January 19, 2007
Stage 1: Mawson Lakes Tanunda 155km
In good old fashion, we lined up under the bright warm sunshine that Adelaide always seems to have for us in January for the Tour Down Under (TDU) week, but apparently that's about to change in the next couple of days as rain has been forecast. We shall see!
So off we went with a nice rolling 8km before someone finally decide to try and sneak up the road. Once someone attacks, that's pretty much the signal for everyone to start attacking. Usually no one wants to be the initiator of the first attack as you are generally frowned upon by the peleton. But we were finally underway, and as history has proven, once a good sized break forms, the race is over, and the main field watches the break ride 20 to 30 minutes up the road to the finish.
As was the case again this year, 18 riders went clear after 20km of racing and for a first in the TDU history, there was at least one rider from every team represented including yours truly. I was feeling a tad shabby but hoped that I'd ride myself into it. Mid-way I started to feel a bit better, but still worked on looking after myself as best I could. CSC had two guys up here, so they would be ones to watch for sure, plus the SouthAustralia.com boys also had two and seemed to be riding well. Coming into the final 30km lap through Tanunda, the heat got turned up in the break and the air, and I was feeling both! Our group split into three groups in the final 20km and turned into a good old drag race to the line. Top fueler Karl Chopper Menzies took the honors ahead of an AG2R rider.
Karl had mentioned to me earlier in the stage that he didn't rate being the GC guy of Australia-UniSA now, but I'm sure he'll be fine. I've raced him a fair bit in the States and he's a tough man to get rid of! As for myself, I managed to sneak home in 18th, which I thought was a great result considering there were only 18 of us in the break! Ah well, I'll be looking for a couple easy days in the bunch before tackling the Wilunga stage on Saturday.
Stage 2: Mannum Hahndorf, 150km
Temps were down today which was welcome at the start near the almighty Murry River in Mannun. Its amazing to see all the local support from the host towns and all the people that travel to the start and finish of each stage. These crowds are getting bigger every year and are giving tours around the world a run for their money!
So we kicked off at 11:00 am again, and this time we racked up 15km before the first attacks began. Ben (Brooks) and Serge (Pauwels) were getting amongst it early and if it wasn't for the Chocolade Jacques lad who finished up front yesterday being there, they would have ridden away. He was first asked very nicely by every rider to go away because the move would never work with him in it, but he wouldn't budge! Then I'm guessing he was asked a bit more sternly, and based on how it worked out, Serge Pauwels probably won't be on any of their Christmas card lists this year?
By a lot of hard chasing the Australia-UniSA lads had pulled back the dangerous moves in the first half of the race before letting a good break go with no real threats to the overall in it. Hiltz (ed. - Hilton Clarke) and Viktor (Rapinski) had managed to get away as we got nearer to the 18km finishing laps in Hadndorf. The main field had settled down nicely and we watched the break ride off into the distance. All the GC contenders were content to sit back and rest up for the coming stages.
Up front, things were starting to play out, with the final lap beginning. The Agributel rider attacked on the small climb out of Hahndorf with Hiltz and (Stuart) O'Grady in tow. They managed to hold the remnants of the break off for most of the lap before a bit of stuffing around by a rider led to their demise with 600m to go. The speed of the pursuing group saw two Chocolade Jacques riders launch off the front as the three escapees were caught and were never challenged for first and second. O'Grady ran third with Hiltz coming across in fourth. He was fourth on this stage last year as well, but I'm sure he'll notch up a win before the week ends.
Only 128km tomorrow, but the rain has finally arrived as I'm typing these last few words. (I) don't really want to wish the rain away as the farmers need it, but don't really want to ride in it either! We'll see what happens.