The route for this year's Tour Down Under appeared, on paper, to be more difficult to last year but after the teams completed reconnaissance of the stages, there's one that sticks out the most: Stage 2. Corkscrew road is relatively short at a little under 3km but the long drag to the proper start and hairpin corners that kick up to 17%, it's definitely going to split the field.
In what has traditionally been a sprinters race, TDU organisers have gone one further this year by including the taxing Corkscrew climb inside the final 20km of the stage. Riders vying for the general classification will not be afforded the luxury of waiting for the final hill-top finish at Old Willunga. They will need to be ready from the moment the Corkscrew begins. Over the top it's a fast 6km descent into the finish.
Here's what some of the riders at this year's race think about the stage and the tough climb.
Bernhard Eisel (Sky): Corkscrew changes the race. It will be very hard for each team to control, especially with Corkscrew. Teams need to be on their guard from day two.
Cameron Wurf (Cannondale): I see it as a pretty big race to the bottom. It's two and a half k – yeah it's really hard. Coming down that canyon so fast and by the time you turn left and by the time you get yourself sorted out, if you're not in those first few positions the guys up the front are going to be halfway up the climb before you can even think about getting past. Position will be everything.
Greipel and Gossy look like they're the best at holding position so I wouldn't put it past a couple of the sprinters being two of the first there. At the end of the day if a sprinter can see the top of the climb they become a climber. If they can get themselves in good positions at the bottom and get halfway up it it's going to be really hard for anyone to dislodge them. I'm sure Gilbert or Visconti will try and attack and do something but it will all be positioning. That makes it hard to predict. It could be a big group.
Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step): It's always different riding during training and in the race. It's not going to be easy but it depends on how the race develops and the teams react on the climb.
Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp): I think I'm going to be pretty wound out on Corkscrew. It's a wicked climb. The hard part is just if you're 10m off the back it can quickly turn to 100 by the actual crest. It's just going to be one of those races where it's all about positioning going into it, it's all about the legs on it and going down the other side like a bloody idiot. Either you'll keep up or not but you're not going to make ground on it no matter who you are. GC's going to be pretty cracked up by Wednesday arvo.
Giovanni Visconti (Movistar): It won't decide the GC but it will go some way to show who will win the Tour Down Under this year. There is always the prospect on day two of this race that some riders who are not race fit will not be ready. The climb on paper looks to be tough. It's not short and once we get over the top there is still some way to go to the finish. It should be a nice spectacle for those spectators on the line.
Calvin Watson (UniSA-Australia): It's going to be a decisive start of this race. It's a really tough climb and I think a lot of people have underestimated how steep it actually is. If the likes of Gerrans and Gilbert and Schleck even, if they decide they want to race up it pretty hard i think it could really split the race apart. The goal for UniSA is to race aggressively and send guys in breakaways but there will be a few of us who will sit back and take it a little easier and see if maybe one or two of us can get over in the front group tomorrow and then look towards the end of the week and then maybe look at GC.
I think for sure that Giacoppo's in really good shape and you can't underestimate Zak Dempster – he's a ProContinental rider so he can match it with these guys. I think he definitely wants to have a look at the finish today so if he's there Giacoppo and Dempster will be looking after each other and talking and seeing who's got the best legs to try and do the job.
Jack Bobridge (Blanco): I think it could possibly be harder than Willunga. I think it could be a bit of a grovel down the gorge and into that left hander. It's hard because when it comes to teamwork you can only really do your job to the bottom of it, it's too steep to be able to do anything else. It's every man for himself. So i think after Corkscrew we'll know who's really up for GC for the rest of the week.
If it comes down to a sprint I'll mix it in with Mark and Graeme and try and get Mark up for the sprint but my main priority is to help Wilco and TJ for the GC. Hopefully my experience being a local boy with the roads and winds and everything can come into play and I can help them to ride GC and help them finish in the top 10.
Martin Kohler (BMC): I think it will [cause problems]. We have one clear goal – that's to look after the world champion jersey and to place him well for the climb.
Already on the Gorge road it's already going to be so fast and then the left hand turn will be super fast and then hard positioning coming in.
Chris Sutton (Sky): You are going down the Gorge road and then it's a hard turn back onto it. It's pretty much going to be a race into that left-hand turn. From that corner there is still a little bit until that climb starts but it's consistently dragging up. If you get a team that goes hard and lines it out it could be very difficult.
There's 2.4km to the top from where the KOM starts and it gets pretty steep in the centre part. Then it flattens out but it's still going up - just a little easier. It will suit riders like [Philippe] Gilbert, [Simon] Gerrans, Edvald Boasson Hagen and even Gerraint Thomas is climbing alright. He could be up there. Punchy riders and climbers, it will be good for them.
It's then 6km downhill and we've done it a few times now and the wind is always blowing in different directions. It may be a little bit hard to stay away but it'll be a group that comes to the finish I reckon.
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