New twists to test peloton at 20th Tour Down Under

By / 5th of July, 2017
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AN EMOTIONAL Mike Turtur has dedicated the 20th edition of the Santos Tour Down Under to his long-standing logistics manager who died this week.

Race director Turtur said Terry Roberts had been with him since before the first tour was held in South Australia in 1999 and that he had been looking forward to seeing the riders tackle the six stages of the 2018 Santos Tour Down Under, which were announced today.

“Terry has been a phenomenal contribution to the race over 20 years. There is no one on the face of this earth you could find who would have a bad word about Terry Roberts. He was just one of those nice blokes,” said Turtur at the official launch of the race stages in Adelaide today.

Turtur said the anniversary tour in January 2018 would present new challenges for the riders, including back-to-back GC stages for the first time.

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The infamous Stage 5 Willunga Hill route, where Richie Porte stamped his mark in 2017 to build toward the Tour de France this week, will become even harder with riders being sent up Norton Summit for KoM honours the day before during the final kilometres of Stage 4 from Norwood to Uraidla.

“It’s the first time we have put two GC stages back to back with difficult finishes so it will be interesting to see what it throws up,” said Turtur.

The Norton Summit Uraidla finish is likely to be a deciding factor in the GC because of the challenging climb in the last 10 kilometres of the 128km stage, Turtur said.  

“You also get to the top of the climb and a lot of people who ride it know that’s not the end of it because when you turn right it’s going again.

“So there’s that other little section which I think might be a good counter attack situation if there is a group together at the top of the Norton Summit climb. If they get clear then it’s pretty hard to come back because it’s a pretty fast run in to Uraidla.

“So I am looking forward to it. It depends on the teams to protect whoever, like Richie Porte might do a double, you just don’t know. Stuff like that is always of interest to the race and I think it will work really well.”

Another climb added in 2018 is the ascent of Penny’s Hill – a 7.6 per cent incline.

The hill has featured in previous tours but as a fast descent on Stage 5. This year riders will tackle it for KoM points on Stage 3, a 146km trek from the beachside suburb of Glenelg to the holiday destination of Victor Harbor.

“It comes early in the stage so I don’t think it will play a role to determine what happens but it will be difficult for the riders because it is a steep and hard climb,” Turtur said of the stage which has traditionally been a sprinter’s dream and was won by Caleb Ewan last year.

Turtur said it was too early to speculate which riders would start their seasons in Adelaide but said he hoped that Peter Sagan, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas would consider coming back given how well their racing has gone this year.

Turtur said Sagan was unfortunate to be disqualified from the Tour de France but the penalty was according to the regualtions.

“That was unfortunate overnight but if the stories are correct that he conceded and apologized then I think that goes a long ways toward admitting guilt,” he said.

Turtur, who knows Sagan well, said he was certain there wouldn’t have been any maliciousness in his actions.

“It’s just in the heat of the moment. You are going 20m before the line trying to win the stage and blokes are coming from underneath you, alongside you, trying to do all sorts of things. Just one of those things but he’s paid the penalty.

“Given the season Sagan’s had, with an ounce of luck he should’ve won many races. So when they are putting his season together again I hope they include us.”

South Australian Minister of Sport Leon Bignell said the anniversary meant the Tour Down Under festival would be bigger than ever and hoped to set a record for sporting attendance in Australia.

“We had 840,000 at the Tour Down Under this year, so we reckon with the 20th edition we want to get a million people along to watch the Santos Tour Down Under,” he said.

Bignell said the Santos Women’s Tour would again be staged in 2018 after having been awarded UCI status for this year’s event.

“The Women’s Tour is fantastic and we got great feedback. There were international teams who missed out on riding this year who have approached us who want to be a part of the tour next year,” he said.

Bignell said promoting women’s sport was part of the ethos of the South Australian government.

“We want to ensure the girls and young women in South Australia have the same access as the men but we also want to bring the best women to South Australia for the Tour Down Under just as we bring the very best men.”

The Santos Tour Down Under starts on 13 Janaury 2018 with the team presentations in the cycling village in the centre of Adelaide and concludes with the Stage 6 city circuit on 21 January.