TDU countdown: Phil Anderson talks racing

Phil Anderson may never have had the chance to race the Tour Down Under, but the first non-European to wear the Tour de France's yellow jersey regularly makes an appearance at the race and is well versed with the roads of Adelaide and surrounds. 

As we countdown to the race, Cyclingnews spoke to Anderson ahead of the WorldTour opener about his expectations for the January 20-25 race.

With Simon Gerrans missing the race due to injury, Anderson gave his thoughts on how he sees Orica-GreenEdge approaching the week without the three-time winner.

"There will be stage wins and opportunities a bit like the opportunity they were looking for the other day [at the Australian nationals]," he said. "They will look to place someone in every break and they won’t be riding strategically for one rider like they have in the past so much. They have a lot of horsepower and they will be looking to animate the race which is different to what they've done in the last few years." 

With GreenEdge chasing stage wins rather than overall victory, Richie Porte (Team Sky) or Cadel Evans (BMC) will enter the race as the Australian favourites for the win although Anderson is tipping the emergence of several dark horses.

"The Aussie's are doing well and all trained up and we saw at the Australian championships on the weekend that a lot of young guys are coming up, Cadel and Richie will be up for it and obviously there are some outsiders there like Haussler and a host of GreenEdge riders there as well in for a spin too," he said.

Anderson sees Willunga Hill as once again being the decisive GC stage of the race before the final processional stage around an Adelaide city circuit. 

"Willunga Hill is an exciting stage that sees the race come down to the second last day and then the final day is always going to suit the sprinters on the streets of Adelaide," he said of the final two stages. "Up the road to Willunga it comes down to the last time up the climb. It's no secret where the race is won. Simon Gerrans was training all summer for a 12 minute effort because he knows how long it takes to get from the bottom to the top and it’s all about placing your key riders at the base of the climb for that final time up."

Breakaways are a common sight at the Tour Down Under but rarely do they make the short distance and upset the peloton. A surprise move up Willunga Hill could be on the cards though as Anderson explains.

"There is all the opportunity for a rider to disturb the peace like Jens Voigt did last year when he was in a break all day and only caught coming into the second last time coming into the climb and then he attacked on the last lap again," he said. "There will always be a few riders looking to sneak out and that is probably a game that GreenEdge will play."

Just as Gerrans' absence will change the complexion of the race, an absent Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will also open up the possibility of a new sprint king emerging Down Under.

"Kittel certainly in the sprints. He’s very strong, very fast and whether he has the top end like Greipel did depends on what his training has been. Kittel won the criterium last year and showed Greipel and Ewan a clean set of wheels. We will have to wait and see as obviously coming from the winter, the riders spend a lot of time in the gym and still have the power but not necessarily the fitness and follow through so if there are any hills too close to the finish it can be difficult for them to come back."

While Evans is making his last appearance at a stage race in Adelaide, Anderson expects the forced changes to GreenEdge's squad to have a greater impact on the racing than Evans' retirement.

"The crowds will certainly come out and see Cadel. I think it's possibly the fact that GreenEdge don't have a GC rider will impact on the race more than Cadel being there at this stage." 

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