I’m short on time so this will be a quick preview; faster than Porte up Willunga…
Stage 5 Recap
Well, the King lives on!
Porte stormed away from his rivals up Willunga, but didn’t get enough of a gap to lead GC overall. The Ochre jersey will be worn by Impey (who finished second on Willunga) going into the final stage, as he is ahead of the BMC rider due to count back. Slagter took third behind the two and consequently finds himself on the GC podium as well.
I can’t see Porte and BMC trying anything on the streets of Adelaide to distance Impey, but you never know.
Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
Same old, same old; the classic final circuit around Adelaide.
Nothing really exciting to see here!
We’ll no doubt see a break form at some point but this should be controlled well enough to bring it all back for a sprint.
There is a little hill during the circuit that helps to line things out going into the final few laps.
Coming through near the front in the final few corners is important as it can be quite hard to make up places from behind here. Saying that, it looks as if there might be a bit of a headwind this year so it could actually be an advantage to come from 6 riders or so back. We’ll have to wait and see!
Ewan – Mitchelton will keep an eye on BMC/Porte early on, but they’ll fully turn their attention to the pocket rocket in the closing few laps. He’s been in a good position a few times but has messed it up. I’m wondering if that with his improved climbing that he seems to be showing; if he’s lost some of his power in the flat sprints?
Greipel – It is nice to see the German have his mojo back; he’s looked very powerful in the sprints so far. With the cooler temperatures set to return, I imagine he’ll no doubt give it another good go and it would be a surprise not to see him on or around the podium.
Viviani – Lightning fast on stage 3, the Italian does seem to have some early zip about him. With Sabatini as lead-out, he should be delivered well into the final few hundred metres. However, I think it is best for Viviani to come from behind, so it will be interesting to see how they approach it. He is a danger though!
Bennett – Given Sagan has his stage glory and McCarthy is no longer in the GC picture, I hope Bora give their Irish sprinter a chance. He’s shown on numerous occasions that he has some great top end speed. With Sagan and Selig putting down the power for him, he should get an armchair ride through those final turns. It is all a question whether he has fully recovered from his cold, but going by his intermediate sprints the other day, I think he has.
Bauhaus – I knew after not backing him on Stage 3 he would go and produce a strong result. Like Viviani, he flew from far back, using the slipstream of the other riders very effectively. A powerful rider in his own right, he reminds me of Kittel in some ways. Can he show the same top end speed here?
Consonni – I like the young Italian a lot and he’s much more versatile than just a sprinter; finishing second in the U23 category on the tough World’s course in Richmond a few years ago. After a season in the pro ranks, his top end speed seems to be coming along well. He’s produced consistent results this week; but he can make that final step?
The veteran to be the smartest in the headwind; Greipel to power home for a second stage win.
Consonni to finally break onto the podium as well!
3pts WIN Greipel @ 4/1 with Bet365
1pt EW Consonni @ 33/1 with Bet365
Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the shorter preview! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the opening week of the men’s racing season. I’ll be back with both men and women’s CEGORR previews next weekend. Anyway,
After a couple of questionable days, it was nice to finally get off the mark and up and running for the season!
A long hot day in the saddle for the riders (even with the shorter distance), we saw the expected bunch sprint into Victor Harbor. For most of the closing kilometre it looked as if Ewan had it in the bag but he seemed to delay his final sprint. I’m not too sure as to why, but he possibly thought it was too far out to go. That opened the door for a charging Viviani who took home a very impressive win. Bauhaus came late as well nabbing second place with Ewan eventually finishing third.
Ewan still holds onto Ochre but even by his own admission he’ll find it tough hanging on to it after Stage 4. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
With the temperatures set to soar again I feared that they would shorten this stage; which would be particularly annoying as this was the day I was looking forward to most! However, the organisers have decided to move the start forward by 1 hour to avoid the worst of the extreme conditions. That means the stage is predicted to finish at 2pm local time, or 3:30 UK, although I have a feeling it might be closer to 4.
So, what have we got to look forward to?
The riders will face a fairly benign start to the day, with a few lumps and bumps out on the course, but this stage is all about the closing 15kms once the peloton reach the town of Rostrevor.
It starts with the 5.5km ascent of Norton Summit Road that averages 5.1% for its duration.
