As the Tour Down Under prepares to enter it’s 15th year we are once again drawn to the white sandy beaches and sweating gum trees of the fabulous South Australia.
Tainted as maybe – just maybe – the best training location in Australia, Adelaide hosts most certainly the greatest cycling race in the TDU.
Notable memories of late for me will include Andre Greipel winning pretty much everything for many years, Matthew Lloyd crashing at 80km/hr downhill after fainting from apparent heat exhaustion, and the Valverde/Gerrans battle of 2012.
Andre Greipel has once again shown us why he is called The Gorilla as he demolished the rest in a bunch sprint finale at the 2013 People’s Choice Classic cycling race.
This is the race that precedes the Santos Tour Down Under on an annual basis and once again it cranked up an exciting hour of power – 30 laps of a 1.7km circuit for 51 kilometres – for the thousands of spectators around Adelaide’s Botanical Gardens and TV viewers around the world.
The race opened up with a potent attack from Jens Voigt and Zak Dempster off the start line and no one else could even blink before they had 15 seconds gap.
The powerful duo quickly opened up a gap of 30 seconds plus and held that distance for the entirety of the first 20 of 30 laps.
Getting in ‘the breakaway’ today was very beneficial from a sponsors point of view given it’s the first real international road cycling race of 2013; once again the UniSA national team put their mettle on show as did Radioshack score some ‘TV time’.
This will make for a quick start and a fair few European hearts being pumped hard for the first time in months. This is an optimal event before the Tour Down Under not only for sponsors but riders as well.
If a rider is ‘too fresh’, heart rates run too high and consume too many calories. A rider’s lungs will also be in shock therapy after essentially hibernating in recovery mode for the winter, so the fast and hard Classic was certainly testing some squads.
Zak Dempster exposed himself as a true contender for the upcoming Sprint Jersey as he muscled his way into winning all four sprint primes for the day. Voigt seemed unfazed despite his staple grimace from a highly lactic bloodstream.
The two were gobbled up after the two thirds of the race was consumed and the Big Angry Sprinters started to mass as far forward in the bunch as possible.
The likes of Argos Shimano and Lotto Belisol had dominated the chasing from the peloton so far, but now other teams started to move forward, as we saw the likes of Saxo-Tinkoff, Euskatel Euskadi, Garmin and the new and blue Team Blanco.
It wasn’t until very late in the race that Team Sky and the Aussie GreenEDGE boys decided to taste some wind in the front.
Their efforts were relatively thwarted again though by the stronger and more available team ‘domestiques’ from Argos Shimano and Lotto Belisol. These two teams had the most confidence in their respective sprinters, namely Marcel Kittle and Andre ‘Gorilla’ Greipel.
Greipel displayed how to win a sprint today. You have half your team keep you at the front, chasing, and out of trouble, for the first half of the race.
You then have the second half of your team keep you at the front for the last part of the race and you decimate the peloton with furious speeds of 60kmh for the last 10km. The second last straight that leads into the final corner is always of paramount importance and whichever team can get their rider into it with at least one teammate ahead, is most likely to win. Today the Gorilla used his 30cm biceps to manipulate his body into that spot.
The bunch was so tired after the closing kilometres that a group of about 10 actually split off the front in the final kilometre.
This will happen frequently in early season races as the form of riders varies hugely. Some riders may have come from winter and preparing for the Tour de France in six months, some may have come from Southern Spain and are preparing for Paris-Nice.
Let us conclude from today’s event that Greipel is definitely here to try and win, again, the Tour Down Under that starts in two days time.
The man has slimmed down over recent years and his loss of muscle hasn’t slowed him down in the sprints, but will have certainly improved his ability on the climbs. Considering this years Tour Down Under is the hilliest in history, he’ll be relishing in a lighter frame than years before.