Tour Down Under 2017

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2017 – STAGE 6 PREVIEW

Course:

This season’s opening salvo of top racing has already reached its conclusion at the Tour Down Under, with race organisers choosing to bring 2017’s edition to a close with a criterium through the streets of Adelaide. It may look simple enough on paper, but after a week’s worth of testing racing so early in the season, these 20 laps of a 4.5km which total 90km are bound to feel like hard work soon enough. The course possesses a few tight bends to negotiate and features a couple of rises during each lap which may be enough to send some riders out the back door towards the end of Stage 6. The day is also expected to be a tactical race, given the time bonuses on offer, which will have the potential to alter the final general classification standings as the Tour Down Under draws to a close for another year.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Caleb Ewan has cemented his intentions for the rest of 2017 with a crushingly dominant performance at the biggest race on offer at home for him, making the majority of the week a battle for the second place for his rivals. His performances speak for themselves and he simply must be assured victory in Adelaide, though bike races are never a simple affair.

Danny van Poppel has not been far off the pace of Ewan and looks to have improved as the race has progressed throughout the week. His leadout train at Sky wields immense firepower in the shape of Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas, who have grown to be the greatest challenges to ORICA-Scott at this race. If he can utilise his brilliant acceleration perfectly to overtake Ewan at the last moment possible, then van Poppel may finally be able to break the Australian’s hold upon this week’s sprints.

Sam Bennett is likely to be afforded the role of leader during this final stage after Bora-Hansgrohe’s attempts to take victory with Peter Sagan have failed to reap a reward. The Irishman is much faster than his World Champion teammate and will be a much more realistic challenge to Ewan on a stage such as this.

Niccolo Bonifazio is still establishing himself at WorldTour level despite his innate talent, but opportunities like today should offer him a chance to chalk up a win if he can take advantage of a tense tactical finale. The Italian copes well with tricky courses and certainly has the speed to cause an upset here by slipping past Ewan when he leasts expects it.

It seems unlikely that the day’s winner will come from outside of the names above, but those who could shock include Nikias ArndtPeter Sagan and Marko Kump.

Outcome:

1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Danny van Poppel 3rd Sam Bennett

Tour Down Under 2017

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2017 – STAGE 5 PREVIEW

Course:

Once again at the Tour Down Under, the race’s visit to Willunga Hill is anticipated to be a decisive day upon its testing slopes which can catch many riders out at this early point of the season. Stage 5 is a total of 151.1km from its start at McLaren Vale to its finale atop Willunga Hill, an ascent which Richie Porte has made his own in recent years with victories in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The climb is clearly the biggest focus of the day’s proceedings on Stage 5, a 3km toil with average gradients of 7.5%, though it does ease nearer the summit. All eyes shall be upon Richie Porte as he looks to defend his lead on Willunga Hill, but will life be harder for him when the initiative to seize the race by the scruff of the neck is left to his rivals to take advantage of.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 5 Preview

 

Contenders:

Richie Porte possesses imperious form in regards to Willunga Hill and enters the day as favourite for obvious reasons because of this. Previous editions have seen him forced into investing everything into this stage in order to gain time, but having already acquired the lead, it shall prove interesting to see how the BMC captain chooses to ride this race specifically. His form is evidently strong right now, while already leading the race will allow him and his teammates to simply follow the wheels in order to negate any attacks. For many on Stage 5, Richie Porte is the man to beat; a task which few look up to taking on.

Sergio Henao was unlucky to puncture in the final moments of Stage 2, but the Colombian was relatively fortunate to salvage much of the time lost with a combination of hard work and risk taking while surfing through the cars. He has focused upon performing well at this race once again, though his misfortune en route to Paracombe means we have not really seen whether the Colombian has what it takes to tackle Porte right now. He will be extremely motivated to pick up a win to make his time here worthwhile and might be able to force Porte to chase rival riders in order to set him up for a sprint finish which would see Henao the favourite to benefit from.