It is a steady rise with a few ramps of 7%, but it very rarely differs from 4.5% -> 6% so a team can set a good tempo up it if they want to. I will be intrigued to see who takes up the challenge!
Interestingly, De Gendt holds the Strava record from when they rode the climb almost from the gun back in 2016 on Stage 4. That day De Gendt went up it in 11’06, so we could expect a roughly 10 minute time up it on this stage. Maybe. I’m never great at guessing climbing times!
Norton Summit officially crests at the 120.5km mark, or the 6.5km to go mark. However, the climbing doesn’t stop there…
The riders will enjoy the road flattening out over the summit and have just over 1.5km to gather their breath if they can, before the road kicks up properly on the aptly named Woods Hill Road. It’s a shame a certain Canadian isn’t here!
It’s a very tough kicker, especially the first 2/3rds as it starts to flatten out near the top. In fact, the opening 800m average 9.9% and in the searing heat that is expected, it will feel like a lot more for some.
Once over the top of Woods Hill, the riders will be offered a little respite with a slight descent but considering the road does roll continually, they won’t be offered much time to gather their thoughts; the final 4km averages -1.25%.
The final place to make a meaningful attack is the section that I’m going to call the “Big Double Dipper”.
Going with a lot of momentum into the steep downhill will mean a rider will be able to carry their speed out the other side of the dip and catch those behind off guard. Once they get to the second peak the road turns left and from there it is a 1km downhill all the way to the line. A 5 second gap at the Flamme Rouge should see the rider hold off any chase behind.
How will the race pan out?
Pfffft, who knows!
I imagine we’ll see a very conservative day up until Norton Summit. However, that doesn’t mean the finish won’t be explosive though. I think the heat will make Norton harder than it actually is, making it ride more like a 6.5% climb than a 5.1% climb. In theory, that should mean the elimination of the likes of Sagan, but you never really know.
I can’t see anymore than 30 riders being in the first group over the summit of Norton. From there, it really will be hard to keep control.
Woods Hill is steep enough for the stronger climbers to make some gaps if they sprint up the opening 800m but equally, it is short enough that some of the puncheurs will hope to hang on if the pace isn’t mental.
This has the hallmarks to be an incredibly exciting stage, so let’s watch it end up a damp squib…
I’m really not sure what option I favour; late solo attack, late group attack, GC guys attack on Woods Hill and stay away, small sprint. Who knows!
With having Dennis already covered for GC, I’m just going to throw a few darts with the following riders and hope they’re there or thereabouts…
The Three Darter
Flying at the start of the season last year, this type of finish looks great for the Portuguese rider. He’s been solid this week so far, but not exceptional. However, I think he must be feeling fairly good as he’s been on the hunt for bonus seconds in the earlier stages so he obviously must have one eye on GC as well. Both he and Ulissi should make it with the main selection and it will then be up to Costa to make an attack to force others to chase while Ulissi sits in for the sprint. He might drag some riders with him, but I’m sure the UAE rider would be confident from a group of 5.
This is the Jumbo rider’s first race back after his crash at the Tour and he’s quietly going about his business well. Throughout the first few stages he’s been very attentive at the front of the bunch during the sprint finishes, and he sits “second” behind Consonni on GC in the group of riders that have no time bonuses. The TDU seems to be a good race for the Dutchman, with solid finishes here in the past. One of the best climbers in this race on paper, he packs a surprisingly good sprint from a small group. If the race becomes very selective and we see 5-8 of the best climbers come to the line, he definitely has a chance.
Another rider who always seems to go well here; he finished 2nd on the tough finish to Paracombe last year before an unfortunate fall the next day. Reunited with his brother again on Bahrain, it will be interesting to see what they can manage along with Pozzovivo. I would expect the three of them to be close to the head of the race and having numbers in the front group certainly is an advantage. Gorka could manage a late solo attack with Ion and Pozzovivo marking behind, otherwise, he packs a solid sprint from a small group.
A small group to get away on after Norton Summit and before the kick up Woods Hill Road. From there it fragments leaving Dennis, Costa and McCarthy.
In the end, the more experienced Costa rolls the pair of them as they are too focussed on each other, taking a great win to better his start than last year!
I really have no idea what will happen, which is probably a good thing!
