Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
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.
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.
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.
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.