The route consists of six stages that kick off with four flat days, a penultimate day’s showdown on Willunga Hill and a short 90km criterium to finish things off. Other than that final day, the stages range between 132 and 151km in length – markedly shorter than those encountered later on in the year.
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With a mix of on-form Australian riders coming into the race after a summer of action and more sluggish Europeans escaping the cold and wet of winter, the racing is often unpredictable and no less exciting for it.
Stage one, January 20
Tanunda to Campbelltown, 132.6km
The opening stage of the Tour Down Under is a medium-length affair to ease the riders into the race and the 2015 season. Starting in Tanunda, the route loops through Nuriootpa, Angaston and Bethany twice before heading south to encounter the day’s only categorised climb of Checker Hill. It’s a spiky little lump but should not trouble anyone in the peloton, and is present more to settle who will get to wear the KoM jersey rather than test the overall contenders. From Checker hill, it’s downhill all the way to Campbelltown to almost guarantee a fast bunch sprint.
Stage two, January 21
Unley to Stirling, 150.5km
Straight out of the start in Unley, the riders are climbing east towards the day’s only classified climb at Basket Range at the 30km mark. There’s then a loop around Littlehampton and Hahndorf ridden twice before the finishing loop around Mylor, Aldagate and Stirling ridden three times. That final circuit is undulating and rises to the line, which will provide a test for sprinters and their teams in their attempt to keep the bunch together. We’d expect to see plenty of attacking.
Stage three, January 22
Norwood to Paracombe, 143.2km
As in the previous day, the riders rise up out of the start, this time from Norwood and then east into lumpier terrain. After continuing east to Birdwood, the peloton drops south and into a circuit of Lobethal, Lenswood, Woodside and Charleston. Any escape group that makes it to this loop may find themselves fighting over the intermediate sprint points at Charleston, one each lap. Then it’s on to the stage’s sting in the tail to Paracombe, a second-category rise to the line that may get the classics riders warming their legs up.
Stage four, January 23
Glenelg to Mt Barker, 144.5km
We’d expect to see an escape group form up quickly on stage four after the coastal start in Glenelg. It’s south along the sea for a possible cross-wind affected stretch before turning inland after the climb of Sellicks Hill around the 44km mark. The roads rise and fall to a flatter run-in to the finish in Mount Barker, giving plenty of opportunity for the sprinters teams to reel in any escape group.
Stage five, January 24
McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km
The penultimate stage of the Tour Down Under includes two ascents of Willunga Hill, so often the decisive flashpoint of the race. Whoever wins today will have hoped to have gained enough time on their rivals to secure the overall victory. Prior to encountering Willunga Hill on the final circuits, today takes in three loops to the coast and back to provide the race’s longest and most testing stage.
Stage six, January 25
King William Road, Adelaide, 90km
With the overall classification settled the previous day, the final stage is a short and punchy criterium around Adelaide’s streets. The riders will traverse the 4.5km loop 20 times before charging to the line on King William Road, providing one last chance for the sprinters to take the spoils.