No odds for Gesink at the moment which is a shame. He might appear later on, but I’ll go with the two riders just now;
1pt EW Costa @ 20/1
1pt EW Izagirre @ 28/1
Actually, to get around the whole Gesink situation I’m going to back him for GC
0.5pt EW Gesink @ 125/1 (FOR GC)
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage? Can someone like Sagan hold on, or will it be a lot more decisive GC wise than some people think? Am I completely wrong? Likely. Anyway,
Well, for the first time and not the last, I was way off with the prediction. I really thought Bora and Katusha would ride hard to try to set up their two GC candidates but instead it was Bahrain who made most of the pushing throughout the day. A combination of a controlled tempo up the final climb and a slight headwind deterring attacks, saw CalebEwan take a strong win ahead of team-mate Impey, with McCarthy third.
The Aussie pocket rocket showing how to bounce back well after disappointment on the opening stage. It also means that he’ll be wearing the Ochre jersey going into stage 3, which is another likely to end in a sprint. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them though.
Shortened due to the extreme heat that is expected, the riders will only face one lap around Victor Harbor to finish.
Although there are a few sharp climbs out on route, they are too far out to have any effect on the outcome of the day; this stage is all about that closing 13km loop.
Neither of the hills on the course are overly challenging for the peloton. The first one, known as McCracken Hill, is 940m long at 3.8%. While the second climb is ever so slightly longer at 1.07km and averages 4.3%. Again, not too diffuclt for these guys!
It will be interesting to see if anyone tries a late attack over the second hill considering the fast descent that follows. However, the almost 3km of flat at the end should ensure things are brought back together.
The run in itself does have a few technical aspects to it. One of the first points the riders will be racing too will be a roundabout that comes at roughly 1.2km to go. Normally they are funnelled around the left hand side of it which narrows down the road for the peloton and stretches it out.
Team Sky did this very well last year and it left a lot of people out of position; making the expend extra energy to return to the front.
Once through the roundabout they have 400m before a crucial right then left-hand turn combination before a sweeping run to the line.
Last year, the top 5 finishers on the stage were all through the final left-hand turn in the top 15 places which shows how critical good positioning is to do well here.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the shortest run in to the line is on the right hand side of the road, hugging the barriers, and I’m sure we’ll see a big fight between the sprinters for that position.
GC riders will have to be wary as well because the technical but fast finish can lead to some splits in the bunch.
Sprinters – The Usual Suspects
I’ll keep this short and sweet as who wants to read basically my Stage 1 preview again?!
We have 4 riders who seem to be ever so slightly ahead of the rest, given they made up the top 4 in both the PCC and Stage 1.
Ewan – His confidence will be through the roof after his win and having taken victory here last year, he’ll certainly hope to repeat it. He’ll need a good lead-out from his team-mates as they were a bit off the pace on the opening day.
Greipel – Rolled home yesterday knowing the finish was too tough for him, but he did look miffed when the cameras lingered on him. Maybe he did actually think for a while he might make it, but eventually gave up the ghost. The power he has demonstrated in the PCC and Stage 1 can’t be underestimated and this stage should suit him. Missing a pilot fish might be of detriment to the gorilla.
Sagan – Finished fast on stage 1 and was up there again on stage 2 but he just didn’t seem to have the legs to hold off Ewan. He slowed down to let McCarthy take 3rd, so maybe that was the plan after all, but it is hard to tell!
Viviani – A quietly impressive 6th place for the Italian highlights that he certainly has some good form at the start of the season. It looked for a while as if he was going to win on the opener, but he seemed to launch his sprint too early and ran out of steam in the end. If Sabatini can deliver him later, or if he can come off the wheel of someone, he is a danger.
Bauhaus – He finished very fast on the opening day but was just far too far behind the action when he needed to be near the front. I still think Sunweb are trying to figure out the lead-out but if they get it right he could be dangerous.
Consonni – I was very impressed with the young Italian towards the end of last season as he picked up strong placings in some fairly high-profile races, while still being a neo-pro. Another who finished very fast on the opening day, he slogged his way to 16th on stage 2 which is a sign of his talent and is another who might sneak a podium.
Bennett – Bora’s second, or first option, depending on how you look at it. He was suffering from a cold before the race, but given his bitter disappointment at dropping his chain on the opening day, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say he’s over it. As it is unrealistic that McCarthy will be getting any bonus seconds here, it will be up to the Bora management to decide who sprints. Sagan is known to be a good team-mate and I have a feeling he might let the Irishman have a go for it on stage 3. If so, given the way he finished last year then he is a serious threat for the win.
