G’day and welcome back to the Down Under Digest for another week. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that we’re in the thick of the Australian summer of cycling right now. The women’s Tour Down Under is finished (and what a finish it was) and the men’s race is now halfway through.
This week’s DUD will be a tad shorter than normal so I can focus on the TDU – there’s 50 km remaining in stage 2 as I write this intro – but there’s still plenty of Aussie and Kiwi cycling news to share.
Let’s get right to it.
😅 A quick Tour Down Under recap 😅
We’ve had lots of stories go up on Escape from the men’s and women’s Tour Down Under this past week or so. We’d hate for you to have missed something. Here’s everything we’ve created so far:
- A breakdown of Matilda Raynolds’ great ride on stage 1 of the women’s TDU
- Dave Rome, Gracie Elvin and I break down stage 1 in our first Escape Down Under podcast
- A story about Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s wonderful stage 2 win
- A analysis of Sarah Gigante’s stirring stage 3 win and overall TDU victory
- Dave, Gracie and I break down stages 2 and 3 of the women’s TDU on the podcast
- A look at AG Insurance-Soudal’s impressive first race as a WorldTour team
- Dave Rome’s breakdown of Sarah Gigante’s TDU-winning bike
- Dave does a similar deep-dive for Ruth Edwards’ bike
- A chat with Ruby Roseman-Gannon about TDU and becoming Aussie champ
- Ronan McLaughlin guides you through a bunch of new tech on stage 1 of the men’s TDU
- Analysis of Sam Welsford’s win on stage 1
- Rupert Guinness looks at the circle of life that the Aussie national team makes possible
- Rupert, Ronan and I break down stage 1 of the men’s TDU in podcast form
- Analysis of Isaac del Toro’s stunning stage 2 win
Stay posted to Escape for plenty more in the days to come!
😔 No Grand Tour leadership for Jai 😔
When Primož Roglič joined Bora-Hansgrohe, we speculated that one of the biggest losers from the move might be Australia’s Jai Hindley. With a top Grand Tour contender joining the team, Hindley – a Giro winner in his own right – looked set to lose any chances of racing for himself. It seems that’s all but confirmed.
Bora-Hansgrohe this week announced that Roglič would lead the team’s Tour de France campaign … with Hindley riding in support. Meanwhile, Lennard Kämna and Dani Martínez will start as co-leaders for the Giro d’Italia. And as for the Vuelta, well, that line-up “will be decided as the season progresses”, but Roglič amd Hindley are both expected to be there, and it’s hard to see Bora not riding for the three-time winner.
Jai’s bound to be a gentleman about it all but for fans of the affable West Aussie, this development probably doesn’t spark much joy.
📋 Cadel’s Race startlists are now out 📋
It’s hard to think about anything but TDU right now, but before too long the riders will be over in Geelong for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (and its associated side events). The startlists for Cadel’s Race have have now been released.
Some things that stand out:
- Most teams are very similar to what they were for Tour Down Under.
- FDJ-Suez again has a strong team led by Grace Brown and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
- Lidl-Trek is probably even stronger with Brodie Chapman, Amanda Spratt, and Lauretta Hanson.
- Liv AlUla Jayco brings the same squad from TDU and will be very keen for a win after a challenging time in Adelaide (see my interview with Ruby Roseman-Gannon)
- Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) appears to be coming out for her debut appearance at the race.
- Other top names for the women’s race include Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM), TDU winner Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal), and Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Health).
- The Aussie national team is a little different to TDU. In the squad are: Sarah Roy, Josie Talbot, Emily Watts, Darcie Richards, Mia Hayden, and Stephanie Hibburt.
- Caleb Ewan and Luke Plapp lead the men’s Jayco AlUla squad, which loses Simon Yates from the TDU line-up.