Esteban Chaves certainly is not in his best form right now, but that has not stopped him from already catching the eye a couple of times during Stage 2. The Orica-SCOTT captain is likely to assume similar tactics to that of fellow countryman Henao, hoping to set up a reduced sprint atop Willunga Hill which would allow Chaves to take advantage of his great turn of speed.

Michael Woods has not thrilled viewers as much as he did last year at this race and will now seek to remedy this factor with a strong performance on Stage 5. The Canadian demonstrated last year that he can ride with the best, knows how to pace himself and can definitely handle the situation if stage honours look to be decided within an elite bunch of climbers as they sprint for the line.

Diego Ulissi is never far away when a race turns its attention to uphill finales, so it is only fair to feature the popular Italian as one of the contenders for glory at the end of Stage 5. A potentially strong headwind would reduce the chances of a solo victory on Willunga Hill and thus allow a much larger group of riders to reach the summit first, where Ulissi would be the hardest man to beat if present. He has a great history of winning on days such as this and there is no reason he cannot add to this if the chance offers itself once again.

Other contenders include; Rohan DennisJay McCarthyNathan Haas and Jesus Herrada.

Outcome:

1st Sergio Henao 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Richie Porte

Tour Down Under 2017

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2017 – STAGE 4 PREVIEW

Course:

Though Caleb Ewan lost contact with his leadout train as expected during yesterday’s finale, he took full advantage of Peter Sagan’s poor decision making which forced the World Champion to expend further energy navigating his way to the front; a move ultimately handing victory to the rival Australian. Stage 4 is a tricky prospect which may be allowed to fall into the hands of the breakaway, but if conditions are not too draining for the peloton, teams focused on forcing a bunch kick will have a great chance of doing precisely that. A total of 149.5km separates Norwood from Campbelltown, a large loop which traces around the Adelaide suburbs and provides little in gruelling terrain despite being the second longest day in the saddle at 2017’s Tour Down Under. The gradual decline down to the finish in Campbelltown should lend itself well to chasing down the day’s breakaway, eventually concluding with a sprint against a gradual drag up to the line.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan looked well placed in the final moments of Stage 3 to take victory ahead of the much faster Caleb Ewan, but his decision to go the long way around traffic meant he spent more time in the wind and thus found his legs lacking once Ewan stepped it up a gear. Today offers a great chance to remedy the previous day’s defeat, the longer stage potentially a bonus for Sagan is paired with a small drag to the line which can make it a contest of power instead of aerodynamics. There is a chance that Bora-Hansgrohe will instead ride for Sam Bennett, the Irishman a much faster prospect to challenge Caleb Ewan in a sprint, while the attributes of Stage 4 and its finale improve his odds yet further still if backed by his team.

Caleb Ewan is in indomitable form at his home stage race, possessing far superior speed to his rivals at the first major race of the season and is supported by a well organised leadout train. Though his immense pace and aerodynamic skills suggest Ewan is a thoroughbred sprinter, the Australian does have form when it comes to winning against a gradient similar to today’s. Assuming Orica-SCOTT deliver him into the ideal position, it is tough to argue against Ewan picking up another win at this year’s Tour Down Under.

Niccolo Bonifazio performed well on the previous day as anticipated and will now be looking to build upon this with another chance of a bunch kick at the end of Stage 4. The Italian is underrated at World Tour level despite some fantastic performances during the last two seasons, demonstrating how effective his blend of high speed and positional awareness can outperform the bigger names which surround him. He is likely to surf the wheels in the latter moments of today, but should have another convincing chance of finishing upon the podium.

Danny van Poppel is still waiting for his leadout train to really click into place at this race, though yesterday displayed encouraging signs that pieces are beginning to fall where they are needed at last. With the firepower of Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe at his disposal, van Poppel has enough to drag him into contention, but the loss of Owain Doull does make it a greater task to truly challenge for the win.

