This coming week marks the 19th running of the Tour Down Under (TDU). Here are three reasons why it's a big deal, as explained by La Velocita's Tom McQuillan.
Words - Tom McQuillan Images - Media Pool
1. It’s the pinnacle of Australia’s summer of cycling
Although most other events in the Australian summer of cycling take place in Victoria (the Mitchelton Bay Crits, the national road championships, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour), the jewel in the crown is South Australia’s Santos Women’s Tour (January 14th-17th) and the Tour Down Under (January 17th-22nd, plus the People’s Choice Classic on the 15th).
With more Aussie sports fans tuning in to cycling during January than any other time of year (except during the Tour de France), it’s a great showcase for cycling and an opportunity for cycling to grow in comparison to other sports.
While cricket and tennis have long dominated summer sports coverage, the various events of the Australian summer of cycling will be covered by 3 free-to-air TV networks, as well as being streamed online. This is perhaps the most important of all: thanks to the TDU, Australians can actually watch professional cycling during the day! No showing up bleary-eyed at work because you stayed up until 2am watching the sprint finish of a race in Europe (and don’t even get us started on races in North America), and no annoying family members or housemates by shouting at the TV until all hours of the morning. Plus you can indulge in a post-race beverage of your choice without feeling too guilty.
Couple that with the huge crowds turning out to watch each stage in person and you’ve got a sporting event that can compete with the biggest on the Australian calendar.
2. It attracts the world’s best riders
Although the TDU is the first race of the men’s UCI WorldTour for 2017, it’s got some real star power. Among the list of riders escaping the European winter in 2017 are two-time world champion Peter Sagan, Colombian climbing sensation Esteban Chaves, Aussie Tour de France contender Richie Porte and four other former wearers of the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. As for the Santos Women’s Tour, riders in action will be newly crowned Australian road and time trial champion Katrin Garfoot, former La Course by Le Tour de France winner Chloe Hosking, Dutch sprinting powerhouse Kirsten Wild and former world time trial champion Lisa Brennauer.
Having so many European pros coming to Australia at this time of year makes sense when you think about it. If you had the choice of staying at home in sub-zero temperatures and trying to ride in between snowstorms or travelling to Australia to soak up the summer sunshine and party atmosphere of the TDU, would you choose to stay at home?
What’s more, if you like seeing Aussie riders succeed, the TDU should satisfy that craving. Given the good weather (and thus incentive to train) in most of the Australian pros experience through November and December, most of them are flying by the time January rolls around. Last year Australians won all 4 stages of the Santos Women’s Tour and all 6 stages of the TDU, and finished first in the overall standings in both races thanks to Katrin Garfoot and Simon Gerrans respectively. We’d be very surprised if a majority of stages weren’t won by Aussie riders in 2017 as well.
3. The atmosphere around the race is fantastic
One of the foundations of the TDU’s success is in how well it blends being a professional bike race with being an amateur event that appeals to spectators. The fact that all the various stages of the race take place within a day’s ride of Adelaide (and most of the time is considerably closer) means that it’s logistically very easy for cycling fans and teams alike to base themselves in one place in Adelaide for the week.
Teams love this because it makes logistical planning a snap, the riders love it because they get to stay in the same nice hotel room for the whole week, and fans love it because both the race and the huge party that accompanies it are within easy reach of the CBD.
Okay, sounds awesome. How do I watch it?
For Aussie viewers, coverage will be on Channel 9 and 9Gem. You can find a guide to the TV coverage of the broadcast.
Twitter followers can follow along by using #TDU, #TDUWomens, or #summerofcycling.