- There’s no Australian national team on the men’s startlist. Instead there are two Continental teams – BridgeLane and ARA-Skip Capital. That’s strange, give that UCI rules (see page 4 here) specify that Continental teams aren’t allowed to take part in WorldTour events. I’ve reached out to Cadel’s Race organisers for clarification on this. (Update: The organisers confirmed that they got an exemption from the UCI’s Professional Cycling Council to have two Continental teams in attendance. See the comments below for a quote.)
- Male riders to watch include: Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek), Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), and Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers).
Got a story tip? I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out via email.
😲 Welcome to the Aaron Gate show 😲
Fair to say Kiwi Aaron Gate had a good time at the New Zealand Cycle Classic (2.2) last week. Racing for the Kiwi national team in New Zealand’s only UCI-classified stage race, Gate won a lazy four of the race’s five stages, and cleaned up the overall as well.
Gate won on the uphill drag into Masterton on stage 1, he did the same on Admiral Hill at the end of stage 3, he won a flat bunch sprint on stage 4 into Casterton, and then he rounded it out with victory from a small group on the final stage in Wellington.
On stage 2 Gate was obviously feeling generous and left it to his national team teammates, Kiaan Watts and George Jackson, to go 1-2 in the bunch sprint. In the end, Gate won the race overall by 33 seconds, with BridgeLane’s Elliot Schultz second and Ollie Jones (Southern Cross Racing) in third. Not too shabby.
✂️ Snippets ✂️
- A funeral service for Mel Hoskins was held in Perth yesterday. Her husband Rohan Dennis, who has been charged with causing her death, was in attendance. Hoskins’ passing has cast a shadow over the Australian summer of cycling so far.
- A few days after winning the Tour Down Under, Sarah Gigante has gone out and set a new Strava QOM on Adelaide’s most popular climb, Norton Summit. Gigante already held the record but was worried her “margin was looking more and more fragile over the last three years”, so she went out and lowered the mark. Her time of 12:54 is almost a minute faster than the next best time. Gigante will attempt a new QOM on Willunga Hill this weekend.
📅 Up next … 📅
After the Tour Down Under this week, the men’s and women’s pelotons head to Victoria for Cadel’s Race and its associated events. The women have a criterium next Wednesday evening, and the men will race the UCI 1.1 Surf Coast Classic on the Thursday. The Cadel’s Race WorldTour events are being held on Saturday January 27 (women’s) and Sunday January 28 (men’s).
🍌 Big Things Down Under 🍌
This week’s edition of Big Things Down Under comes to us courtesy of Escape member Tim Parker. To quote from Tim’s email:
“Here is a photo of my car plus bikes for the whole family in front of the Big Koala near Dadswells Bridge. We drove past it on the way from Melbourne to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.”
Tim is underselling the koala a little in his description. As we can see from the sign, this is fact the Giant Koala. According to Wikipedia this rather terrifying beast sits 14 metres high and is made from bronze and steel frame. It was erected in 1989 and was later renamed Sam “to commemorate a koala rescued from bush fires.”
Thanks for sending in your photo, Tim!
If you’ve got a Big Thing in your neighbourhood, or you’re heading past one, I’d love to see a photo of your bike and the Big Thing in the same photo! You can email it through to me at email@example.com.
❤️ And finally … ❤️
Let’s wrap this up with a few bits and pieces from around the place.
First up, I’m not sure if I just haven’t been paying attention in recent seasons, but it feels like maybe the team at Jayco AlUla are having a bit more fun with their videos this season. Some of the stuff they’ve been putting out this year so far has been similar in vibe to the Backstage Pass videos of old, and I’m here for it.
For instance I saw the team at TDU playing a sticker-on-the-back prank and was glad to see it made it to a video. There was a silly video of sports director Mat Hayman playing drill sergeant. And then they had a lot of fun at the team launch at a Jayco dealership. More of this gear, please.
The other thing that I particularly enjoyed was a pair of Instagram posts, both from TDU, and both from current Aussie cyclists. Here’s a post current KOM leader Luke Burns put up before the race began.
Neve Bradbury – who finished third overall at the women’s TDU – went for a similar vibe the other day. How time flies!
🙏 Until next time … 🙏
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