The eleventh edition of the Tour Down Under kicks off the 2009 professional road cycle racing season on January 20-25. It is the first race in the Union Cycliste Internationale’s new-look ‘World Calendar’.

The TDU comprises of six stages, all of which take place in and around Adelaide, capital of South Australia.

This year’s race has garnered a massive amount of publicity for one reason – Lance Armstrong. The seven-times Tour de France winner has chosen the TDU to launch his comeback to professional cycling after coming out of retirement.

In its ten years of existence, the race has attracted a mix of Australian teams and ProTour squads. The ‘local’ teams out to grab some glory in their home country’s big race, and the ProTour teams making the most of some (very) early season racing miles in warm sun and a stress-free environment – the stages are all under 150km and the riders can stay in the same hotel throughout the entire race. The most taxing thing the riders will face is the hot weather.

To warm the riders up before the main event, the organisers are running a single day race on January 18 – the Cancer Council Classic.


TOUR DOWN UNDER: WHO WILL WIN?

At this time in the season, it’s anyone guess who could win the TDU. No one has yet turned a wheel in anger, let alone in a six-stage Tour. Most teams will be looking to see who has form on the road, and likely rally behind a leader as the race progresses.

This year’s start list contains some very big names, and last year’s surprise winner Andre Greipel (Team Columbia) will have a lot of work to do to defend his title. Especially as Michael Rogers is on his team, a man who could win the event himself – as he proved in 2002.

Of course, the rider everyone will be watching is Lance Armstrong (Astana). The Texan makes his comeback to pro racing at the TDU (well, the Cancer Classic that precedes it, but let’s not muddy the waters) and has a strong team behind him. However, Armstrong has stated that he is not there to win. Really? Armstrong doesn’t do losing.

Double TDU winner (1999 and 2001) Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank) can never be discounted, the veteran Aussie knows his home race and has a powerful team to back him up.

Another previous TDU winner (2007), Martin Elmiger (Ag2r) will be looking to give his team a fifth victory in the race – Ag2r have won more editions of the race than any other squad.

In the sprints, we like the look of Robbie McEwen’s new Katusha squad. If his team-mate Gert Steegmans can be persuaded to head up a decent lead-out for McEwen rather than contesting the sprints himself – it might give the Aussie a chance to grab another green jersey. New Zealander Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream) is another man to watch out for in the bunch gallops.


TOUR DOWN UNDER: JERSEYS

Five individual leaders’ jerseys are up for grabs in the Tour Down Under: the overall leader’s jersey (orange); King of the Mountains (white); Sprint jersey (green); Most aggressive rider jersey (white, red sleeves); and Young rider jersey (black, pink and yellow).

There is also a blue ‘winning team’ jersey awarded at the end of the event to the team with the smallest cumulative time.


TOUR DOWN UNDER: STAGES

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 Stage 1 Norwood-Mawson Lakes, 140km

Wednesday, 21 January 2009 Stage 2 Hahndorf-Stirling, 145km

Thursday, 22 January 2009 Stage 3 Unley-Victor Harbor, 136km

Friday, 23 January 2009 Stage 4 Burnside Village-Angaston, 143km

Saturday, 24 January 2009 Stage 5 Snapper Point-Willunga, 148km

Sunday, 25 January 2009 Stage 6 Adelaide City Council Circuit, 90km

Total distance: 802km

Route map on TDU website>>


TOUR DOWN UNDER: PREVIOUS WINNERS

2008 Andre Greipel (Team High Road)

2007 Martin Elmiger (Ag2r)

2006 Simon Gerrans (Ag2r)

2005 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Liberty Seguros)

2004 Patrick Jonker (UniSA)

2003 Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r)

2002 Michael Rogers (AIS)

2001 Stuart O?Grady (Credit Agricole)

2000 Gilles Maignan (Ag2r)

1999 Stuart O?Grady (Credit Agricole)


TOUR DOWN UNDER: START LIST

For the 2009 Tour Down Under start list refer to our separate article.


TOUR DOWN UNDER: TV SCHEDULE

Sky Sports will be showing coverage of the 2009 TDU. As yet, no firm schedule has been announced other than that they will be showing the race live. More details should emerge on Sky’s cycling microsite.


TOUR DOWN UNDER 2009

STAGE REPORTS

Stage four: Davis wins again in Tour Down Under

Stage three: Brown leads Aussie charge

Stage two: Davis takes gruelling stage

Stage one: Greipel wins first stage

Cancer Council Classic: McEwen gets Katusha’s first win Down Under

PHOTO GALLERIES

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Cancer Council Classic

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Stage three: Video highlights

Stage two: Video highlights

Stage one: Video highlights

Cancer Council Classic: Video highlights

TOUR DOWN UNDER NEWS

Tour Down Under preview

Armstrong in Adelaide… and Astana kit

Armstrong to get elite security team for Tour Down Under

Armstrong vs Hincapie at Tour Down Under


EXTERNAL LINKS

Official Tour Down Under website

Union Cycliste Internationale website