3 Aussies in contention, 3 Teams battling it out, 1 Australia Day, 4.75 kilometers of new untested stage route, 85.5 kilometers, 1 Second time gap to decide a winner. Pressure does not come more intense than this.
Adelaide, South Australia and the Santos Tour Down Under organisers have turned on another superb event. They deserve the promotional hype of a 1 second gap to start the last stage after a week of intense competition under some of the most trying conditions. The organisation and the event itself matures nicely with age with each day the attendance records beaten. Upon walking around the new inner city circuit it looked like the finale would be no different – which was later confirmed as 115,000 people coming out to watch.
Something different too this year was a race to get the ball rolling, more specifically a CycloCross race. Cross is becoming more and more popular down under and thanks to the Santos Tour Down Under organisers we were able to take the chance to watch our first race. Watching these guys maintain speed under some pretty challenging conditions made it a spectacle to view although the sweltering summer sun and the lack of mud and/or snow certainly makes this racing a lot different than the typical Belgian cross!
Victoria Park was converted into a Cyclo-Cross circuit entertaining the crowds before the main event.
Watching these guys race is hard, fast and spectacular. It is no wonder that this sport, so huge in Europe is starting to take a hold down under.
The morning was all about Simon Gerrans and his incredible 1 second lead going into the final stage as we took to the sign on location for the last time.
The man himself was looking relaxed and not stressed at all with just a one second lead.
The pressure was being placed on Gerro’s shoulders straight away. Australia Day, Australian team, could it be done, could Orica Green Edge keep control and give Gerro a 3rd title?
Jens Voigt. This guy is just awesome. Will 2014 be his last start? He wasn’t saying much, but if it is, he certainly hasn’t ridden like a rider heading for retirement. The crowd all around the circuit went into overdrive whenever he went past.
And a little memory…every day Jens drew a little picture at sign in. So far this TDU he has drawn a flower a butterfly and a sun. When asked why, he simply replied, “I am happy. I want to show it”
The voices of Cycling, Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett, had the best view in the house, but their backs were to it!
Last day is always a playful day for the teams. I was trying to line up the main straight with the start banner and the city in the background but these guys from the Lampre Merida team had different ideas!
While Japanese Champion Yukiya Arashiro was getting some serious publicity shots done by his photographer wife who travels to alot of the races and so I thought I’d snap a little one too.
Cadel cut a lone figure warming up on the circuit. He was popular with the crowds during the warmup but his need for two seconds to take the lead was always going to be difficult. Whatever the case he was looking the most relaxed today of the whole tour.
While the final stage can sometimes be a procession there was so much on the line today that the pace was on from the start. A breakaway of 4 started immediately before an accident split them, eventually getting back to 3.
We walked the circuit to get as many perspectives as possible. Everywhere we went the crowds were gathered watching the action then retreating to the shade until the riders got close again.
The new route in the city was a great opportunity to revisit some classic Adelaide landmarks. The old market building would be a familiar sight for anyone who ever watched the Adelaide F1.
With no hill to speak of, the average speed of the stage was a blistering 44.5 km/h despite a solid headwind along the main straight. Adelaide is not just a city of churches but also beautiful old stone buildings and wide streets and the circuit was a great showcase for this pretty city.
Although the giant, ‘Be Seen’ bicycle is not normally part of the scenery on offer.
Cadel was tucked in tight in the group but with the breakaway up the road taking the time bonuses on offer his chance of stealing seconds in the final sprint against Kittel, Greipel and co. were always going to be limited.
Eventually the breakaway was brought back and the race came down to a mass sprint with André Greipel, the gentle giant claiming another victory – his 16th at this race!
The Tour winner Simon Gerrans had done it for Orica-GreenEdge and completed the Santos Tour Down Under’s 815.5 kilometers in 19 Hours 57 Minutes and 35 seconds thanks to his time bonuses. Public favorite Cadel Evans completed the same just 1 second slower and although 1 second is a tough margin to come second by, Cadel had shown he still has strength in his legs and a team capable of being competitive.
Other category winners were:
Cycle Instead Young Rider Jack Haig (UniSA) – just 20 years old and a HUGE talent.
Adam Internet Sprint Jersey: Simon Gerrans (ORICA GreenEDGE)
Europcar Most Competitive Rider: William Clarke (Drapac) – breakaway king at this year’s race.
SKODA King of the Mountain: Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol)
Hindmarsh Winning Team: ORICA GreenEdge
So the Santos Tour is completed for 2014. According to the official estimations a massive 766,000 fans came out to watch the event. It is sad to see it done but it has whet the appetite for another amazing season of cycling – and of course it is only 360 or so days until it all starts again in Adelaide!
To everyone out there in PEZ land, I hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences. If you have never been to the Tdu make sure that one day you do it. It may be a long way from the Northern Hemisphere but you will not be disappointed.
Stage 6 Results:
1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 1:55:16
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
3 Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team
4 Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano
5 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling
6 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica Greenedge
7 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp
8 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol
9 Michal Kolár (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
10 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica Greenedge
Final General Classification:
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 19:57:35
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:05
4 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:10
5 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:27
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:30
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge 0:00:34
8 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:37
9 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol
10 Egor Silin (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:47
Steve ‘VeloRoo’ Prokop is an Aussie cycling enthusiast who runs a bike hire and Tour company with his wife Julia in the south of France for most of the year before returning to Australia in the French winter to enjoy the sunshine and visit events such as the TDU. Check them out at veloroo.com for an unforgettable cycling holiday.