There’s something that is drawing me to Viviani for this stage and I’m not entirely sure why. He is fast, that is for sure. QuickStep haven’t got their lead-out bang on during either the PCC or Stage 1. In the PCC they were too far back, while on Stage 1 they dropped Viviani off to early. Maybe they’ll get it just right this time?
I think they will.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that Bennett will be up there fighting for Bora too.
2pts WIN Viviani @7/1 with Coral/Lads
1pt EW Bennett @ 25/1 with Coral/Lads
Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win? Will we see a new stage winner or will it be a repeat victor? Anyway,
The race got off to a flyer with the usual sprint finish into Lyndoch. However, it wasn’t either of the two pre-stage favourites who took out the day but instead AndreGreipel delivered the win for Lotto.
That result now means the German has won his opening UCI race of the year for the past three seasons on the trot. A pretty impressive record that!
Ewan managed to hold on for second, while a fast finishing Sagan took third. Will they all be up there competing at the end of stage 2? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.
The riders will leave Unley from a different side than normal, facing the climb of Tea Tree Gully within the opening 15km.
From there, the road rises and falls throughout the Adelaide hills as the riders head towards Mylor which marks the second sprint point of the day but more importantly, the start of the final circuits around Stirling.
As you can see, the course rolls a lot in the opening 11,5km, but it is just ever so slightly downhill on average in terms of gradient. Interestingly, the whole circuit apparently has 489m of elevation gain according to Strava/Veloviewer, but I’m definitely taking that with a pinch of salt; 400m seems more accurate than closer to 500m.
The key part of the day though is the 7.6km drag to the line that comes in the final third of the circuit.
At an average of 2.4% for the duration, in theory it shouldn’t be too difficult for pro cyclists. However, this all depends on how aggressively certain teams approach the day. If it is a benign day then we could easily see some of the sprinters who were in the mix on Stage 1 up there again, if not, then it will be one for the puncheurs.
The final few hundred metres to the line are almost on a false flat, with a little kick up to the finish.
Tackling the rise 4 times could certainly sap the legs of the fast men and puncheurs, especially if we get difficult conditions. Speaking of which…
It looks set to be an even hotter day for the riders than on the opening stage with it feeling like 34ºC come the end of the stage.
There will be a breeze in the air to hopefully help cool them down but I don’t think it will be of much help! They will be pleased to know that there will be a tailwind as they head through the Adelaide Hills towards Stirling. However, it does mean they will face the headwind on their run in to the line while on the circuit. Timing of your effort will be crucial!
Can the sprinters hang on? A quick history of sterling Stirling finishes
While the finish was not used in 2017, it has been used the majority of the editions prior to that but I’m only going to focus on 2011-2016 as a guide because that is when it became “World Tour”.
2011 – Matthews took the win in his neo-pro year, beating Greipel and Goss. Only a group of 24 finished on the same time as the winner but there were 59 in total within 13 seconds. Some splits in the final few hundred metres then. There was also a crash near the end of the stage that saw some riders caught behind. ~60 rider sprint.
2012 – Will Clarke wins solo, with Matthews beating Gerrans for second place; with the likes of Valverde, EBH, Freire and GVA all making up the top 10. 65 riders came home on the same time behind the solo winner.
2013 –An aggressively raced day that saw Slagter take an exceptional win; opening up his sprint from 300m and blowing everyone off his wheel. Goss and Gilbert rounded out the podium with only 27 riders finishing in the front group.
2014 – The biggest group that Stirling has seen, with roughly 100 riders arriving together, it was Ulissi who took the win ahead of Gerrans and Evans.
2015 – Lobato put on a puncheurs masterclass to take the day, beating Impey and his own team-mate Gorka Izagirre to the line. I miss early 2015 Lobato. Anyway, only 48 were there to witness him win, less than half from the previous year.
2016 – A wonderful win from McCarthy as he just pipped Ulissi to the win, with Dennis coming home third. It might have been a slightly different result as the likes of Gerrans and Haas crashed out, who knows though. I certainly didn’t care as I had rather aptly came in from a night out in Stirling (Scotland) to watch him win at 100/1. Good times!
So what can we take from all of this?
