It’s that time of the year again. The first week of the WorldTour racing season is behind us and the Tour Down Under will soon be consigned to the history books.
But, as always, the race threw up a few great stories – a home winner, lesser-known riders stealing the limelight and some great new technology on show.
After each rider had his (almost obligatory) photo taken with a koala the racing began in earnest – here’s a few things we learned in the process.
1. Australian cycling won’t have to wait long for a new hero
The 24-year-old not only took the ochre jersey for topping the General Classification, he pretty much stole it off Evans’ back on the stage three finish in Paracombe.
All the talk of Dennis before the Tour Down Under was about his Hour Record battle with Jack Bobridge, but he has emerged as the heir apparent to Evans and Australia’s next best hope for Tour de France glory.
He proved his climbing ability with his second-place finish at the Tour of California last year and he’s pretty handy against the clock too. The odds on Dennis claiming the Maillot Jaune are decreasing at a rate of knots.
2. The Aussies take the race pretty seriously
There is a notion with the TDU that not many riders take it that seriously. For some it can be a good way of getting some kilometres in their legs whilst topping up their bib short tan.
But judging by the results in South Australia the home riders are pretty keen to impress in front of their own crowd.
Four of the six stages were won by Australian riders, with the ochre jersey being the possession of Aussie riders from start to finish. Porte tried his best to wrest the lead from Dennis up Willunga hill on stage five, but the boy from BMC was more than a match for the Sky rider.
With record stage winner Andre Greipel not making the trip this season, the Australians took their chances and dominated the week-long race.
3. Jeremy Roy is a bad luck charm
Here’s a tip to all professional riders: if you see FDJ’s Jeremy Roy behind you this season be prepared to hit the floor.
The Frenchman uploaded on-bike footage on YouTube after each stage last week, with the a prevailing theme being his ability evade crashes that occur right in front of him.
The man himself has started referring to himself as a danger magnet and given his habit of riding in the middle of the bunch all week the peloton is an even more dangerous place to be.
4. The people of Twitter certainly enjoyed Marcel Kittel’s new helmet
German sprinter Marcel Kittel is known for his perfectly coiffed hair so it’s no surprise that his new aero helmet (or skull cap as it seems to be) caused so much humour on social media.
Whatever the technology behind it, the lid seemed to work well. Kittel won the People’s Choice Classic and retained perfect hair all week. Bravo, Giant.
5. Bobridge and Dennis are on form for their Hour Record attempts
It’s the talk of the town in certain cycling circles: Bobridge v Dennis in an hour-long assault. Man versus bike for the glory of breaking the Hour Record.
Surely riding in the TDU would be an unwelcome distraction for the pair? Apparently not.
Dennis snatched the leader’s jersey off Bobridge on stage three – something the latter hopes won’t happen again when Dennis attempts his Hour on February 8.
Bobridge, however, looked every bit as strong as his Australian rival – powering along in a number of breakaways, turning a big gear up the Adelaide hills to claim the King of the Mountains jersey and generally preparing himself for the pain he’ll feel on January 31.
The odds say Bobridge will smash Matthias Brandle’s mark on Saturday evening, but Dennis is pretty confident he’ll be able to go one better when it’s his turn just a week later.
One thing’s for sure – it’ll be one hell of a battle.
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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