In addition of the Preview Tour Down Under 2023, Cycling-Classics.com is presenting you this overview with favourites & contenders Tour Down Under 2023! Who is going to win the first Santos Tour Down Under since the pre-COVID-19 edition in 2020?
Favourites & Contenders Tour Down Under 2023
This early in the season, it is and remains arduous to arrive at a good star distribution. After all, for most riders, the Tour Down Under is only a first ‘warm-up lap’ towards the big goals in spring. We know the Australian riders are motivated to the bone to shine in front of their own people, but what exactly about the physical and mental state of readiness of a Simon Yates, Pello Bilbao and Alberto Bettiol?
Many questions, few answers, but still we put Simon Yates forward as the biggest favourite for the overall victory. After all, we know about Yates that he needs very little competition rhythm to come on strong. Moreover, he has managed to perform well at the Tour Down Under in the past. Take the last edition before the corona crisis broke out: that year, he finished seventh in the overall classification. Yates is now preparing to take part in the Australian cycling race again, and the Team Jayco AlUla rider will have been looking at the course with a smile.
Yates is certainly not the only rider from Jayco AlUla (formerly Team BikeExhange-Jayco) who may dream of overall wins. Michael Matthews, as the home favourite, will be heavily cheered by Australian cycling fans, which may give him wings on his way to a very nice classification. The racy Matthews is on a good run, judging by his third place at the Australian road championships, and in top form should be able to survive the more selective TDU stages. Scoring bonis in the stages that end in a sprint, limiting damage in the stages to Campbelltown and Mount Lofty: is that the tried and tested recipe for Bling?
From Matthews, we move on to another Australian who will undoubtedly start the Tour Down Under with ambition. Jay Vine has already had his baptism of fire in the UAE Emirates jersey and already managed to deliver a win to his new employer. Just last week, Vine crowned himself – perhaps somewhat surprisingly – Australian champion against the clock. It shows that Vine’s form is fine this early in the season. Can he continue his good run and compete for the overall victory at the Tour Down Under? With his climbing and time trial skills, anything is possible!
Vine is the reigning Australian time trial champion, on the road that honour falls to Luke Plapp. The still only 22-year-old rider from INEOS Grenadiers managed to succeed himself as Australian road champion earlier this month after a well-timed attack just before the line. The versatile Plapp will no doubt want to take advantage of good form, especially in front of his own crowd, and so we consider him a big favourite for the Tour Down Under. However, this also goes for his teammates Magnus Sheffield and Ethan Hayter, two excellent time trialists who also stand their ground uphill.
For Ben O’Connor, the main thing in the prologue is to lose as little time as possible, and then strike in the stages to Campbelltown and Mount Lofty. The AG2R Citroën Australian climber already competed at the Australian road championships earlier this month (7th), so he has already got the good racing feeling. Riders like Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) and Maximilian Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe) will be at the start of their first (official) race of 2023 with a bit more question marks. Still, we should expect something from these top foreign riders.
For instance, Bettiol had his first flawless winter period and thus preparation for the new season in a long time, while Bilbao always puts his best foot forward. Schachmann, in turn, is out for sporting revenge after a lost 2022, a year in which his body let him down more than once. The versatile German put an end to his season quite early last year and is deliberately starting his new road campaign very early. Will we already see the first signs of recovery at the Tour Down Under?
There are also a number of outsiders at the start of this Tour Down Under. What about the ever unpredictable Rohan Dennis? The Jumbo-Visma hard rider has been an overall winner in the past (in 2015), but is not always stable in his performances. Also watch out for his Dutch teammate Robert Gesink. Besides Vine, UAE Emirates is also counting on George Bennett, Marc Hirschi and Alessandro Covi. BORA-hansgrohe also has several irons in the fire with Giro winner Jai Hindley and Giovanni Aleotti, as does Astana Qazaqstan with Gianni Moscon and Luis León Sánchez.
Two-time TDU winner Daryl Impey (holding off the pressure this year, consciously or not) and Corbin Strong are two key spearheads for Israel-Premier Tech, Groupama-FDJ could possibly make a fist with Rudy Molard and Michael Storer. Quick-Step-Floors will do without an outspoken leader, but Mauro Schmid and Mattia Cattaneo are capable enough to take up the gauntlet. Spanish Movistar will come up with a free-rider collective, but perhaps Gorka Izagirre and newcomer Iván Romeo can surprise.
Finally, we note the names of Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost), Dion Smith (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Élie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic), Patrick Bevin, Matthew Dinham (Team DSM), Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Antonio Tiberi and Natnael Tesfatsion (Trek-Segafredo). And what can we expect from Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) this early in the season?
Sprinters contenders Tour Down Under 2023
The Tour Down Under is also often a first confrontation between the best sprinters in the peloton, although the sprinters’ field is not as strong this year. Most of the top sprinters, think Fabio Jakobsen, Dylan Groenewegen, Sam Bennett, Olav Kooij and Jasper Philipsen, are opting for a different season build-up and are thus not there Down Under. Fortunately for the organisers, Caleb Ewan does make an appearance. Not as a rider of Lotto Dstny (the Belgian team is deliberately skipping the Tour Down Under), but as the leader of the Australian selection.
Ewan will be up against someone like Jordi Meeus in the (potential) sprints. The fast Belgian of BORA-hansgrohe had a season of ups and downs in 2022, but still won a few nice races at the end of the year. Another fast man at the start, is Kaden Groves. The Australian will want to convince his new employer Alpecin-Deceuninck of his sprint qualities straight away.
Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) is also a very dangerous customer when it comes to sprinting. The German is good for some fine victories every year: last season, for example, he was successful in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Poland. Bryan Coquard, Davide Cimolai (Cofidis), Daryl Impey, Taj Jones, Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech), Gerben Thijssen and Hugo Page (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) will also get involved in the sprinting violence.
Also, Timo Roosen (Jumbo-Visma), Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost), Ben Swift (INEOS Grenadiers), Martin Laas (Astana Qazaqstan), neoprof Paul Penhoët (AG2R Citroën), Stan Van Tricht, Jannik Steimle (Quick-Step-Floors), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic), Patrick Bevin (Team DSM), Marc Brustenga (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Matthews (Team Jayco-AlUla) could be very fast out of the box.
Favourites according to Cycling-Classics.com
**** Simon Yates
*** Pello Bilbao, Luke Plapp
** Michael Matthews, Magnus Sheffield, Maximilian Schachmann
* Ethan Hayter, Jay Vine, Alberto Bettiol, Ben O’Connor