Posts Tagged ‘Robbie McEwen’

The 2008 ProTour season is now upon us. Cyclingpost.com previews the first big race of 2008 – The Tour Down Under.

Now into its 10th year, the Tour Down Under has been nothing short of a success. Its ‘Honour Roll’ shows that is has certainly attracted some big names in cycling. Stuart O’Grady, Michael Rogers, Cadel Evans, Luis Leon Sanchez, Andrea Tafi and Laurent Brochard are just some of the riders who have had an impact on this race.

In recent years the race has become very formulaic – a breakaway would invariably form early on in the first stage representing most, if not all teams, and build up a sizeable gap on the rest. The peloton would enjoy a somewhat leisurely ride to the finish line. The rest of the race therefore became a battle between a select few to see who would take out the title.

The main instigators of the aggression has come from the local Australian teams, using the big stage to demonstrate their abilities. But with the elevation to ProTour ranks comes a change to the makeup of riders who will be competing.

133 riders, comprising of 19 seven-men teams will head off from Mawson Lakes on Stage 1. This is an increase from the 112 who took to the start line last year.

29 riders taking their place in the Tour Down Under also took part in the 2007 Tour de France, whilst 22 nationalities are represented – highlighting both the quality and diversity of this years’ field.

The 785 km race comprises of 6 stages:

Tue Jan 22 – Mawson Lakes to Angaston (129 km)
Wed Jan 23 – Stirling to Hahndorf (148 km)
Thu Jan 24 – Unley to Victor Harbor (139 km)
Fri Jan 25 – Mannum to Strathalbyn (134 km)
Sat Jan 26 – Willunga to Willunga (147 km)
Sun Jan 27 – Adelaide to Adelaide (88 km)

Stage One
Tuesday’s stage takes riders from the northern suburbs of Adelaide into the famed Barossa Valley and will be ideal for those riders looking for a good overall result. The only KOM climb for the day comes within 15 kilometres of the start line and will be the perfect launching pad for the day’s first big serious attacks.

If a good-sized break does get clear on the Gould Creek climb it may be a case of see you in Angaston. Most teams will be looking to place a rider in the break, so the initial attacks could include some big names.

Two intermediate sprints are on offer as the peloton make their way through the picturequse vineyards. The run into Angaston is slightly uphill but wont effect the sprinters opportunities, if the breakaways are reigned in.

The Favourites
At Sunday’s press conference both Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) and defending champion Martin Elmiger (Ag2r-La Mondiale) predicted an ‘unpredictable’ first stage. McEwen doesn’t write off the possibility of a mass bunch sprint.

With the TDU gaining ProTour status, McEwen believes this will change the intesity and tactics of the race. “There are ProTour points on offer, which teams like to have, that individual riders like to have. None of these teams want to travel all the way to Australia and embarrass themselves by missing the break, not having anyone up in the overall”.

There are 5 previous TDU winners who would like to stamp their authority on the race: O’Grady, Sanchez, Mikel Astarloza, Simon Gerrans and Elmiger. Although O’Grady is still working his way back to top form following his horrendous crash in last year’s Tour de France, expect him to be his ever aggressive self when the opportunity presents itself.

Some local riders who have shown good form over the summer include recently crowned Australian Road Race Champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) and runner-up, Adam Hansen (Team High Road). Hansen in particular looks strong after also winning the Australian Time Trial championship.

UniSA-Australia, the only non ProTour squad at the TDU will be out to impress too, showing that their wildcard selection is justified.

The Tour Down Under promises to be wide open where any rider who has this race as one of their seasons’ objectives will be in with a chance.

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The 2008 UCI ProTour breaks new ground with the Tour Down Under in Australia getting the nod for a January 22 kick off. Unfortunately the ballyhoo about the TDU getting the status at the Congress in Stuttgart in Germany in Septenmber has failed to ignite the top professionals going to Aussie land. They have stayed put in Europe despite the inclement weather.


(Picture from Graham Watson‘s website)

According to the race’s official start list the stars of the peloton will not be in the race and the majority of the 18 ProTour teams on the start line will be supplemented by cyclists who rarely make it into the top events on this side of the globe.

Australian competitors who race regularly in Europe will not abdicate their responsibility to participate in the TDU. Cadel Evans has declared that he will not be starting despite the fact that he was the overall winner of the ProTour last season. Citing that he has the Tour de France as his major objective for the coming season.

Local hero and Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady, rival Robbie McEwen, who leads the Silence-Lotto team and Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert of Francaise des Jeux will be the mainstays of the TDU.

As President of the UCI Pat McQuaid was instrumental in arranging to have Australia included in the Protour. He envisaged that the TDU would add to the UCI’s global plan to make the PRO better known throughout the cycling world. Notwithstanding this minor set back, in years to come Australia and other parts of the globe will be organising ProTour events in countries where cycling at the moment is on the back burner.


(Picture from Graham Watson‘s website)

The TDU is a well-organised race but the 2008 start list clearly falls well short of the status that it occupies in the pecking order in relation to European events.

Quiet rightly the UCI are aware that a child creeps before it walks! There are rest my case.