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Down Under Digest #18: In the thick of it

Keep up to date on all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling with our weekly round-up.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 17.01.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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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:

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:

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😲 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 ✂️

📅 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 matt.deneef@escapecollective.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 … 🙏

Thanks for reading! This and every other Down Under Digest was made possible by our wonderful members here at Escape Collective. If you’ve already signed up, thank you. If you haven’t yet, but you’d like to, please do. Just click the link in the top right of the page to get started.

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