Big guns line up for first sprint show­down


TENS of thou­sands will line the streets of Ade­laide’s East End today as world cy­cling’s best sprint­ers lay it all on the line for their open­ing bat­tle of the 2019 World Tour sea­son.

The Down Un­der Clas­sic – for the women at 2.40pm as the end to their San­tos Tour Down Un­der and the men from 4.45pm as the pre­lude to their week-long bat­tle – is a stun­ning feast of high-speed ac­tion around Rymill Park. Last year 103,000 spec­ta­tors watched the cir­cuit event.

As the cheer­ing crowds fo­cus on the one-hour cir­cuit races, team di­rec­tors, rid­ers and race or­gan­is­ers will be anx­iously watch­ing the pre­dic­tions of soar­ing tem­per­a­tures later in the week that are likely to force route changes.

But de­spite the scorch­ing fore­cast, TDU race di­rec­tor Mike Tur­tur is con­fi­dent today’s cir­cuit will be an­other feather in the cap of the race he has de­vel­oped over 20 years.

The men’s and the women’s races will be run ear­lier this year to al­low for the spec­ta­cle to be broad­cast live across the na­tion. The start/fin­ish line has also switched from Run­dle Rd to Bar­tels Rd.

“We will have live tele­vi­sion cov­er­age all over the coun­try today,” Mr Tur­tur said. “That is im­por­tant for the state as far as pro­mo­tion and tourism.

“The cir­cuit race clas­sic in the East End goes through the beau­ti­ful park­lands and re­ally does show off the city. Then when they get out on the open road, it is just a mov­ing bill­board for South Aus­tralia.

“The race takes in the towns and Ade­laide Hills, the Barossa and the Fleurieu and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. One of the beau­ties of road cy­cling is that it cov­ers so much ter­ri­tory.”

The Clas­sic has in­ter­na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. De­spite not be­ing a stage of the men’s TDU, it is an op­por­tu­nity for the world’s best sprint­ers to flex their legs.

The cir­cuit also serves as an un­veil­ing as the lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional teams emerge from pre-sea­son camps.

“Mak­ing the Tour Down Un­der the first race of the sea­son has been part of the strat­egy for years,” Mr Tur­tur said.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, these early races were held at the end of the Euro­pean sea­son but the re­al­ity is that these rid­ers were tired. They had been racing all sea­son and weren’t in the best con­di­tion to make the race a good event.

“To deal with that, we de­cided to have the race at the start of the sea­son. That way, they are fresh, they have had their first train­ing camps and there are new con­tracts, teams, names, spon­sors and bikes.

“The teams get the chance to un­veil new bikes, hel­mets, jer­seys and shoe de­sign, so it is a great coup for us be­cause Ade­laide is the first place these things are seen.”

The end of this year’s race has also been tweaked, with the fi­nal stage now fin­ish­ing on a Wil­lunga Hill climb. “The change has been very well re­ceived by rid­ers and pub­lic be­cause they know the Wil­lunga climb has re­ally de­ter-mined who’ll win the race,” Mr Tur­tur said. “Now it’s even more im­por­tant be­cause the race can go down to the wire and to the last kilo­me­tre on Sun­day.” CHAM­PION cy­clist Amanda Spratt has lav­ished praise on the qual­ity of com­pe­ti­tion and crowd sup­port dur­ing the gru­elling Women’s Tour Down Un­der, as she all but se­cured her third con­sec­u­tive tour vic­tory yesterday.

Spratt, whose 49-second over­all lead means she only has to sit up­right in today’s cri­terium to win the ti­tle, said the level of com­pe­ti­tion was “get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter” ev­ery year.

“I am re­ally proud of the way it is grow­ing so quickly,” she said. “We’re at­tract­ing more and more top teams… and you’re re­ally see­ing top, world-class rid­ers come.

“For the race, it is re­ally boost­ing it and look­ing at the crowd today, so many peo­ple are com­ing out and sup­port­ing it, as well, which is great to see.”

Wild cheers and ring­ing cow­bells wel­comed Spratt’s Mitchel­ton-Scott team­mate, Grace Brown, as she crossed the Stage 3 fin­ish line first in Stir­ling yesterday.

But the 104.5km stage, which started in Nairne, was not with­out drama as rid­ers took a wrong turn at the 93km mark. Or­gan­is­ers then redi­rected them to the cor­rect course where racing re­sumed.

Race di­rec­tor Kim­ber­ley Conte said while the er­ror was “dis­ap­point­ing”, it had “no im­pact” on the out­come of the race.

Over­all, she said the women’s race – cel­e­brat­ing its fourth year as a mul­ti­stage tour event on the in­ter­na­tional cal­en­dar – had been “re­ally, re­ally good”.

“I think once again we have seen that the women are so ex­cit­ing to watch and and re­lax to watch the hour-long Down Un­der Clas­sic, which starts on Bar­tels Rd at 4.45pm.

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