Tom Southam: Tour Down Under takes over Adelaide

The countdown begins for Drapac

On arriving at the Adelaide Hilton, Graeme Brown revealed he’d been doing some counting.

"I have spent six months of my life in this hotel," he casually informed me in the lift.

I laughed of course, but he was serious. And he proved it. I can't remember the math but fourteen days a year for thirteen years gives you a number roughly divisible by six months. You can try it yourself.

By design or default, the Adelaide Hilton is right at the heart of the Tour Down Under - in more ways than one. Staying in one hotel for an entire race is a real rarity, making the logistics of the race far simpler, the riders and staff more relaxed, and ultimately more accessible to the public.

With most teams coming in at least a week before the race to acclimatise to the weather and get over jet lag, the race hotel becomes an odd hive of inactivity. At first you just see the occasional bike rider in the lobby but by Thursday they are suddenly everywhere, in every elevator, down every hallway, shuffling about at the speed of eighty year olds. All simply seemingly just waiting.

With no time zone changes (bar Adelaide’s bizarre half hour time difference to Melbourne) and no acclimatising to do, the first week for us was a vital opportunity to recon a number of key points throughout the race and to get as much information as is possible before the race gets underway.

For us (and a lot of other teams) this was great in theory, but unseasonal rains and cold temperatures made for much harder work in practice. Good weather gives riders an easier time on the bike and more mental energy to focus on the details of the course, (unexpected) bad weather means that the focus becomes more internal, and instead of looking at the width of the road, or the best line to take, they are thinking about getting back to the hotel as quickly as possible.

One blessing of the couple of wet days that we had was that it helped to make the Adelaide hills look particularly fine. Instead of the usual jarring bright sunshine bouncing back from the yellow earth, the hills were made easy on the eye by the rain and mizzle, making for some idyllic looking routes.

At least, I thought so from the team car. I'm not so sure that my riders were thinking the same thing after three hours in the rain, but then I couldn't tell; they were shouting something at me when I drove up to them, but I couldn't hear what. I refused to open the window, I would've gotten wet.



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