Five tweaks to keep the Tour Down Under fresh

John Thompson-Mills Columnist

By John Thompson-Mills, John Thompson-Mills is a Roar Expert

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    As Roar Expert Felix Lowe wrote in his Tour Down Under preview, “stability is a great thing, but stagnation is only just around the corner.”

    We’ve discussed many times over the years that race director Mike Turtur has many logistical limitations in his quest to keep his race fresh.

    So Mike, what about these tweaks after watching the 18th edition of the Tour Down Under.

    Time bonuses
    The history books show that on seven out of the 18 editions, the winning margin has been three seconds or less.

    Currently there are time bonuses at the two intermediate sprints for three, two and one second, plus bonuses of ten, six and four seconds for the top three at the stage finish.

    Simon Gerrans had two stage wins in 2016 and beat Richie Porte by nine seconds. So what if we saw a reduction to six, four and two seconds, or even the elimination of the time bonuses at the finish?

    When a race only goes for six stages, a ten-second win bonus is a big slice of time. Is it too big?

    The Willunga finish
    Move it to final day? The Adelaide city-centre circuit looks great on TV, but some people say the race is an anti-climax after the drama of a Willunga Hill finish. You could argue that the final stage of the Tour de Franc into Paris is also an anti-climax, even if the backdrop is spectacular.

    Should the Tour end on Willunga Hill with the Adelaide circuit moved to a different time of the week? Given the TDU is primarily a tourism event, there needs to be stage that shows off the city.

    Time trial
    At Tour de San Luis, race organisers staged a time trial to begin the race. It was a 21-kilometre race, the route was reasonably flat. and the peloton used road bikes.

    Turtur has often been asked about a TDU time trial, but one of the reasons he’s always said no is that the teams would need to bring extra equipment, which would cost more money.

    This week though we saw a time trial as a TDU support event. Riding up Norton Summit, a famous Adelaide climb for club and recreational riders, the time trial was around 5.5 kilometres long.

    The course could be longer for the pros, and being on a hill the riders wouldn’t need time trial bikes.

    Logistically it would be challenging, in terms of where to set up the finish line infrastructure, but why not give it a go?

    The other option is to spend the extra money and have a time trial along the coast.

    Riders could start from Outer Harbour and finish in Glenelg (26km) or go from Port Adelaide to Glenelg (16km).

    The backdrop would again be spectacular, and for businesses along our metropolitan coast it would be a boom day.

    Team selection
    There’s been earnest discussion about the lack of big-name riders at this year’s race.

    There’s no denying the quality of the peloton, but to see a few of the international stars would’ve certainly boosted the wow factor.

    One idea would be to change the participation rules so that teams must send two of their ten top-ranked riders to a WorldTour race.

    So looking at Tinkoff, and using the ranking system from the excellent ProCyclingStats website, they would’ve had to send two from the following: Alberto Contador, Peter Sagan, Michael Rogers, Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka, Oscar Gatto, Matteo Tosatto, Robert Kiserlovski and Evgeni Petrov.

    Instead we had: Manuelle Boaro (ranked 23rd on the team), Oscar Gatto (7), Adam Blythe (15), Michael Gogl (27), Ivan Rovny (19), Jay McCarthy (22) and Michael Valgren (18).

    Etixx-Quick Step would have had to send two of these riders: Tom Boonen, Tony Martin, Dan Martin, Niki Terpstra, Marcel Kittel, Zdenek Stybar, Gianni Meersman, Ariel Richeze, Maxime Bouet, and Stijn Vandenbergh.

    Instead we had: Peter Vakoc (23), Davide Martinelli (27), Pieter Serry (12), David de la Cruz (24), Guillame van Keirsbulck (14), Martin Velits (20) and Carlos Verona (25).

    Teams could even be reduced to six riders from the current seven.

    Australian cycling has an amazing future
    Okay, not technically a tweak, but what a showing from the young Aussie riders.

    Simon Gerrans, Caleb Ewan, Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis may have stolen most of the headlines this week, but behind those riders, and the other established names at Orica-GreenEDGE are other Australians who made a significant impact on the 2016 Tour Down Under.

    There are the ‘watch this space’ riders.

    Jay McCarthy, at 23, won a stage, sprinted brilliantly and topped the best young rider classification.

    Chris Hamilton finished 11th on Willunga Hill and 14th on general classification in his first WorldTour race.

    And the other Hamilton, Lucas, snared 14th on the Hill.

    After a week like we’ve just had at the Tour Down Under, 2016 and beyond is looking very exciting.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Rookie

      January 25th 2016 @ 1:24pm
      Craig Tinney said | January 25th 2016 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

      I want to see it moved around. Maybe Brisbane could it host it one year

    • Columnist

      January 25th 2016 @ 2:05pm
      John Thompson-Mills said | January 25th 2016 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

      the entire tour won’t be moved around as it’s an SA Govt tourism event, but i have written in the past about the sunday night race being raced interstate as a sort of grand depart type event.

