Tour Down Under Tips
State of Origin – NSW vs VIC up Willunga Hill (Photo Leigh Schilling)
My head has been left behind in “Radelaide” this past week. I had such a great time at the Tour Down Under and I can’t take my mind off it. In fact, we’ve been privileged to a mind-blowing past couple months of cycling here in Australia. I know the theme of this site is “Cycling Tips”, but all the action that’s been taking place so close to home has been hard to ignore. This blog simply writes itself during times like this!
Before TdU fever dies down I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you more about our experience in Adelaide. Where we stayed, recommended rides, the best way to watch the race, etc. I went to the TdU last year but unfortunately I had to come home early and missed most of it. This time I got the full experience and it might be useful to pass on for those thinking about making the trip next year.
When We Went
Last year we arrived in Adelaide the weekend before the first stage started (the crit is on Sunday and the Stage 1 is on Tuesday). You could feel the energy building as the PROs arrived and the fans poured in on this weekend. You could go out for local rides and see the PRO riders out for a spin and relaxing in the cafes and restaurants. All of the teams stay at the Hilton in the city and it’s exciting to go and have a drink in the lobby and see all the PROs mingling around and getting interviewed. There’s also a great vintage bike museum set up in the lobby that’s worth having a look at.
This year we missed out on the weekend preceding the race. I’m wishing that we hadn’t missed it since I would have liked to see the crit. I also love how you can see all the teams out and about while they’re very relaxed and not in the race bubble. It also gives you some time to get familiar with the local rides and to work out your itinerary. Next year I won’t miss out on this weekend.
Where We Stayed
Last year when we came to the TdU we stayed in the city center. There’s a constant buzz of energy throughout city all week long and everything is within walking distance. There’s lots of accommodation to choose from. We stayed at the Oaks Embassy Apartments which was about $175 a night for a 2 bedroom with kitchen. I’d definitely stay there again.
This year we stayed in a suburb right along the beach called Glenelg. This location was awesome. There’s lots of cafes, restaurants and a few pubs. The beach is absolutely stunning and there’s lots of activities like a beach volleyball tournament going on during the week. Lots of riders stay in Glenelg and there’s no shortage of bunch rides to tag along with if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Glenelg is 20-30min ride to the city and a 15min drive. Most days we found ourselves going into the city at some point so I might be tempted to stay there when I go to the TdU next year. If you’re visiting from overseas and you want beach, no doubt in my mind that Glenelg is the place to say. Another suburb that’s just down the road from Glenelg where a lot of people seemed to be staying is called Brighton. It’s not in the center of all the action but looked to be much more quiet. It has a beautiful beach and looked to have lots of nice houses and apartments that you could rent for the week.
Lots of action at Glenelg
How To See The Race
Let’s face it, if you actually want to see a bike race, it’s much better seen on TV than it is live. However, I think most of us would rather be there in person and experience the energy of the crowd. The way the TdU stages are set out many times you can go and see a part of the course where the riders come around multiple times. There are also stages you can ride to one section of the course and see the race come by, then take a shortcut to another section of the course and see the race ride by again.
I enjoyed seeing the race by riding to the different sections of the course. This gave us a chance to ride parts of the stage such as Checker Hill and see how tough it actually was. We quickly found that one of the best things to do was to ride to the start of the race (which was usually close to the city), take part of the festivities, have a coffee, then ride out to the the course. Many people I spoke to, mostly the experienced Adelaidians, would opt to ride first thing in the morning, change into clean clothes, and drive to the exciting sections of the stage. I have to admit it would have been more comfortable standing and walking around in proper shoes without worrying about a bike, however I didn’t like the looks of getting home in all that traffic after the finish. Not to mention that we got to ride home from the finish of the stage with the PROs most of the time. We obviously wouldn’t have experienced that in a car. This was one of the highlights of the TdU. All the riders would ride back to the hotel at the end of the stage and we got to join in with them. One minute these guys are are the biggest cycling stars on earth, the next minute they’re riding home with us weekend warriors. You can’t do that at the Tour de France!
Here’s my GPS plot for stage 2 and the route we took to see the stage:
GPS Plot Stage 2. A beautiful ride to Williamstown via Gorge Rd. We saw the race come by in Williamstown and then went to Checker Hill (a massively steep climb with thousands of people watching).
The ride up Gorge Road was stunning
Massive crowds having a great time on Checker Hill
Rides in Adelaide
I was fortunate to meet with some local Adelaide riders took me on a couple of the most beautiful rides I’ve done in Australia. There’s no doubt in my mind that Adelaide wins the title of being the best cycling city in the country. The only thing that needs to be fixed is the taste of their tap water!
The thing that makes Adelaide unique and perfect for cycling is it’s geography and size (yes, I’m stating the obvious). Adelaide isn’t a huge city, but it had all the amenities you’d every want. The fact that the city center is only a few kilometers from beautiful beaches and endless coastlines makes it a cyclist’s dream. In the other direction there’s windy roads carved through some of the most spectacular hills I’ve ever seen. It’s paradise.
This ride through Adelaide Hills was absolutely phenomenal. All I wanted to do was take photos during our time out there but at the same time I didn’t want to ruin it.
Kym Howard, a local Adelaidian sent me some great ride suggestions which I’ve listed below for next year when I go back. Check out his Legacy clothing. Awesome looking stuff. It was always a head turner whenever I saw someone wearing it. Kym also wrote a very good article for RIDE magazine (issue #44) about the fantastic cycling scene in Adelaide.
– The quintessential Adelaide Hills ride. Lobethall loop via Norton Summit and returning via Gorge Road – PLENTY of alternative routes through this region to really build the strength of the athlete and also just to enjoy SUPERB scenery!
– This profiles the route from the city to Goolwa via Strathalbyn. This would be a good ride to incorporate into watching Stage 4.
– This one probably can’t be incorporated into watching a TdU stage, but if you’re looking for an EPIC 160km around the Fleurieu Peninsula look no further. Some great roads and climbs and plenty of effort required! Perfect for a training camp based out of Goolwa or Victor Harbor.
Lots of people emailed me from overseas asking what I’d recommend if they were to choose between coming to Australia for the World Championships or the Tour Down Under. Since I haven’t experienced the World Championships here I can’t say for certain, but my gut feel is that the TdU is the event to come and see. The riders are relaxed and just starting their race season so they’re unbelievably accessible. You’ll be able to incorporate some of the best riding you’ve ever done into watching seven stages of exciting racing. If you’re into wine and food you can visit some fantastic wineries in the Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale where the race passes through. The weather is guaranteed to be good in January in Adelaide. The list goes on and on.
Hollywood is like a little schoolgirl at a Britney Spears concert the whole week.
I don’t want to downplay how great having the Worlds will be in October. The racing will surely be more intense than the TdU, there will be a deeper field, and the course is very tough and spectator friendly. The main downside of the Worlds could be weather. Early October is the beginning of Spring here and it could either be mid 20’s and or 10C and blowing rain. The riding isn’t nearly as easy to find nor as accessible in Melbourne as it is in Adelaide either.
There you have it. I’m by no means a TdU expert but I got a great feel for how to see the race and have a good time. It would be great to get other people’s suggestions and recommendations in the comments.
Until next year I leave you with a few final photos from Leigh Schilling. He does a great job at capturing the pain, suffering and fun of the TdU. Who says these guys aren’t taking this race seriously!?
And last but not least, go over to fyxomatosis and read about the other TdU. Extraordinary!
TC rides from Melbourne to Adelaide to catch the last 2 stages of the race.