The Tour Down Under versus the Tour de France
Stuart O’Grady dresses up for Australia Day (Image: Sam Wood)
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The Tour down Under 2013 (TDU) was a fantastic event and has come so far since starting 15 years ago. It was amazing to watch a packed weekend of cycling, talk to the crowd and note just how impressed everyone was.
This was my first visit to the TDU but having traveled to the Tour de France quite a few times I was struck by the ease of accessibility, the volume of world class cyclists involved, how ideal Adelaide is to host such an event and how much the crowds felt like they rivalled a typical Tour de France day.
I think the only thing missing was the Tour de France red devil who follows every stage, every year of the Tour de France!
However there were a few good Aussie versions including a full grown man in nappies, a man in a bear suit on one of the 40 degree days and multiple clowns running alongside the riders as they climbed the corkscrew!
On the downside it is unfortunately that the TDU clashes with both the Tour de San Luis in Argentina which took a good chunk of the world class riders and the Australian Open Tennis which took a chunk of the crowd.
Still, this is an event which is growing and looked truly world class when viewed from the heavy crowds on the side of the road in the McLaren Vale or the streets of Adelaide.
So here is what it is aspiring to – is it possible that the TDU will become the Australian ‘must’ event for cycling teams? Will the TDU become the Melbourne F1 for Grand Prix, or the Australian Open for Tennis – the downunder beginning to the top events of the season, and a favourite of the circuses that follow?
It is the first UCI event of the year but it seems it still has some distance to go to convince the rest of the world of its potential. Will it always suffer from the timezone, distance and rivalry with other Australian sports?
Cycling events like the Tour de France have so much history. In only 15 years, I think the TDU is doing ok but it would be great to see it up there with the Grand Tours!
Here is a statistical comparison of the two tours.
Tour Down Under v Tour de France
TDU First Year: 1999
Tour de France First Year: 1903
TDU Tour Length: 6 Days
Tour de France Tour Length: 21 Days
TDU Tour Length circa (km): 760
Tour de France Tour Length circa (km): 3500
TDU Riders: 133
Tour de France Riders: 198
TDU Teams: 19 (7 per team)
Tour de France Teams: 22 (9 per team)
TDU Total biggest crowd (est.): 780,000 (over 6 days)
Tour de France Total biggest crowd (est.): 10,000,000 (over 21 days)
TDU Biggest Day ever (est.): 150,000 (Day 5, 2013)
Tour de France Biggest Day ever (est.): 3,000,000 (Day 1, 2007)