Tour Down Under 2019
For my son Will, the TDU is without doubt the absolute highlight of his year. I haven’t been able to keep up with him for a couple of years now. In 2018 he headed off into the Adelaide Hills chasing the Pros by himself. This coming year he’s planning his own itinerary that doesn’t appear to feature my company at all!
Fortunately, my daughter Charlotte will be bringing her road bike for the first time. She’s on a mission to ride up to the top of Willunga Hill with me for Stage 6. It will be great for me to see her reaction to the noise and excitement of the zoo that is Willunga. With any luck she might even get cheered up the Hill by the crowd as we grind our way from bottom to the top.
So, what are you plans for the TDU? Will this be your first visit or are you an old hand? Are you still making up your mind? Perhaps you are under the misconception that the “non-cycling” members of the family would have nothing to do and put a kybosh on the whole idea. Worry not, here at DHBC we have all the answers, all the excuses and all the guidance you need for a successful week away.
You probably need to decide early on whether you are going along as a member of the Wolf Pack or traveling with the Family. For me, the TDU has never been a training camp. It’s always been a family holiday. I know plenty of riders whom have used their yearly visit to Adelaide as a training base for the rest of the year. They are on a mission! 150 kilometres a day with thousands of metres of climbing. They return home ripped and dare I say, rooted. I love the idea of riding everyday for a week. It seems just a little bit naughty, like skipping school. Having said that I love spending quality time with my family and being very “present” with them. As we are away from home the mundane doesn’t get in the way.
If you are having difficulty convincing your loved ones of the wisdom of trip to Adelaide, consider this; It’s a state capital, ok yes, a small one, but still a capital. It has all the services and attractions one expects and needs. It has a great, protected beach. Superb for the very young. I can’t remember the last time is saw a wave break in the St Vincent Gulf. Adelaide has a fabulous food and wine culture. Adelaide is a walkable city. Public transport is adequate to get to the major tourist attractions. It’s a very reasonably priced city in comparison to Sydney.
I find that the major concern is that “you’ll be gone all day and I’ll be left alone with the kids….”. The beauty of the TDU are the “Pro Hours” you can keep. You can enjoy breakfast with your family at the Stage Start. You can ride off with the bunch. Perhaps coordinate and meet up with your people in a Hills Village or find them at the finish at 3pm. With Adelaide being so far south, you have five hours of daylight left to enjoy quality, family time as the sunsets twenty minutes later than Sydney! What is not to love?
Even if your people aren’t as into cycling as you are. It is pretty difficult not to get excited by the carnival atmosphere of the TDU. The Tour Village, the Caravan, the Stage starts and finishes as well as the side things going all add to the fun.
I do like to make a plan for my family to consider. They know where and when we will get together. What the logistics they might need to enjoy their day and therefore ensure that my day is also fun. Knowing that they are all sorted out and well catered for is key. No one is left sitting in a hotel room, taping their fingers on the desk.
Saturday 12th January 2019
We tend to arrive in Adelaide on the Saturday afternoon. It’s about a 90 minute, direct flight from Sydney. The Airlines are very good about moving bikes across this period. It does pay to get to the Airports a little earlier than you might otherwise. Oversize baggage gets a bit busy and the stress can rise. It isn’t unusual to have a few bikes miss the flight. This has only happened to me on the way back, but food for thought. It’s OK to carry CO2 cartridges. At one time you need a Dangerous Goods Clearance letter. The need for this seems to have disappeared in recent years. Pro Tip; no more than four (4) pieces, have them accessible for inspection, then toss them back into your bike bag for transport. In Adelaide there are a couple of operators that have got themselves transit buses and trailers to get you and yours from the Airport to your accommodation. Google is your friend here.
I tend to use Saturday afternoon as an opportunity to unpack and get sorted. I put the bikes back together and generally get the lay of the land. If you really need to get your TDU on, then the Teams Presentation takes place in the afternoon. The Tour Village is generally open and there are a few activities to enjoy.
If you are arriving in Adelaide in the week prior, the Women’s Tour is on. Four fabulous stages from the 10th to the 13th of January. There are three days in the Adelaide Hills followed by a City Crit on Sunday. I love the women’s racing. It seems far closer and tactical than driven by raw power as with the men. It will be a great opportunity to get out and about in the hills if you are in Adelaide during that week.