As has come to be expected at the Tour Down Under, other riders worth looking out for in Stage 4’s potential sprint finish are Nikias ArndtBen Swift and Baptiste Planckaert 

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd Niccolo Bonifazio

Tour Down Under 2017

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2017 – STAGE 3 PREVIEW

Course:

Sprinters should be gifted another opportunity for victory at this year’s Tour Down Under on this 144km route from Glenelg to Victor Harbor. The lumpy nature of Stage 3 is evident when glancing at the profile, likely to be combined with tricky crosswinds, making this favourable for the classics styled strongman to snatch the day’s honours. Having negotiated the only categorised climb of the day, the peloton will progress onwards to begin the first of four 12.9km laps which comprise the finale in Victor Harbor. A technically demanding run into the finish, with a couple of tight corners, will make having an organised leadout train at the front of affairs a great advantage to guide a sprinter safely into the finishing straight. It does look like a day for a sprint of sorts, but the stresses of the last kilometre may be enough to swing the odds in the favour of some of the more experienced and canny riders who relish these hectic contests at the expense of the thoroughbred fast men.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Peter Sagan has the skills required to perform well today, but there is a question mark as to whether his team Bora-Hansgrohe shall aim to protect him or sprinter Sam Bennett during Stage 3. The former’s status as World Champion makes him an obvious man to watch in the sprints, thus making it difficult to really catch opponents off guard when it matters most, though the technical finale today is likely to play into Sagan’s hands and limit this factor somewhat. If the route fails to prove as tough as expected, the wind perhaps not coming into play for example, then Bennett will be the better option for Bora-Hansgrohe to try and capture victory at Victor Harbor.

Caleb Ewan enters the day as an awkward contender to estimate, the fastest man in the race is rarely a fan of disorganised finishes and can become lost as rivals find the best lines to follow. ORICA-Scott are an efficient outfit when it comes to leading their talented young Australian out and may be able to provide the guidance which offers him a clear run at the finish line where it is tough to see anyone else other than Ewan emerging victorious.

Niccolo Bonifazio may have arrived at this year’s Tour Down Under without a strong team to support him in the sprints, but Stage 3’s technical demands offer him a level playing field where he can catch the faster riders napping. Bonifazio will look to remain hidden by the stronger trains of his rivals, before bursting through the pack from a good position after exiting the final tight corner.

Danny van Poppel has perhaps surprised a few people with his strong form already at the race, marking him out as one of the fastest riders behind Caleb Ewan currently. Losing teammate Owain Doull on the eve of the race has reduced the firepower of the Sky leadout train, but he still turned in a great performance on Stage 1 and can rely on his sharp acceleration to make the most of this tricky run into home.

Other contenders with a chance of Stage 3 honours are Nikias ArndtEdward TheunsMarko Kump and Sean De Bie.

Outcome:

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Danny van Poppel 3rd Niccolo Bonifazio

Tour Down Under 2017

TOUR DOWN UNDER 2017 – STAGE 2 PREVIEW

Course:

The mercury reached beyond 40 degrees yesterday and forced race organisers into reducing the length of the opening stage by omitting one lap of the finishing circuit. Today’s challenge is expected bring the general classification focused riders to the fore on a course which could see contenders slip out of contention by the end of the day. The 148.5km route from Stirling to Paracombe rolls considerably throughout the day and offers an uphill finale to ensure viewers are guaranteed fireworks as the battle for the line is lit. The Tour Down Under’s use of Wilunga Hill has often been highlighted as the crunch point of each year’s edition, but last year proved that today’s finish can be more important in the overall standings than many expect. Riders will need to have gritty determination to survive the selection process, maintaining enough energy in reserve to fight their way to the top and potentially cement their grip on the leader’s jersey with a single knockout attack.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 2 Preview

Contenders:

Sergio Henao performs strongly on such hilly terrain, arriving here stronger than last year and now with extra support as a result of the ill Owain Doull being replaced by the French climbing specialist Kenny Elissonde. Such a substitution should improve Henao’s chances of being positioned at the head of affairs in order to time his decisive move perfectly, ensuring maximum damage when he finally does kick for the line. The Colombian rider may well have wished for steeper gradients during the latter stages, but an average gradient of nearly 10% and ramps which pitch at twice that much still provide Henao with ideal springboards for aggressive tactics.

