms and the men in the Hilton.
Still, there are plenty of positive signs for the future. Firstly, the 2.1 UCI status literally raised the profile of the event. The turnout of teams was exceptional too and reflected the global interest in the race. Finally, the event organisers announced that the women will receive equal prize money to the men for stage results.
Just think of what that extra cash will do to draw talent next year.
Finally, the parcours was excellent with much greater balance. Gone are the multiple criteriums of previous years and in its place was a rolling Stage 1, summit finish Stage 2, punchy climb on Stage 3, and a sprinter’s delight criterium on Stage 4. We want more of this please because the racing was outstanding.
Next year we need to give them weather that isn’t totally bonkers.
3. Australian domination ended
You probably expect us to be devastated about this, but Australian domination isn’t good for the race. Internationals coming from European winter line up against Australians peaking after national championships. It’s a tough task and we loved seeing diversity in TDU stage winners that included a German x2, Italian, two Australians, and a Slovakian. Last year was all Aussies, specifically Caleb Ewan x4 and Richie Porte x2. We like Aussies, but share the love!
International contenders and their teams need to see a reason to send talent to Australia and a playing field where they can win is very important. The riders love jetting in from European winter, and the hope is they drop here in good form ready to fight for the win.
It really was great to see Daryl Impey take the GC. How many teammates, many of whom are Australians, has he delivered to stage victories over the past years? We don't know but it must be a lot. Congratulations Daryl, you're a legend.
4. The circus is only getting bigger
The Tour Down Under exists solely as a rolling tourism commercial for South Australia. It’s owned by the South Australian Government and serves to inject funds into the economy. If it doesn’t make money, it will disappear.
It’s fantastic to see the event continue to grow. Crowds were down, 680,000-ish across the 6 days, but that’s not surprising considering the apocalyptic weather. Satan would have described Adelaide as "a bit toasty for my liking" while the race was going with temperatures ranging from 37-42 celsius all week. Still, the Adelaide CBD was abuzz with events. Brands are throwing serious resourcing at creating great experiences for punters.
The pop-ups were brilliant with Rapha growing bigger again, Black Sheep and Specialized’s Chateau dropping plenty of jaws, and MAAPxTreadly putting on a great show at the Mill. The Bike Expo was massive too with fleets of demo bikes, dozens of brand showcases, and stacks of catering options.
Every person who comes to Adelaide, rides bikes, and spends money helps to secure the future of the event. It also affirms Adelaide’s direction towards becoming a Australia’s top cycling city. Keep coming here to ride bikes.