The Santos Tour Down Under will be returning from its COVID-19 cancellations in 2023 with some changes to the normal menu for the men’s race, as a 5.5 kilometre prologue and a summit finish on Mount Lofty have been added while the race staple of Willunga Hill will be absent.
The usual pre-race curtain raiser criterium will run on the weekend ahead of the men’s race on Saturday January 14 and the new Adelaide prologue is then set for Tuesday January 17. The peloton then heads out onto the roads surrounding the capital city of South Australia for five stages from Wednesday January 18 to Sunday January 22.
“The 2023 race routes have been designed to test our cyclists like never before whilst taking fans to the heart of the action,” race director Stuart O’Grady said in a media statement.
“The Santos Tour Down Under will open with an exciting new time trial: the EFEX Prologue around Adelaide’s Riverbank is an event first, taking place on a loop around the Torrens with each rider beginning on the Riverbank bridge and tackling the course individually – it’s man versus clock in this all-out effort.
“More event firsts include a formidable Mount Lofty finisher and a stunning beachside stage start at Brighton – all the race routes showcase South Australia at its very best and we can’t wait welcome the international cycling community back to our state.”
South Australian hasn’t seen international racing since January of 2020 as border closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in it being removed from its normal position as the WorldTour opening event through the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The domestic Santos Festival of Cycling ran as a replacement instead. The race, however, will not only return to its normal WorldTour calendar slot in 2023 but said it had locked in top-tier status for the coming years, with the UCI giving the event registration on its WorldTour calendar for 2024 and 2025 as well.
The women’s race at the Tour Down Under – formerly ranked 2.Pro – will also shift up to Women's WorldTour level in 2023. The racing in South Australia for the women will too start at the curtain-raiser criterium in central Adelaide on Saturday January 14, before heading into a three-stage race from Sunday January 15 to Tuesday January 17. The details of the women’s stages are yet to be announced but – particularly with a team of race directors as familiar with the roads of South Australia as O'Grady, Annette Edmondson and Carlee Taylor – some new additions to the race, which has previously passed over Mount Lofty, wouldn't be surprising.
It is what is missing, however, that is perhaps the most notable alteration in the men's race.
The crowd lined roads of Willunga Hill have long played a memorable role, providing a stage full of prestige and a constant focal point in the racing through the editions, with a retiring Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) affectionately labelled the king of Willunga due to his winning ways on the climb. It, therefore, comes as somewhat of a surprise that when the race passes through the township of Willunga on stage four that it will not turn up the hill, but instead whizz on right past toward the beach and wineries.
“It has been a fantastic hill to have as part of the race but we've got many other hills in in Adelaide and Mount Lofty is our most iconic climb,” said O’Grady in a media conference after the announcement of the stages.
The distinctive new summit finale on stage 5 comes as the WorldTour race shifts to the stewardship of O’Grady, who replaced a retiring Mike Turtur at the end of the 2020 event. The final 114km stage will tackle the peak multiple times, wearing down riders with repetition, as the climb of Mount Lofty is positioned on a 25km circuit that the peloton loops around four times.
"I think it's important to bring some new, fresh places into the Tour Down Under. If we just kind of did the copy and paste of the last 23 years, well, that's probably wasn't why I was given this job," said O'Grady. "I was brought in to bring in some new innovations, some new exciting parcours and also didn't want just the same old kind of stages where everybody puts the chair out on the side of the road and they know exactly what's going to happen.
“This new stage brings in a lot of excitement. It's a short stage, it's aggressive, it's more central to Adelaide, so I'm guessing more and more people will get there.”
2023 Tour Down Under
- Criterium - Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga, Adelaide, Saturday January 18
- Prologue - River Torrens / Karrawirra Parri Adelaide, 5.5km, Tuesday January 17
- Stage 1 - Tanunda to Tanunda, 150km, Wednesday January 18
- Stage 2 - Brighton to Victor Harbor, 156km, Thursday January 19
- Stage 3 - Norwood to Campbelltown, 118.5km, Friday January 20
- Stage 4 - Port Willunga to Willunga Township, 135.3km, Saturday January 21
- Stage 5 - Unley to Mount Lofty, 114km, Sunday January 22
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.