While the Santos Tour Down Under is widely held to be something of a sprinters’ benefit, Rabobank’s Graeme Brown has warned that the peloton’s fast men will have to earn the right to strut their stuff in the race’s opening two stages.
At a breezy 138km, stage 1 from Mawson Lakes to Angaston seems preordained to finish in a bunch sprint, but Brown explains that the riders may find a surprise or two out on the road. The course is considerably lumpier in reality than it appears on paper.
“It's quite tough terrain out there,” he told Cyclingnews. “The maps don't really give you any indication that it's up and down all day. If you looked at this on your first trip to Adelaide you'd think it's relatively straightforward and simple but it's pretty up and down.”
While the Tour Down Under’s first climb to Black Top Road, after just 11.6km of stage 1, is expected to see the day’s early break jump clear, Brown reckons that the deceptively tough finale is where the sprinters’ trains will have to work hardest to keep their men in contention.
“When you ride the final three kilometres, you realise it's the complete opposite to what the profile says,” he said. “It's about a 1500m of proper uphill. That makes for a pretty solid finish, actually, and it should be quite interesting to see.”
Stage two will see the sprinters face an obstacle of a different variety. The bunch tackles the unclassified climb at Murray Bridge after 25km, which Brown reckons is “a nice painful way to start the race,” but he maintains a greater difficulty is posed by the wind in the exposed finale.
“The final 70-odd kilometres is flat, dead-ish, slightly up, slightly down but it could be a slow run in to Mannum,” he said. “With the winds coming from the north at the moment, we should be in for a technical finish.”
Echelons may well form in the closing section of the race but Brown believes that if the sprinters can hang tough, they will receive ample reward. The finishing straight is seemingly tailor-made for a grandstand sprint finish.
“The last 1700m is basically straight so it should be quite interesting,” Brown said.
Brown finished 30 seconds down at Sunday’s Cancer Council classic and so did not contest the sprint won by Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad). However, the Australian has already tasted stage victory at the Tour Down Under, in 2009, and he will be keen for a repeat performance when the race gets underway on Tuesday.
Read Graeme Brown’s expert analysis of all of the Santos Tour Down Under stages here.