      • January 25th 2016 @ 4:45pm
        spruce moose said | January 25th 2016 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        And I will continue to boycott following the tour until it leaves SA.

        It’s simply pathetic that a state government could have such a hold over an international level event like this. It’s an insecurity that developed from when SA lost the F1 race.

        An event like the Tour down under should be an opportunity to expose the great landscapes of this country to the world, instead of just a pocket of Australia near Adelaide.

        There are some dream stages in other parts of the country – challenging stages – that could be incorporated into the tour route. Imagine a time trial from Jindabyne to Charlottes pass for example? That would be a time trial that would challenge any stage on the planet in both difficulty and beauty. Or a stage where the finish is the climb from Mount Beauty to Falls Creek? Or a stage along the Bells Line of Rd? A cycle through New England, or through Kangaroo Valley and the coastline along Kiama? The great ocean road as a stage?

        Now that’s a tour I’d like to see. A tour with a bit of variety, and something that can really capture a greater proportion of the nation.

        • January 25th 2016 @ 6:02pm
          JB said | January 25th 2016 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

          So because SA introduces and develops the TDU into a world class event, other states should then be able to grab it and take the benefits of all the hard work.
          Please continue to boycott the event; SA doesn’t need the likes of you.

          • January 28th 2016 @ 2:18pm
            Chris said | January 28th 2016 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

            Sounds like a great idea. I’m Victorian. We’ll take it. We have form.

        • Columnist

          January 25th 2016 @ 7:04pm
          John Thompson-Mills said | January 25th 2016 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

          Hi Spruce moose,
          Some great suggestions there, but it’s crucial to remember that the SA Govt approached the UCI about the idea of a Tour Down Under.
          And one of the key reasons it succeeds is because for a race in January, it can’t be too demanding for the riders as it’s the first race on the calendar.
          SO it can’t be too mountainous or have huge long days in the saddle or the riders wont come.
          The TDU is essentially the right mix of parcours, but like everything,should always be looking to innovate.

          • January 25th 2016 @ 10:44pm
            spruce moose said | January 25th 2016 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

            Hi

            Fair points, but…

            Let’s keep it realistic, the snowy mountains (or any other range here) are hardly challenging by global standards and I’m only calling for 1-2 stages max in any mountain areas.

            Also, i appreciate that the SA govt created the concept and I’m not advocating for the total abandonment of the state. I’m just saying the race could afford to leave sa…heck, it could start or finish in sa every year for all i care.

            It’s just that australia squanders an opportunity to really showcase ourselves to the world when it isolates the race to the same area each year (and even just does laps within stages!)

            • January 26th 2016 @ 9:30am
              T75 said | January 26th 2016 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              Hey moose, you need to know the history, that adelaide was able to secure the race due to a concept where teams are based in one location for entire tour.

            • January 26th 2016 @ 6:04pm
              Lupi said | January 26th 2016 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

              nobody watches is overseas anyway. no big names,

              the Herald Sun Tour and the Cadel Great Ocean classic are more popular races already so why steal the TDU?

              the world tour aspect is in name only. it doesnt mean anything if Aussies win every stage.

    • January 25th 2016 @ 10:46pm
      spruce moose said | January 25th 2016 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

      One more point. Holding it in January in sa is cruel. Its overwhelmingly the hottest part of inhabited australia.

      Perhaps if it moved to cooler regions, slightly more challenging stages could be introduced.

      • January 26th 2016 @ 9:09pm
        MJ said | January 26th 2016 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

        Cooler regions in Australia in January? Next thing you’ll tell me is that it’s going to snow in Cairns during a Cyclone.

    • January 26th 2016 @ 6:09pm
      Simoc said | January 26th 2016 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

      Judging by the big names sent to the event by teams, none that I’de heard of, the event is primarily to showcase Australian talent. It seems to do very well and gets excellent coverage. Lots of our local Qld riders go there every year and have a great time.

    • January 28th 2016 @ 2:20pm
      Chris said | January 28th 2016 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

      They could do Adelaide on the Saturday, Willunga on the the Sunday. I don’t think they would lose much in terms of attendance by doing that.

    • February 1st 2016 @ 8:22pm
      Paul said | February 1st 2016 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

      Yes,agree would have Willunga finish as the final stage and would scrap the Adelaide circuit race for a prologue through Adelaide CBD instead. This would be very similar to what the Herald Sun Tour did with the Southbank prologue. Would still show off the city and bring the crowds but would create some time gaps for a GC. The Peoples Choice Classic is a waste of time and would be better creating another stage instead, perhaps with one of the long climbs, Greenhill or Norton Summit towards the back end of the stage similar to the Corkscrew stage.

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