It really depends on how aggressively the day is raced as to how big a bunch makes it. There is a chance if the bunch is on a go slow day that we could see ~100 guys arrive together.
However, I think we’ll see an aggressive day and a whittling down of the peloton that will mainly be driven by Katusha and Bora. Both of those teams have riders capable of winning this stage (Haas/Restrepo & McCarthy/Sagan), but also taking valuable bonus seconds in their quest to win Ochre come the end of the week. The intent was there on Stage 1 when going for the intermediates and I see it being no different for stage 2.
I think some of the sprinters might make it, but them being able to compete is another thing. Only Sagan out of the main guys has a good chance. In fact, this stage is Sagan’s for the taking, but it all depends on if he has to work for McCarthy or not.
There are the obvious guys such as Sagan, McCarthy, Haas etc. but given that I have already waffled on for a good bit and there will be plenty of others who will cover the key guys well, I’m just going to go straight to three outsiders who I think might stand a chance. Maybe…
It will either be him or Gerrans that will be sprinting for BMC but I certainly would give the Kiwi a shot at it. He’s known much more as a time trial rider however he does pack a fast punch; he came from nowhere to finish second in the opening road stage of the Tour de Suisse last year. Furthermore, he finished 11th yesterday and in an interview with CyclingNews, Porte said that his team-mates will be racing to take bonus seconds away from his rivals. He’s one to keep an eye on!
The newly crowned Aussie RR Champion is another who’s sprinting prowess caught my eye at the Tour de Suisse last year where he picked up two 4th places. It was his 4th place on stage 2 that was more impressive though as a breakaway duo won the stage honours ahead, he beat the likes of Swift, Felline and Ulissi in the uphill drag to the line; only being bested by Colbrelli. I have my doubts about Ewan making it in this stage, so Mitchelton might just turn to him. Or Impey.
A name that I know one reader will like, the German is one of the two chosen “sprinters” here for Movistar with the other being Barbero. In stage 1 he was close to being in or around the top 10 but collided with the FDJ rider who eventually crashed and that cost him any chance of going for some kind of result. On Movistar’s website they said the pair will both try again on stage 2. Given the speed he showed in the PCC, I think he could be another to keep an eye on. Could the Spanish team manage another two riders on the podium in 2018?
We’ll most likely see Sagan romp home to victory, but where is the fun in going with that? So being two previews deep into the season I’m already reverting back to type; AlexanderEdmondson to win.
Clearly in great shape now as he gears towards the Commonwealth Games, Mitchelton Scott will capitalise on the others marking each other, with Impey delivering the national champion into the perfect position for him to power home.
Happy to take some small 0.5pt EW punts on the riders I’ve listed above (all prices with Bet365)
Edmondson @ 300/1
Bevin @ 125/1
Sutterlin @ 250/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win today/tonight/tomorrow? Could we see an outsider take glory or will it be the usual suspects? Anyway,
The action kicks off today/tonight, depending on where you are watching it from, with the seemingly now common sprint finish into the town of Lyndoch.
Last season saw CalebEwan take the win ahead of VanPoppel and Bennett, with the little Aussie also winning the stage in 2016. Can he make it three in a row this time?
Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
A fairly simple day with an early KOM to reward a break rider with a jersey come the end of the stage.
There are a few rises later in the day, but nothing too severe and we should see an almost complete peloton coming into Lyndoch for the second time to compete in a bunch sprint.
The run-in to the line is fairly easy too, with the riders approaching from the south on an almost arrow-straight road. Normally I would post images of roundabouts etc here so you could get a good feel as to what might happen, but there would be no point so I guess I’ll move on!
Oh, the race does finish alongside the Jack Bobridge Track though so who will be raising their arms in ecstasy at the end of the day…
His confidence might be slightly knocked after the People’s Choice Classic but I’m sure it will be more of a driving force for him, rather than something that will be of detriment. Mitchelton got their lead-out slightly wrong on Sunday and will hope to get their timing much better this time round; Impey and Edmondson have a big job to do. Ewan should be ahead of everyone else in terms of form at this time of year and he has to start as the favourite for the stage. Can anyone stop him?
The winner on Sunday, his rivals might be worried for the season ahead already. He is obviously in good shape just now, but it was his race craft that really made the difference in that race; he always seems to follow the right wheel and know when to jump. With Bennett apparently still recovering from illness, Sagan will be Bora’s man for the opener. He’ll have Selig to guide him into position and from there it will be up to him. Time to double up?
