We have to week only 6 weeks till the first spring classics, with the Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2023 (or read it in Flemish, from or friends of Voorjaarsklassiekers.be: Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2023) as opening cobble classic, but first it’s time for some kick ass Australian cycling courses. And good news, the Santos Tour Down Under is back! The WorldTour stage race was cancelled in both 2021 and 2022 due to the coronavirus, but race director Stuart O’Grady can proudly welcome the necessary top riders back to Australia this year. Cycling-Classics.com is presenting you this Preview Tour Down Under 2023!
Preview Tour Down Under 2023
We had to wait a while, but the new road season is really about to start. The Santos Tour Down Under is also the first WorldTour race on the cycling calendar. For many cycling fans, the race has already become unmissable as the first serious appointment between road riders, although we should not forget that the first edition only took place in 1999. That year, with Stuart O’Grady, the organisers immediately got a dream winner. The brisk sprinter/classics specialist managed to knock off a Scandinavian double attack by Jesper Skibby and Magnus Bäckstedt. In this Preview Tour Down Under 2023, Cycling-Classics.com is going through the history of the Tour Down Under and presenting the route Tour Down Under 2023. Find also this specific article of the contenders Tour Down Under 2023!
The Tour Down Under was born, and soon there appeared to be particularly strong demand for a top-level cycling race on Australian soil. The race was initially part of the UCI Oceania Tour, but in 2008 the organisers decided to join the UCI Pro Tour, the forerunner of the WorldTour. In the meantime, we saw top riders like Michael Rogers, Luis León Sánchez and Simon Gerrans triumph. And in 2008, the overall victory went to a strong German, who we still know mainly as a sprinter: André Greipel. But more great cycling stories were written over the years.
We spontaneously think back to 22 January 2005, stage six from Willunga to Willunga. Two Spaniards are heading for the finish. They are 22-year-old Alberto Contador and 21-year-old Luis León Sánchez. The two teammates from Liberty Seguros-Würth Team may duke it out for the win after a true team demonstration on the way to Willunga. As Sánchez is already (more or less) sure of the overall victory in the Tour Down Under, Contador gets to make the victory gesture and cross the line first. For the young promising tour rider, it is not just any victory. There is a story behind it.
A good six months before that particular Tour Down Under, it was questionable at all whether Contador would ever get back on his bike, let alone return to the peloton. In the second stage of Tour of Asturias 2004, the climber blacked out and crashed heavily. The lights go out. The images of a convulsing Contador are shocking. The Spaniard is rushed to hospital, where doctors discover a blood clot in his brain. A serious and risky operation follows, but Contador recovers, gets back on his feet and makes his comeback in the peloton in early 2005.
With his stage win at the Tour Down Under, his first since his serious brain surgery, he came full circle. “Everyone thinks that winning the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España are my greatest victories, but it was that stage win at the Tour Down Under. There was so much emotion around it,” he looked back on that day in an interview with Cyclist.Co in 2016.
Contador’s story is special, but the Tour Down Under has an even richer history. With the introduction of Willunga Hill (the traditional hopper) and the climb to Paracombe, the race gained even more prestige, and has become a round for punters. Just look at the recent list of honours, with winners like Tom-Jelte Slagter (photo above), Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte (2x). The record holder is – not entirely surprisingly – an Australian named Simon Gerrans. The now-retired classics specialist won the Tour Down Under in 2006, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Four times, talk about a punishing run.
Home country Australia has been extremely successful since the inception of the Tour Down Under with no fewer than 13 overall wins. Not a bad score, especially when you consider that it is time for the 23rd edition on Tuesday. Finally, we may also take a moment to reflect on the achievements of Richie Porte. The now-discontinued rider has been extremely successful in his own country over the past decade. His two overall victories speak volumes, but perhaps even more impressive is his win streak at Willunga Hill. Porte came first no less than seven times on this now iconic hill.
