Thousands witness Greipel salute in Victor

jasonkohlmorgen Roar Guru

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    Another fantastic day at the Tour Down Under, with Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) securing his first win of this year’s event in front of a massive crowd in seaside Victor Harbor.

    The day kicked off in inner city Unley and the turnout was huge. Cafes were packed with hungry fans, all enjoying a spot of breakfast before the riders rolled out.

    There was even a joey being passed to many of the riders, race leader Cadel Evans (BMC) particularly keen for a cuddle.

    It was baking hot in the sun, but it didn’t dampen the atmosphere, and with the local paper having given out thousands of cowbells, the riders left the start line to a din of bells ringing.

    The course layout was tough for those who like to get ahead of the riders and watch them pass on several occasions and we made our way to Mount Compass, some 80 kilometres after the race start.

    A small but enthusiastic crowd braved the heat to stake a spot and watch the peloton race by.

    There was even a cow by the side of the road, promoting the Compass Cup – Australia’s only cow race, which is due to be held tomorrow. Ironically, there was not a cowbell in sight here.

    The Mount Compass Tavern was doing a roaring trade as people sought refreshments before the riders arrived.

    And when the men in lycra did ride past the small crowd made a considerable amount of noise, some even chanting “Evans, Evans”.

    With some of the 6,000 Bupa Challenge recreational riders still on the course (all made to pull of on the side of the road when the pros bore down on them), making progress in the car was tricky, so we were left with little option but to head to Victor Harbor for the finish.

    6,000 riders doesn’t sound like a lot, but arriving in Victor Harbor you realise just how many that really is – the whole town was awash with people in yellow and blue jerseys wheeling bicycles.

    Finding a park was impossible, as was walking on the footpath, but the crowd was in great spirits with so many just having completed their daunting ride.

    There was a giant screen set up in the park near the finish line and spectators crammed into every nook and cranny trying to find somewhere to watch the race.

    All of the shops were packed with hungry or thirsty people, none more so than a couple of the ice cream shops that had line-ups well out of the door.

    The crowd was at least ten people deep along the barriers near the finish line, and when Greipel broke clear to sprint to the line you could barely hear yourself think, the noise was incredible.

    Despite how tricky it is to get into (and as we found out later, to get out of) Victor for the finish, the atmosphere created by the massive amount of people there made it all worthwhile.

    The presentations were extremely well attended, though the crowd did boo when Jimmy Jacques was forced to apologise on behalf of Cadel Evans who chose not to hang around for the usual interview of the race leader.

    I can understand the frustration of the crowd, however if Cadel jumped in a car and left as soon as he was presented with his ochre jersey, he wouldn’t not encounter much traffic.

    Staying for an interview and leaving 15 minutes later and he’d be stuck in the same gridlock we were. Greipel didn’t arrive back at the Tour Village until almost 7pm whereas Evans would have arrived over an hour earlier, and given he needs to go through his recovery routine as he looks to defend his jersey on the race defining stage tomorrow, his decision is understandable.

    And speaking of the gridlock, it was bumper to bumper traffic from Victor Harbor all the way back to the city fringes, I’ve never encountered anything like it in Adelaide. It was slow going, but at least I was in an air conditioned Skoda, many of the brave Bupa riders who’d ridden all the way to Victor had jumped back into the saddle to ride home – chapeau to all of them!

    After a difficult day to catch the riders, tomorrow stage will be a major contrast, with plenty of viewing options no matter where you choose to go on the course.

    It also promises to be very exiting, with Simon Germans (Orica-GreenEDGE) cutting Evans lead to just seven seconds in the General Classification, the second climb to the top of Willunga Hill sure to see attacks from both riders as they try and win this year’s Tour.

    Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) holds the outright lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain Classification with 24 points, Axel Domont (AG2R) second with 22 points and William Clarke (Drapac) third on 20 points.

    Gerrans looks to have wrapped up the Adam Internet Sprint Classification; his tally of 62 points is 20 points clear of his nearest rival Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), with Evans a further seven points behind.

    Jack Haig (Uni SA) is the new leader of the Cycle Instead Young Rider Classification; Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) was the day’s Europcar Most Aggressive Rider and BMC still leading the Hindmarsh Winning Team Classification.

    To see photos from today’s stage, you can find them here. Follow Jason Kohlmorgen on Twitter – @jasonkohlmorgen