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A big moment for cycling fans is at hand as racing proper returns with the 2013 Tour Down Under’s first stage.
The stage is 135kms from Prospect (4.3kms north of Adelaide) to Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. The riders will reach Lobethal after 83kms, before doing three laps around a street circuit taking in Charleston, Woodside and Lenswood.
The first test for the peloton will not be a sprint however, it will be a climb up Checker Hill Road, a short climb of approximately four kilometres at a 5% average gradient, but a 600 metre section is regarded as the toughest climb in Adelaide, with a 14.2% average gradient.
This section is sure to test the legs of the main bunch as they climb under race conditions for the first time this year.
The first rider to the summit of Checker Hill Road will be crowned King of the Mountains for stage one and have the honour of starting stage two in the green and white polka dot King of the Mountains jersey.
The pace will pick up as the riders hit the course for two and a half laps of the street circuit around Lobethal and surrounds, and with three sprints offering points for the riders and a chance to earn their first prize money of the year, expect the trains of the teams with the big sprinters to be taking charge of the race.
The race finishes near the Lobethal Lutheran School and, unless a breakaway has succeeded, this stage will go to one of the big sprinters the race has attracted this year.
Andre Greipel showed in the People’s Choice Classic that he has good form, while Matt Goss will hope to go one better than Sunday and get revenge on the big German sprinter.
Marcel Kittel, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Jose Joaquin Rojas, Tyler Farrar and current World Champion Philippe Gilbert should all be prominent in the finish as well.
With the form Greipel showed in Sunday’s Classic and his record in Adelaide, it would be a brave person to tip against him racking up another stage win in the Tour Down Under.
This stage offers many good vantage points for spectators, especially in and around Lobethal where a large section of the route will see the riders go past three times.
Onkaparinga Valley road, between Charleston and Woodside, or Lobethal Road, between Lenswood and Lobethal, would be my picks if you don’t want to squeeze in with the big crowd cheering the riders home as they race to the finish along Main Street in Lobethal.
Tour Down Under stage one
Departing near the Prospect Town Hall on Prospect Road, Prospect at 11am
Arriving at Main Street, Lobethal near the Lutheran School at approximately 2:30pm
Best watering hole: Undoubtedly the Charleston Hotel on Onkaparinga Valley Road, Onkaparinga. The race will pass by the front door three times, and what better way to catch the action than while enjoying a cold beverage in this iconic Adelaide Hills hotel?
Best coffee stop: Anywhere on Prospect Road. Get there around 10am to mingle with the riders as they sign on, sit down for a latte at one of the many coffee shops and then head to the car and drive up to the Hills to catch the riders racing around the Lobethal street circuit.