Richie Porte is the firm favourite for many pundits to walk away as overall champion by the end of the week, which means he needs to muster his finest form to either win Stage 2 or simply prevent losing any ground to major rivals. Porte slipped up last year when expected to win the title, losing out to Simon Gerrans by 9 seconds, making it tough to back him entirely without a certain amount of hesitation for 2017. A longer ascent would have made for a more ideal finish for Porte, but even if he does concede a handful of seconds here, Wilunga Hill is certain to draw the best from him as he pursues his fourth victory atop that climb; potentially winning the race there.

Michael Woods was another of the main protagonists during last year’s edition, the Canadian rider able to deliver a punchy attack on this type of finale which definitely has the chance of delivering stage honours to him in Paracombe. As a rider who the bigger names may expect to fade as the race progresses, Woods might be able to capitalise on the others’ eyeballing of one another to launch himself to victory.

Diego Ulissi is no stranger to outperforming his abilities on paper, often surviving some of the toughest races alongside pure climbers, before showcasing his talent for uphill sprints to great effect. If the true mountain men spend too much time watching one another, failing to up the tempo enough to dispatch Ulissi before the final ramps, nobody will be able to match him on his favoured terrain.

Esteban Chaves is a difficult prospect to gauge at the Tour Down Under, the Colombian rider is often far from his best during the early months of the season, yet coming here to ride for his Australian team surely demands a strong performance. He is undoubtedly one of the best climbers at this race when on top form and is well documented for his explosive ability to ride away from the peloton; a lapse in concentration from Porte or Henao may deliver him victory.

Other riders who may catch the eye during Stage 2 include Robert GesinkJarlinson PantanoJay McCarthy and Petr Vakoc

Outcome:

1st Sergio Henao 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Richie Porte

Tour Down Under 2017

Tour Down Under 2017 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

Spokenforks emerges from the comfort of Christmas and the off-season, somewhat heavier around the waist, but eager to dive right back into the blazing sunshine which drew last year to a close for us in Abu Dhabi. Australia’s premier stage race has now become the curtain raiser for the cycling season, with many of the major stars lining up at the Tour Down Under to stretch their legs competitively for the first time since 2016. A six stage affair around the Adelaide area, the contest produces unpredictable racing as riders look to find their feet during the early shifting sands of 2017; sharp climbs, scything winds, fast finishes and testing conditions will keep everyone guessing during the week. Stage 1 is a 145km stretch from Unley to Lyndoch, offering those in pursuit of the mountains jersey the first set of points, before later settling down into three laps of a finishing circuit around Lyndoch which should guarantee a rapid finale to close Stage 1.

Tour Down Under 2017 - Stage 1 Preview

Contenders:

Caleb Ewan has risen to the top table of sprinters in a short period of time, and having won the People’s Choice Classic ahead of the Tour Down Under a few days ago, now enters the race as the favourite to win this opening affair. ORICA-Scott have the required firepower and organisational skills to smoothly deliver Ewan into race winning territory during the final 200m, after which he will be expected to finish clinically from. Given his impressive win only a few days ago, it is a tough challenge to realistically look beyond the young Australian as the winner after Stage 1.

Niccolo Bonifazio performs well at this early season competition, so should be a rider worth watching for on a day like this. It did not seem like he truly committed to the sprint during the People’s Choice Classic, making it tough to gauge his form precisely, but being one of the first to finish behind the podium placed riders certainly suggests he has the fitness to challenge.

Sam Bennett appeared strong in the same race as Ewan and Bonifazio, finishing second through some very clever riding which allowed him to burst to the fore despite missing an ideal leadout. Stage 1 will require Bora-Hansgrohe to execute a more successful leadout for Irishman Bennett and he will stand a great chance of winning if they achieve precisely that.

Peter Sagan appears here in the rainbow bands for the first time since winning the World Championship Road Race, looking eager to open his account as soon as possible having finished third during the People’s Choice Classic. Today’s finale should prove somewhat too fast for Sagan to win from, but it always remains a risk ruling anything beyond his skills or capabilities.

Others who should all feature include Danny Van PoppelNikias ArndtMark RenshawBen Swift and Edward Theuns.

Outcome:

1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Sam Bennett 3rd Niccolo Bonifazio