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Tour Down Underneath report card: WorldTour fireworks, Aussies rule, factors matter

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — The 2023 season kicked off with a bang on the Santos Tour Down Underneath.

There have been a lot of sparks, however fortunately no wild fires. The race kick-started the WorldTour racing calendar that exposed some story traces we’ll see all season lengthy.

Australian calendar endures COVID cease

It is summertime in January through the Santos Tour Down Underneath. (Photograph: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Photographs)

The race was again after a two-year COVID hiatus, and Australian riders have been relieved to see it again on the calendar.

With the Herald Solar Tour on maintain this 12 months, many have been afraid that Australia might go the way in which the US racing scene went down the tubes. The US home scene is now all gravel, off-road, and a all of a sudden busy criterium calendar, however there’s not rather a lot for roadies.

Aussie riders know the way particular it’s to have a marquee, WorldTour-level stage race on dwelling roads. Coupled with the Cadel Evans Nice Ocean Highway Race, the Aussie scene got here out of the COVID nonetheless on pretty agency floor. The ladies’s race was elevated to WorldTour standing, and insiders say the institutional and industrial backing continues to be there to maintain the racing going effectively into its third decade.

The Tour Down Underneath is that uncommon race {that a} neighborhood absolutely embraces (for essentially the most half, anyway). The cloverleaf design and its splendid date on the Australian summer season holidays have reworked the race right into a vacation spot for biking followers who are available in for the week to journey the Adelaide Hills and tackle the racing.

It is no shock the Australian riders within the peloton step up for the race. Each the lads’s and girls’s races have been dominated by nationwide riders. For higher or worse, they’ve the strain to ship on dwelling roads very early within the season.

The frustration was actual in each Michael Matthews, who noticed a chain-slip wreck his GC ambitions in stage 2, and Caleb Ewan, who was shelled within the crosswinds in stage 4. Neither got here away with a stage, however Ewan left with a crit win and Matthews introduced dwelling the factors jersey. That is actually higher than nothing.

All the massive Aussie names scratched out one thing from the week, with the doable exception of Jai Hindley. With the Tour de France on the horizon, the TDU merely got here too quickly for the defending Giro d’Italia champion.

Regardless of fears of main disruptions from protesters, the race was not impacted in any respect, and demonstrators stayed safely off the roadway through the week.

The one downer? There have been no child kangaroos on show.

One of many traditions of the Tour Down Underneath was the arrival of a pair of “joeys” who have been cuddled and preened over by the riders earlier than the beginning of one of many levels. Seems animal rights activists pressured officers to not embody the favored meet-and-greet in order to not stress the little jumpers.

Spratt is again, Brown throws down

Grace Brown celebrates total victory on the Santos Tour Down Underneath and needs a giant season in Europe. (Photograph: Tim deWaele/Getty Photographs)

Everybody was equally happy to see Amanda Spratt again on the assault. The Aussie star was sidelined for a part of final season and noticed her within the restoration ward for months. Her searing assaults over Mount Lofty and the Corkscrew delivered virtually her first de ella since 2020. She stated on Twitter afterwards that the end traces on each levels have been 1km too far. Her attacking type is again, nonetheless, and a recent begin at Trek-Segafredo bodes effectively for her return to Europe.

Additionally learn: Brown fends off Spratt to win total

Grace Brown additionally confirmed her rising star standing with a well-executed victory. She had the turbos to reel within the attacking Spratt on the 2 decisive levels. She’s hoping for large issues in Europe this summer season and is placing a goal on the world TT title. With the way in which she’s racing, she could be onerous to cease towards the clock. Human Powered Well being introduced dwelling a pleasant stage win to open the season in the absolute best method.

The general buzz was that the promotion of the ladies’s race to WorldTour standing is the beginning of one thing larger. There’s discuss of including one other stage and maybe even whacking a stage from the lads’s race to deliver them to parity.

The ladies’s area was comparatively skinny as all of the WWT weren’t required to journey to the race. That can change subsequent 12 months, and paired with the CEGORR, the TDU area shall be much more aggressive in 2024.

High-quality Vine confirms his GC chops

Jay Vine celebrates victory with a recent buzz about his Giro prospects. (Photograph: Tim deWaele/Getty Photographs)

How enormous was Jay Vine’s win? Three years in the past he was snubbed when he was making an attempt to get a spot on the UniSA staff that is often loaded with younger trackies and up-and-comers.

