My hometown of Adelaide, South Australia hosts the Tour Down Under each year- race one of the UCI World Road Cycling Tour. Now in its 19th year it is well established and patronised by locals and tourists alike.
In 2017 we are lucky enough to have the Tour Village at one end of our street and the criterium that provides the introduction to the 5 stage race at either end of our street.
The criterium provides an opportunity to see the riders close up as they stretch their legs ahead of the TDU itself. A warm summer’s night greeted the race in 2017 and more than 100,000 people turned out to watch. What a thrill to see not just our local heroes, Caleb Ewan, Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans but also the World Champion, Peter Sagan. The sprint finish just a couple of hundred metres from my front door came down to the wire as expected with Ewan first , and Sagan third.
The delight of the race is that all stages start either in the city or local suburbs progressing out to the hills or along the coast meaning staying in town and driving or riding out to see the stages is easy.
Just as with the major races of the world each starting location is decked out to celebrate the event, as are the towns the race passes through. As South Australia is the wine capital of Australia, the race always passes through two of our major wine regions, The Barossa Valley just an hour’s drive out of the city and McLaren Vale just 30 minutes away. The up and coming Adelaide Hills wine region also sees the bikes go by. For spectators there are so many wonderful vantage points, either a coffee shop, restaurant or bakery in one of the towns or under a tree or umbrella on the side of the road.
Riding out to watch a stage if you are cyclist is a great way to see the race. Rarely do you find yourself riding by yourself for long. There are cyclists everywhere heading out to watch. Some are locals, others are from interstate or overseas all happy to have a chat about the race, where to eat, or where is the best coffee.
Accompanying the tour are a series of rides, the Challenge ride on the Friday of the race provides thousands of amateur cyclists ride the same stage as the professionals or in the lead up to the race, Ride Like Crazy. These are awesome fun, but if you don’t want to be involved in these there is always a morning ride with one of the numerous pelotons around town that head out at dawn and are back for coffee anywhere from 7 to 9am depending on the length of the ride.
The Saturday stage that takes in Willunga Hill is the major stage and has seen the race won and lost on more than one occasion. It is a stage that starts in McLaren Vale and loops down to the wonderful Silver Sands beach along the coast to Snapper Point and Port Willunga before progressing to 2 final loops of Willunga Hill and a hilltop finish. In 2016 the stage saw Simon Gerrans pip Richie Porte to take the stage and overall race. A few years before the sight of Cadel Evans chasing down the pack fro a dramatic finish readily comes to mind.
The TDU is a reminder that you often don’t need to travel far to enjoy the sights.