It was good to see the Gorilla back in action and looking competitive in the criterium. One of the things that stood out for me on Sunday was that he put his wheels in places where he wouldn’t have when he was low on confidence, nudging Bauhaus out of a gap, he certainly has his fight back. With a solid Lotto Soudal train, he should expect to start his sprint in a good position, leaving it up to him to finish it off. He normally seems to start the season well; winning his first road race the past two years.
With Greipel being the veteran German sprinter at the race, Bauhaus is certainly one of the spearheads of the next wave. A talented rider, he took his first big win last year at the Dauphiné, beating the likes of Demare and Bouhanni. Sunweb have a lot of faith in him and they’re looking for some good results in the sprints this week. Teunissen and Arndt is a small but very potent lead-out train and they’ll look to capitalise on the work of others late on, a la Lampre style circa 2015. Keep an eye out for him this week!
Free from the shackles of Sky and their lack of any major help in the sprints, now at Quickstep the Italian should have more support with Morkov and Sabatini. He was there or thereabouts on Sunday, finishing just off of the podium so I imagine he has some good form; he is another who normally starts the season well. One negative for him is that he does have a habit of losing the wheels at time, but given the simple run in, he should be okay.
There might be some others who get involved but I can’t see them challenging for the win.
Opening stage of the TDU so Ewan wins, simple!
He and the team will want to make amends for Sunday and I’m sure they’ll do just that. They have the fire power to deliver him perfectly. Knowing the finish well should mean that he times his effort perfectly, taking yet another Ochre jersey.
I won’t be backing the Aussie though as he is too short in an open course race for my liking. Instead, I’ll be chasing some EW value and potentially more with the talented young German;
1pt EW Bauhaus @25/1 with Lads and Coral. Would take 16s lowest.
Apolgoies for the shorter than normal preview but there isn’t much to talk about route and tactics wise. Don’t fret though, a 1000+ word-er will no doubt be out tomorrow. 😉
Thanks as always for reading though, and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win? Can anyone stop Caleb? Anyway,
So with the women’s race now finished, it is time for the men to take centre stage over the coming week with the riders battling it out to take home Ochre. A race that has been dominated by the Australians in recent years, with the last 4 GC titles going to the home riders; expect to see some fast racing coupled with sweltering temperatures.
It might not have the best race route in the grand scheme of the cycling season but given its position as the season opener, I think most of us will take it!
After finally getting his hands on the GC win last year the King of Willunga (a.k.a Richie Porte) is back here to defend his crown along with a strong BMC team. In fact, the last 3 winners of the race are all riding for that outfit this year, which is very ominous for the rest of the field. However, they won’t have it all their own way and there are certainly some other riders out there who could challenge their dominance.
First, let’s have a quick look at what is in store for the riders over the six days of action.
I won’t bore you here though, as I’ll have plenty of time over the coming week to drain you with an in-depth route analysis of each stage. This will simply be more of an overview!
There are three stages that are most likely to have the biggest impact on GC, although that could change if the wind blows strongly on some of the more exposed days. We saw the women’s peloton battered by cross winds through the Barossa Valley.
Stage2 is the first important day with the traditional finish in Stirling.
A rolling circuit that will see the peloton whittled down, some of the stronger sprinters will be happy to see that the organisers have reduced the number of laps that they will complete. Back in 2016 when Jay McCarthy won this stage, the riders had to contest with 6 laps, but this time it will just be 4. In theory, this should make it easier and see the stage switch from a puncheurs finish to more of a strong sprinters day. However, this of course all depends on how aggressively the teams race. If the fast men of the peloton are eliminated from the group then it is a great chance for the likes of Haas and McCarthy to pick up some valuable bonus seconds in their fight for GC.
Stage 4 will see the peloton tackle a new finish here at the Tour Down Under, featuring a climb that is well-known by the local Aussies.
Norton Summit is not a new climb for the Tour though, with it being used right at the start of Stage 4 in 2016. It took the riders roughly 11’30 to complete the climb that day but I imagine that time will be faster this year round given it’s position on the course. Once over the “summit” the riders will have 7.5km left but instead of a drop straight down, they’ll instead face a kilometre or so of false flat before an uncategorised ramp up Woods Hill Road. Could this be a launchpad for a late attack? With only 3.5km of shallow descending all the way to the line, it certainly could be.