Vine later went to hit fifth on the Herald Solar Tour in 2020, pondering that will lastly be his ticket to a professional contract. COVID hit, and Vine discovered salvation on the Zwift racing academy.

There have been no doubts that he deserved to be within the WorldTour, particularly after he gained two levels in final 12 months’s Vuelta a España, however his dominant TDU win was a simply reward for the well-spoken Aussie.

Additionally learn: Jay Vine confirms GC future

Everybody admitted that Vine was the strongest rider within the race, and even the highly effective and motivated Jayco-AlUla needed to bend to his will.

Vine’s TDU victory solely heightens expectations for his Giro d’Italia debut.

UAE Staff Emirates officers instructed VeloNews that can Vine will see protected captain standing on the Giro.

He bristled at a query about how his nationwide TT title may need been seen as a “shock,” countering that every one he wanted was a correct bike setup to squeeze essentially the most out of his energy towards the clock. Ex-pro and TDU race director Stuart O’Grady acknowledged flatly he believes Vine can win a grand tour.

Vine actually dealt with the stress of management and appeared to be having fun with his second within the Aussie solar. Relatively than slink away from the strain or journey with some kind of chip on his shoulder, he wrapped up the week with untouchable dominance, saying racing final week was “completely gratifying.”

A giant fan of vehicles, Vine hinted he could be shopping for a Bentley to associate with the Corvette that his spouse promised she’d purchase him after he gained a stage on the Vuelta a España. Vine’s already updating a Mini Cooper and drives a VW Golf GTI round Europe. If he wins the Giro, what’s subsequent? A Ferrari maybe?

Factors on the radar

Alberto Bettiol raced on dry roads to win the opening prologue on the Santos Tour Down Underneath. (Photograph: Tim deWaele/Getty Photographs)

One stunning speaking level all week on the TDU was the early dialogue of UCI factors.

Groups who dodged the bullet in 2022 have been already jumpy within the race and tried to scoop up as many UCI factors as they might. Nobody needs to get caught out without warning like half the lads’s WorldTour did in 2022 once they hit the panic button halfway by way of the season once they realized their WT licenses have been on the road.

The factors aren’t only for on the backside of the barrel. Final 12 months, anybody who was paying consideration additionally noticed that Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, and UAE Staff Emirates have been chasing factors all the way in which to the tip of the season. why? The highest groups wished to have the badge because the world’s No. 1 ranked staff. That may completely nothing to virtually everybody, apart from a handful of staff managers making an attempt to make their big-dollar sponsors joyful.

Additionally learn: UCI factors battle already shaping 2023

Groups have been additionally pulling out of the Cadel Evans Nice Ocean Highway Race the following week to deliver their squads again to Europe to race. why? For factors, in fact. A weeklong stage race can pack extra potential factors than a one-day race until somebody wins it outright.

And talking of factors. The UCI race jury quietly halved a positive they dished out to Alberto Bettiol after he threw a mood tantrum on reside TV, threw water bottles, and gesticulated on the TV cameraman who was following him after he cramped up and was dropped whereas carrying the chief’s jersey .

The preliminary positive was 2000 CHF and 100 UCI factors. Each have been lower in half. The cash wasn’t that massive of a deal, however the jury later thought the factors penalty was a bit steep. In spite of everything, a staff’s future could possibly be determined by much less.

O’Grady’s wager pays off

O’Grady, proper, took over the race in 2020. (Photograph: Tim deWaele/Getty Photographs)

The 2023 version was the primary for ex-pro Stuart O’Grady as race director. He took over the function after the 2020 version, however COVID shut down the world simply weeks after the race ended. Organizers saved issues going with an area biking occasion for 2021-2022, however the 2023 races have been the primary for O’Grady as race director.

Additionally learn: O’Grady shakes up TDU blueprint

Insiders at each the ladies’s and males’s races stated they have been happy with how O’Grady appeared intent on shaking up the race routes. The ladies’s race was tougher than lately, and the lads’s race noticed its first time trial—within the type of a 5.5km prologue—in race historical past. O’Grady additionally ditched the favored Previous Willunga Hill climb in favor of the Mount Lofty summit end.

Each races have been hotly contested and the programs served up drama every day. There was a threat of screwing up a great factor, however everybody trundled away proud of the week.

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