Notes from the Tour Down Under
Russell Degnan

  • The Tour Down Under was a much better race this year; the addition of more climbs - Corkscrew in particular - produced larger time gaps, and more attacks on the double ascent of Old Willunga. Slagter was an unlikely winner of the tour - particularly after Thomas's second stage effort smashed the field to pieces - but a deserving one.
  • That said, I'm not sure a stage race decided on time bonuses and a couple of short climbs in what remains the off-season is the best use of available resources. A series of classics for an overall points prize - team points that is - over a slightly longer period would allow greater course flexibility, and a reduction of the South Australian lock on professional cycling.
  • The lack of star riders, and moreover, the under-performance of stars with greater goals is a potential problem for organisers. Cycling, in general, would benefit from emphasising the team aspect of racing, and not the individuals. It is, after all, an entirely team driven sport, although spectators less invested in the contest rarely realise this. The difficulty the promoters face with a team emphasis is continuity. Teams do have strong geographic ties, but their names reflect corporate realities. No-one really wants to cheer on a bank or telephone company; the addition to the names of geographic and/or symbolic names and continuity of colouring that reflect those ties wouldn't hurt. Compare, for example, F1, which is similarly corporate tied, but manages to produce a tribal loyalty, particularly for Ferrari.

  • Greipel's victories were also impressive, backed by the monster thighs of his Lotto-Belisol team-mates. The helicopter shot gives the impression his lead-out train is an engineering marvel of timing and position. Standing on the last corner reminds you that there is chaos in its wake.
  • Watching cycling live is not always terribly interesting. A lot of waiting, and not much information. However, the two stages I went to, stage 5 to Old Willunga, and the stage 6 criterium were exceptional. The former allowed had the start, four pass-throughs of a turnaround with tv screen and two climbs of the finishing hill within 8km. The latter 20 laps of a 4.5km circuit. In terms of drawing a crowd to the key points the course was spot-on.
  • Even when big though, crowds are largely window dressing because they don't pay. This encourages courses that offer tourism friendly tv shots. But it is also odd because I'd happily put money down to improve the viewing experience: grandstand seating that showed a larger segment of the course; more screens to view the action; one thing in its favour: access to better food. Once redevelopment is completed, a course that was directed through the Adelaide Oval onto a temporary velodrome would satisfy all those things; notwithstanding that one of the better Shield matches of the season finished while the criterium was run.
  • The corollary to that is the expansion of online, on-course sources of information. By taking laptop and phone up Willunga I was able to sew together streamed coverage - brilliant, on every day - of the last few kilometres with commentary, course maps, text updates and what I could see. A phone app that provided all those things without draining the battery would significantly enhance the experience.

Cycling 30th January, 2013 20:57:15   [#] [0 comments]