Stage5 will once again play host to the summit finish of Willunga Hill.
If the GC is still close at this stage, then it will all come down to the final ascent of Willunga. Porte has owned this climb for the past four years and he’ll hope to make it five in a row this time. Will it be enough for the overall title though? From a tactics point of view, it is much easier to ride a defensive race on Willunga than attacking one, as it is a difficult climb to make massive gains on. Although lil’ Richie might have something to say about that…
Given the recent form of the Australians at this race, they’ve won 6 out of the last 7 years, then it is really hard to back against them on their own turf.
Porte comes into the race as the bookmakers favourite and rightly so given his performances on Willunga the past few years. If everything is kept together on stages 2 & 4, with his opponents not gaining any bonus seconds, the race is his to lose. However, this is the least suited route to Porte for a while and I think he’ll desperately miss the Paracombe finish that we had last year. He might well win on Willunga again, but I don’t think it will be by as big a margin as he has done in previous years.
McCarthy will be waiting in the wings, hoping to capitalise on the new stage and sprint for some bonus seconds on days 2 and 4, feasibly giving himself a 20 second buffer going into Willunga. He’s a rider that I have grown fond over and one that I had backed when he took out the stage in Stirling in 2016. At the Aussie Nationals recently, he looked incredibly strong, sprinting away from the chase group in the closing few hundred metres. His trajectory in this race has been on the up as well, with a 4th in 2016 and a 3rd last year. Will he go one or two steps higher this time around?
Haas is a rider similar to McCarthy and he too will be looking to nab some bonus seconds on stages 2 & 4. With a winter move to Katusha, the former Dimension Data rider comes here in some good form with a 5th place finish in both the road race and time trial at the Aussie Champs. An attacking rider, he will no doubt give it a go on Stage 4 in an attempt to get clear. However, I sometimes think that he is too attacking; using up a lot of his resources before it is necessary. Will that be his downfall again?
Can a non-Aussie win?
Some might suggest Sagan has a chance, especially after his strong showing in today’s criterium. However, he will be here for training more than anything, possibly getting involved in a few sprints but nothing more than that.
Ulissi is a very solid finisher and will no doubt again be in or around the top 5 but I can’t see him having enough form early in the year to take the win. Yet, he is the type of rider who could well prove me wrong! His team-mate RuiCosta might be another to watch, he was flying at the start of last year.
Bernal arrives here as Team Sky’s best chance on paper, the young rider is truly exceptional. His form will be unkown but as we’ve seen with Henao in the past, Colombians seem to go well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go with the best on Willunga, but his lack of a sprint might let him down for the overall.
I’ll go for none of the above to win though.
Instead, I’ll suggest that RohanDennis will take home another Tour Down Under title.
The current Aussie TT champion blitzed away his opposition recently, putting over a minute into a very lean Luke Durbridge and almost two minutes into team-mate Porte, regaining his title with ease. He DNF’d the road race, but I think he was using that race as training more than anything else.
Almost have way through his “4-year GC plan”, this should be the year where he takes another step forward in that quest. He certainly looks very fit going by some of the pictures I’ve seen floating around social media over the past week. There has also been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between himself and Porte as to who the leader of BMC will be for the week, both downplaying their own chances and talking up their team-mate. First race mind-games!
With the introduction of the interesting finish on stage 4 this year I think it is very beneficial for a team to have two possible winners in their squad and I’m sure BMC will use that to their advantage. Norton Summit looks ideal for the powerhouse and Dennis certainly has the TT engine to attack and hold a gap, especially with Porte and possibly Gerrans behind marking out any efforts to close him down.
Being in Ochre going into Willunga means BMC will be able to ride a defensive race, and who wouldn’t want the King of Willunga himself to act as a super-domsetique for you that day?! Porte should be able to keep things together and Dennis won’t lose enough time to be toppled, with Porte even nabbing the bonus seconds away from his competitors on the line.
First race of the season so it would be rude not to have a flutter on the GC market. I tweeted it out a few days ago but…
1pt EW Dennis @ 20/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes.
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoyed my first men’s preview of the season. I’ll be back with daily stage previews of the Tour Down Under starting from tomorrow. Anyway,