Last ten winners Tour Down Under
2022: Not ridden due to COVID-19
2021: Not ridden due to COVID-19
2020: Richie Porte
2019: Daryl Impey
2018: Daryl Impey
2017: Richie Porte
2016: Simon Gerrans
2015: Rohan Dennis
2014: Simon Gerrans
2013: Tom-Jelte Slagter
2012: Simon Gerrans
2011: Cameron Meyer
For the last edition of the Tour Down Under, we have to go back to January 2020. At that time, the corona virus was already on the rise in Asia, but the Australian cycling race could continue as usual. The organisers also managed to entice the necessary top riders to take part and so we were presented with spectacle on different terrains. First it was up to the fast men to do their trick. In the opening stage victory went to Irish champion Sam Bennett, in stage two home favourite Caleb Ewan managed to revenge for his failed first sprint.
On day three, the general classification went up for the first time, and it was Richie Porte. The experienced climber proved to have the strongest legs on the tricky final climb in Paracombe, rode out the assembled opposition and crossed the line first with a limited lead. Porte was also good for a double victory in Paracombe, as he took the orange leader’s jersey as a result of his three minutes of effort. However, the Trek-Segafredo rider was not yet victorious, with three stages to go.
In the subsequent stages, the sprinters had the floor again. In Murray Bridge, where the finish line of stage four was located, Ewan rushed to his second stage win of the day. A day later, Giacomo Niccolo ensured the first Italian win at the 2020 Tour Down Under, by beating compatriot Simone Consonni and Sam Bennett in a sprint with a depleted group. This stage further saw a changing of the guard in the battle for the overall victory. Daryl Impey was awarded the leader’s jersey after collecting bonification seconds along the way.
However, with one stage to go, the differences in the general classification were very small. Impey had the best papers after five stages, but Porte was on the front foot and, as a better climber, could play his part in the sixth and final stage to ‘his’ Willunga Hill. On this nearly four-kilometre climb, the chaff was once again separated from the wheat and Porte proved able to make up for lost time on Impey. The stage win went to early fugitive Matthew Holmes, but ‘mister Willunga Hill’ finished on the trail and thus managed to crown himself the overall winner of the Tour Down Under for a second time.
Route Tour Down Under 2023
Anyone looking closely at the route of the upcoming Tour Down Under will see many familiar start and finish places. And yet, the organisation has some novelties in store. For example, this time the Tour will start with a 5.5-kilometre prologue through the streets of Adelaide. This is the first time that the route of the Australian Tour includes a stage against the clock.
It is also immediately noticeable that Willunga Hill is no longer the setting for the round’s finale. The climb was a fixture in the route book, but this time a mountain top finish at the top of Mount Lofty has been chosen. “The course is designed to put our riders to the test like never before, while the fans are right in the middle of the action,” race director and former pro Stuart O’Grady reveals.
Not unimportant for riders with classification ambitions: 3, 2 and 1 bonification seconds can be earned at the intermediate sprints. At the finish, 10, 6 and 4 bonus seconds are then up for grabs.
Tuesday 17 January, Prologue: Adelaide – Adelaide (5.5 km)
So, for the first time in its history, the 2023 Tour Down Under kicks off with a 5.5-kilometre prologue in Adelaide. This is the capital of the Australian state of South Australia, located on the Gulf of St Vincent. The plotted route broadly follows the Torrens River. There are some technical turns in the first few kilometres where it is possible to gain time, but the finale is also a case of paying attention at times.
Wednesday 18 January, stage 1: Tanunda – Tanunda (149.9 km)
The first stage-in-line heads to and from Tanunda. Just like in 2020, although then the organisers chose a different route between start and finish. Tanunda is a town located in the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, some 55 kilometres northeast of Adelaide. Here, conditions are normally ideal for producing red and white wine, but for the riders, Tanunda is just the start and finish site of the first stage.
