Friday Group Ride #54

It is the sad state of geo-cultural reality that leaves most non-Australians with Crocodile Dundee, Dingo Ate My Baby, Yahoo Serious and Foster’s Lager as the enduring symbols of the Land Down Under. Oh, sure. We all love a shrimp on the barbie, and who can resist a little Mad Max on late night television? But, the truth is Australia is a sports lover’s paradise.

Cricket, rugby, Aussie rules, swimming, football, and on an on. Our southern hemispheric friends love to compete. They love to watch, and they know how to throw a party.

This is a long and not-at-all concise lead in to a discussion of the upcoming Tour Down Under (January 18th – 23rd), a race that has become, by virtue of its early start date, the de facto kick off of the pro road cycling season.

This year the TDU carries the withering storyline of Lance Armstrong’s final pro level road race. Allegedly. Possibly. Hopefully.

Additionally, many riders who saw their 2010 blighted by injuries will pop back up on the bottom side of the globe to try to get themselves sorted out for 2011.

It’s a race that gives us first glimpses at new teams and often new riders. You might remember Peter Sagan and Xavier Tondo standing out in last year’s event.

In fact, if anything holds this race back, it’s a lack of real climbing action, the Willunga Hill serving up some uphill, but nothing on the order of the Alps, Pyrenees or even California’s Sierra Nevada.

This week’s Group Ride addresses the following: Is the TDU an important race? Is it a big race? Is it a good race? Do you look forward to it? Or, is it a warm up? An exhibition? Where is its proper place in the cycling universe?

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  1. Randomactsofcycling

    Woohoo! A post about Oz!
    It’s a race, though in the same way the Tour of California was in it’s early years quite prestigious for the U.S. Teams, perhaps only really of value to the Aussie Pros. Apart from Le Tour, it’s the only Cycling race that will get daily coverage on all the major media outlets.
    I think it is more of a ‘race’ than Oman, in terms of variety of terrain and expected outcome. But is anything before March classified as more than ‘base miles’ for most?

  2. Souleur

    It is a race. A starter marking the seasons beginning, a warm up, and of value. Is it a big race, no. Does big make a difference, not in my mind. I personally love some of the lesser races. Its a quality race as are many others, a dignified race and one that brings on an inaugural event to us all.

    I for one prefer it to Qatar, but I am sure the PRO doesn’t care either way, its a warm up, and better than riding in the hard north conditions.

  3. James

    I think it’s a big deal race for the sprinters and a training ride for everyone else. The Greipel / Cavendish thing will be interesting though it will probably be disappointing. I hope someone like Davis takes both of them to the cleaners! At least the new season is beginning…come on March and April!

  4. Touriste-Routier

    Australia is an awesome place; each time I’ve gone there (3x) I didn’t want to come home.

    However while the TDU a nice chance to shine for the domestic Aussie pros, it is an over hyped “training” race; it doesn’t hold any great prestige or significant importance. The date more so than the lack of a challenging course dictates this. A race is a race, and a win is a win, so clearly it will be treated as serious by some.

    It is very well produced,and it is wonderful that it takes place, but the attention it grabs, even as the season opener, is out of context to its significance on the World Calendar. If they shifted the date later, perhaps it would warrant greater importance.

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  6. Nelson

    While I WILL be watching (any cycling in January on TV is worth it) it holds no significance with me. Looking forward to all the sprints in this years TDU.

  7. todd k

    Given its geographical location and how that influences where it can reside on the calendar, I think its tendency to emphasize the “sprinters” is appropriate. I hope they continue that emphasis because I think it carves out some uniqueness for the race. In my opinion it doesn’t lack for anything by not having time trials or significant climbs. We get are fill of those elsewhere on the calendar.

    It is slowly developing some history and as long as it continues to appear on the pro tour calendar it will likely solidify itself as the what we can consider as the formal start of the pro road calendar.

  8. RaphBxl

    It is clearly not a big race. It only has prominence because we have been starving for a couple of months, living off cyclocross. It is mostly a nice televised training ride, during which you get to see the new kits in a beautiful environment..

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