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Preview: Men’s Santos Tour Down Under

Everything you need to know about the Tour Down Under as it returns for the first time since 2020.

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After a two-year hiatus the WorldTour peloton returns to Australia to kick off the 2023 calendar at Tour Down Under. 

From January 17 to 22 some of the best riders in the world will once again converge in Adelaide to blow out the cobwebs and battle it out in sprints, up climbs, and even a prologue. 

As this is Australia in summer it’s going to be hot, with temperatures nudging 40 degrees Celsius. For those who have come over from Europe for the race this might be a shock to the system whereas those who have spent the last few months down under might have an advantage, not to mention the extra watts that a home race can summon. 

So what’s in store for the peloton as they open their 2023 accounts? 

Prologue: Adelaide – Adelaide, 5.5km

TDU Prologue

The 5.5km prologue might not test the endurance but it may well catch out anyone whose technical skills are somewhat rusty. 

Taking place in the middle of Adelaide city the course includes some tight turns as well as a fast descent that will mean contenders need to have their wits about them as well as watts. 

Stage 1: Tanunda – Tanunda, 149.9km 

TDU Stage 1

With the order of things established after the prologue it’s time for it to be ripped apart again by the first road stage of the race. 

Four ascents of Menglers Hill stand between the sprinters and their chance to go for the win. The climb is short, at just under 4 km in length, but has some steep gradients which could zap the legs at the end of four laps.  

But anything can happen, as it did in a similar stage in the 2021 Santos Festival of Cycling men’s race, where Luke Durbridge took victory with an 80-kilometre solo break.

Stage 2: Brighton – Victor Harbor, 154.8km 

TDU Stage 2

Stage 2 is the longest of the race at 154.8km. The route hugs the coastline for the first half of the stage with a sprint point coming after 33.6km before heading inland for a hilly finale.  

After a second sprint point at km 71.7 comes the first categorised climb of the day, Parawa Hill, a 2.9km long climb with an average gradient of 7% and a maximum of 16.7%. 

Anyone who is caught out on Parawa Hill has 40km to recover or regain contact with the peloton before the next climb of Nettle Hill, which, despite the name, has less of a sting than the previous one at 2.5km long with a maximum gradient of 15.64%, and an average of 6.8%. 

The last time the race included a finish in Victor Harbor was in 2020 which culminated in a bunch kick won by Giacomo Nizzolo. Although the climbs leading into the finish were shorter on that stage we can still expect to see some fast finishers, such as Caleb Ewan, make it to the final. 

Stage 3: Norwood – Campbelltown, 116.8km 

TDU Stage 3

Stage 3 may be the second shortest of the race, but it takes in three of the toughest climbs in the region: Norton Summit, Checkers Hill and Corkscrew Road before finishing in Campbelltown, meaning we could see a GC shake-up at the end of the day. 

With the summit coming just 5km from the finish it’s Corkscrew Road that is likely to play the crucial role in deciding the stage. At 2.3km long with an average gradient of 9.2% it could be short enough for some punchier Classics-style riders to make it over the top and take advantage of the descent to the finish unless the GC hopefuls get there first.  

Stage 4: Port Willunga – Willunga Township, 133.2km 

TDU Stage 4

Stage 4 may take place in Willunga but it does not include the now-legendary climb of Willunga Hill which saw Richie Porte ride to victory on multiple occasions in the past.

Instead, the race takes the peloton around the McLaren Vale wine area before a nailed-on sprint finish. The race does pass through the lower slopes of Willunga Hill but nothing that an in-form sprinter wouldn’t be able to get over meaning we can expect a full-on bunch kick into Willunga Township. 

Stage 5: Unley – Mount Lofty,  112.5km 

TDU Stage 5

The sprinters may have had their day on the previous stage but there won’t be much for them to celebrate on stage 5. 

The final stage of the race may be the shortest but it is by far the most challenging with 3,131m of elevation gained over just 112.5km thanks to five ascents of the short, steep Mount Lofty climb. The stage finishes atop the 1.3km long climb which features a maximum gradient of 13.3% and an average gradient of 7.3%.

If the GC is close going into stage 5 then we could see some explosive racing as riders try to gain time and whittle down the field each lap.  

Contenders

All 18 WorldTour teams are present at Tour Down Under as teams strive to open their 2023 accounts and gain crucial points early on in this new three-year WorldTour cycle.

The new UCI points system means that as a WorldTour stage race, Tour Down Under has plenty of points on offer, so it will be more than worth the trip to Australia for the teams who get points in the bag and avoid the dreaded relegation zone. 

This is a course that suits local favourite, Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma). The prologue in particular will play into his time trial prowess and potentially earn him a crucial time buffer. Whether he can contest the overall across six days remains to be seen but we can expect him and his team to put up a good fight. 

The 2023 Tour Down Under looks well suited to Rohan Dennis.

Two-time overall winner at the Santos Tour Down Under, Daryl Impey, will also line up in Adelaide for the last time after announcing his impending retirement at the end of 2023. He is joined by Israel Premier Tech teammate and 2022 Tour de France stage winner Simon Clarke and former European champion Giacomo Nizzolo.

INEOS have Aussie national champ Luke Plapp who will want to do the green and gold proud, as well as Geraint Thomas, and young talents Ethan Hayter and Magnus Sheffield. 

As an Australian-registered team, Jayco AlUla will be looking to shine at the first edition of the race for two years. Michael Matthews is versatile enough to be in contention for multiple stages for the squad and Simon Yates will have his eye on the final stage and the overall. 

Fellow Aussie and 2022 Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley will line up as a strong contender for the overall for Bora Hansgrohe. 

Caleb Ewan will be riding for the Australian national team as he looks to get back to his winning ways.

Other home-nation overall contenders to look out for are Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën), Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), and Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ).

Sprints-wise, at the top of the bill is Caleb Ewan, who will be riding for the national team, but he will have to see off Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) to win.   

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