It seems only half a year ago that we were sitting on our couches in the middle of winter watching Le Tour on SBS. We wiled away the best part of three weeks gnawing on chunks of pasteurised soft cheeses, and then, in the commercial breaks, the ads for the Tour Down Under came on.
You know the ones; a haughty Frenchman tells us about the wonderful time he’s having at Le Tour at the height of the European summer and in our moment of despair, as we huddle under a doona, we are reminded of the good times rolling our way in January at the Tour Down Under.
Well, it’s finally here, the first event on the UCI WorldTour cycling calendar. As the ad says it’s time ‘to dry your eyes wiz a kangaroo’ as we take an unashamedly biased look at some Aussie favourites as the TDU hits the roads of Adelaide and its beautiful surrounds.
I’ve picked five classy Aussies who I think are capable of really showing their stuff this year. Please keep in mind in my assessment I’ve employed the tried and true scientific method of sporting predictions, 10 per cent research and analysis combined with 90 per cent gut feeling.
Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE)
The 2011 Tour Down Under winner is back to fill the spot vacated by 2014 winner Simon Gerrans, who is out due to injury. There’ll be a lot of expectation on the shoulders of Cameron Meyer to bring home another victory to Orica-GreenEDGE. However, Meyer has a solid team around him with the likes of Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge and South African Daryl Impey. Younger brother Travis is riding in the Drapac squad. Surely a bit of sibling rivalry couldn’t hurt to spur on a victory?
Richie Porte (Sky)
Froomey’s roomie started 2014 taking the Willunga Hill stage and finishing fourth overall in the TDU. From then on it was a year the Tasmanian would rather forget. In contrast Richie Porte has started 2015 on a much brighter note taking out the recent Australian national time trial championship.
In hindsight it was probably wise to pull out, along with Chris Froome, from a rain soaked injury-riddled course in the elite men’s race at the Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic in early December last year. An individual time trial victory a road race does not make but nonetheless Porte goes in to the TDU as an overall favourite.
Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling)
Following his stage win in the 2009 Tour de France, there’ve been some lean years for Heinrich Haussler until his recent national road championships win at Buninyong. Haussler fought off plucky youngster Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) in a ride resulting in the ‘best day of his life’ and the honour of wearing green and gold as national champion. If this start to 2015 doesn’t spur Haussler on to a stage win I don’t know what else would.
Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Overall winner of the TDU way back in 2002, Michael Rogers put on an impressive show in 2014 winning two stages of the Giro d’Italia and a stage at the Tour de France. Powered by the Tinkoff-Saxo team, Rogers is one to watch.
Cadel Evans (BMC)
This is the penultimate cycling event for ‘Cuddles’ before he bows out at the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in February. But make no mistake, there’ll be no showboating here for Cadel as he’ll be in it to win it. Evans finished second to Simon Gerrans overall at the TDU last year.
Still, my heart says yes but the head says no to an overall victory. With that said I still think we could see him on the podium for one last time slipping on the ochre jersey. Whatever the result there will be an emotional farewell to Australia’s greatest cyclist.
Pass me that box of kangaroos please.