Sunday 13th of January 2019 – People’s Choice Classic
The Women’s Tour has their final race at lunch time on this circuit. Later that day, The People’s Choice Classic rolls out at 7pm on the eastern side of the city. It’s street circuit crit, with the winner generally being presented with the Ochre Jersey. I like the east side of town. It’s leafier and quirkier. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes, as well as pubs and bars. There is a free concert and a couple of big screens to see the racing. I tend to skip this race. I try and see the replay on TV later as I am off doing family stuff.
Monday 14th of January 2019
The Monday is the prime Pro Spotting and Pro Ride day. If you like the idea of riding with the likes of Peter Sagan or Robert Gesink then hang out at the chute at the Tour Village. The teams and team cars exit the village and ride off to either the hills to test their legs or to Glenelg and Henley Beach for coffee. I find if you are respectful and take your time the riders are very welcoming. Pro Tip; If you happen to be in the company of a Junior, the riders will bring the junior up into the bunch with them and really give them some quality time. You can’t buy these experiences as they are just serendipity. Perhaps you could arrange to meet your family at Henley Beach for morning tea. You are pretty much guaranteed to see half a dozen teams in the beach front square.
If fawning over the riders is not your thing you could head out to explore Adelaide. The city is built on a relatively flat plain. Rising from sea level at Glenelg to about 40 metres in the centre of the city to about 100 metres at the base of the Adelaide Hills. The elevations tend to rise sharply once you hit the Hills. Many of the Hills Villages are up around the 500 to 600 metre mark, with Mt Lofty sitting at 727 metres, being the high point of the local area.
Again, you could plan on meeting the Family in Hills for Lunch. There are buses that hit many of the major Villages in the Hills. On the other hand, you could just ride! There are half a dozen climbs up into the Hills and a dozen Villages to visit. One of my favourites is to take Norton Summit on the way up, stop off at Mt Lofty Lookout for a coffee and an ice cream and then take the Crafers Bike path back down to Adelaide. It’s a great beginners ride that is pretty difficult to get lost on. The area is well sign posted and generally there is OK mobile phone signal.
Tuesday 15th of January 2019 – Stage 1, North Adelaide to Port Adelaide
I plan of attending the Start of the Stage. My family will meet me in North Adelaide and we will find a café and absorb the fun atmosphere. The Kids will no doubt hunt for some bidons and selfies with the teams.
Once the Peloton rolls out at 11am it is time to literally, head for the Hills! My aim will be to float around between Inglewood where there will be two Sprint points and Houghton, where the Peloton will come past on three occasions. I’ll grab some lunch and a coffee and enjoy the Bunch coming through. When they do their final pass, I will set course for the finish. I will have about 26 km, of downhill/flat on a pretty busy road to cover in an hour. This will allow me an opportunity to find a spot near the finish to watch the action.
I would imagine that not long after the finish and owing to the proximity to the City, the riders will ride back to the hotel. It’s always a bit of fun to latch on to the back and have the Team Car further behind you keeping you safe. A little “pro” experience. The day will probably be a 70km day and maybe 450 metres of climbing.
Wednesday 16th of January 2019 – Stage 2, Norwood to Angaston
Today the bunch disappear up into the Barossa Valley. I have never been a fan to attempting to ride up into this area. It’s a long way there and a long way back. I have seen people do it. They report that they ended being very fatigued early in the week and that negatively impacted their experience for the balance of their stay. That’s not my idea of fun. Cakes and Craft beer not power bars and protein drinks.
I will head for the King of the Mountain point on Checker Hill Rd. This KOM point is something else. I think Checker Hill has only been the KOM in a couple of the editions of this event. I think I have ridden it twice. The first time I was off and pushing. The second time I got to the top but my eyes were on stalks as I almost blew a gasket!
I feel an early departure from the Hilton will be in order. The ride will take us out of town in a North Easterly direction. Rolling to the Gorge Rd and the BP at Athelstone for a quick pit stop. The ride up Gorge road is truly beautiful and one of the most picturesque routes in Adelaide. It’s a steady climb all the way. We’ll pass the famed Corkscrew road, perhaps to be tackled on the return if you choose the return the same way. We continue climbing encountering a couple of pinches along the way.