The start is followed by a local lap of about 50 kilometres towards (again) Tanunda. Then, four local circuits of around 26 kilometres are on the programme, with Menglers Hill (average 3.6%, maximum 13%) along the way as a recurring potential troublemaker. In the second and fourth rounds, mountain points can be earned at the top of Menglers Hill. After the final passage over this slope, it is still more than 10 kilometres to the (slightly uphill) finish in Tanunda.
Thursday 19 January, stage 2: Brighton – Victor Harbor (154.8 km)
On Thursday, a little over 150 kilometres long stage is on the menu between Brighton and Victor Harbor, with a sloppy 2,400 altimeters along the way. The route initially follows the coast southwards, but the riders also regularly head inland, not shying away from climbing. Along the way, with Parawa Hill (2.9 km at 7%, maximum 16.7%) and Nettle Hill (2.5 km at 6.8%, maximum 15.6%), there are two tricky climbs.
Once at the top of Nettle Hill, the riders still have twenty kilometres to cover to get to the finish in Victor Harbor. The big question is whether we get a sprint for victory at the end: the finale is far from flat. In the closing kilometres, it is watchful with a technical final kilometre with two sharp corners. Caleb Ewan, Elia Viviani, André Greipel… They have all won in the modest harbour town before. Will there be another sprinter celebrating soon?
Friday 20 January, stage 3: Norwood – Campbelltown (116.8 km)
Climbers, watch out! After a prologue and two ‘sprint stages’ that should not be underestimated, the riders with classification ambitions need to be on their toes in the fourth stage to Campbelltown. After all, whoever says Campbelltown, says Corkscrew Road. Often when the Tour Down Under finishes in the town, the riders have to overcome this 2.5-kilometre climb in the finale. Corkscrew Road climbs at an average of 9%, with peaks of almost 20%!
Once at the top, another fast and technical descent awaits towards the finish line, where in the past we have seen Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey triumph after an almost identical finale. Corkscrew Road is not the only climb on the route, by the way, as two tricky obstacles already follow with the climb to Norton Summit (9.6 km at 4.8%) and Checker Hill (1.1 km at 9.4%).
Saturday 21 January, stage 4: Port Willunga – Willunga Township (133.2 km)
When we think of the town name Willunga, we almost immediately think of Willunga Hill, since time immemorial the focal point of the Tour Down Under. However, this just under four kilometres long hill is missing from the route this year, but we will still visit the town south of Adelaide again this year, probably to sprint for victory. There are a few more hills along the way, although this should not be a problem for seasoned pros.
The stage can actually be divided into three local rounds in and around Willunga. The finish line is drawn on High Street in Willunga itself, at the foot of Willunga Hill, and this will make for a totally different course dynamic. For the last (group) sprint in Willunga, we have to go back to 2011, when the now-stopped Spaniard Francisco Ventoso managed to finish off Michael Matthews and Matthew Goss. Attention: in the last 2.4 kilometres, the road climbs at an average of 2.9%.
Sunday 22 January, stage 5: Unley – Mouny Lofty (112.5 km)
The queen stage of the 2023 Tour Down Under thus does not lead to the summit of Willunga Hill, as previously indicated, but to that of Mount Lofty. In a stage with just over 3,100 altimeters, it is all hands on deck for the classification riders, knowing that anything can still happen in the battle for the overall victory. The final stage basically consists of four local laps of over 25 kilometres through the Adelaide Hills.
Each time it goes from Summertown to Uraidla, Carey Gully, Bridgewater, Aldgate, Stirling and Crafers. The day’s showpiece, Mount Lofty, starts just after crossing Aldgate. The route book reduces the climb to 1.3 kilometres of climbing at 7.3%, but it is actually a climb of just over six kilometres at 3.3%. The devil is definitely in the tail here, as the road peaks at over 13% in the final kilometre. After five passages, who can call themselves the big winner of the Tour Down Under 2023?