Depending on the time, I’ll grab a snack in Kersbrook before hand or perhaps Gumeracha after the Bunch has rolled through. There are a couple of options for the return. If you are up for an explore then a return via the Hills villages are in order and maybe a visit to the Prancing Pony Brew House near Mt Barker. Prancing Pony is about 30KM from Gumeracha. There’s a little bit of climbing involved, but nothing the elite members of the Peloton should concern themselves with. Post tasty beverage, a return home via Hahndorf, Stirling and the Crafers bike path.
This is a 110 kilometre day with about 1300 metres of climbing.
Thursday 17th of January 2019 – Stage 3, Lobethal to Uraidla
A Hills explorers’ day today. An early start from the Hilton followed by at least a two hour ride to Lobethal via Norton Summit and Basket Range road. Watch the Start and the beginning of the second lap. Zip along to Lenswood seeing the Bunch roll through there and then watch a few of the seven laps of Uraidla. Uraidla turns it on for the spectators so you can expect a great experience. There is a micro brewery, bakery and café at the Uraidla Hotel. Either pedal around or set up shop in the shade, the choice is yours.
Once the race is run, the smart money is on the riders rocketing down Greenhill Road and back to the Hilton. Greenhill is a cracking ride and one of the better descents down to Adelaide from the Hills. You won’t be turning the pedals too often as you experience a descending masterclass first hand from the likes or Lotto Jumbo or BMC.
Highlights, 38km to Lobethal. 2 laps. Lenswood, Carey Gully, Piccadilly, Uraidla Hotel and Brewery. 7 laps of fun. 80KM day with 1500 metres of climbing. Fabulous descent down Greenhill rd. Great day out with your mates!
Friday 18th of January 2019 – Stage 4 Unley to Campbelltown
I love The Corkscrew! It’s one of the tougher climbs available in Adelaide. Couple it with what is generally a hot day, you have a recipe for hard work.
I am torn. I love the café scene on King William Rd, Unley. A late breakfast with the family is always a good start to the day. I might have to settle for a quick coffee and pastry on this occasion and get on with the ride. A leisurely roll down Victoria Ave in Unley Park is a fabulous way to begin the ride. It’s probably the most expensive street in Adelaide. It’s easy to see why, it’s simply gorgeous.
From there take the bike path up to the Bollards and on to Stirling. For the first time in my history of visiting the TDU there won’t be a finish in this beautiful Hills village. Stirling always turns it on for the race. I am sure it will still rock for the peloton if only fleetingly as they roll through. After Stirling, descend down the road through Aldgate and on to Mylor. Mylor has the whole strawberries and cream act nailed. I will sit roadside as the bunch passes through. I would like to square the hypotenuse and ride over to Hahndorf to see the bunch in their natural habitat once again. I think I would be cutting it too fine for the corkscrew later in the day, so that will get nixed. From Mylor I will take the delightful Aldgate Valley road back to Aldgate. Aldgate then on to Stirling and across the ridgeline to Montacute Road and down to the famed Corkscrew. It’s a 27km ride from Mylor to the top of the Corky. Probably an hour and quarter or so.
The Peloton rolls through Mylor at 11.40 am and is scheduled to hit the base of the final climb at 2.10 pm. With these times in mind, there won’t be a lot of change out of a 1pm arrival at the KOM. If you don’t dilly dally you’ll get a shot at riding it yourself. You can be sure that you will be cheered on by the hundreds lining the road. I can still recall Cadel Evans’ cosmic ride up it a few years ago. In the BIG ring and three times faster than my best time! Find a shady spot and cheer the riders on the climb.
Once the peloton has passed and the roads have reopened everyone hits the road. Take a minute. Just stop for a jiffy. Let the crowds go. I reckon that the Montacute Rd descent is the best in Adelaide. It has a really nice grade and wide sweeping turns. You can really enjoy the roll down the hill for the 5 ½ kilometres without too much concern. Once Montacute is done, ride back into town and look for a beer.
All up, about a 75Km day with 1,100 metres of climbing. Add in the Corkscrew if you dare!
Saturday 19th of January 2019 – Stage 5 and the BUPA Community Ride
I like doing the Community ride. It’s a fun day out with 5000 of your closest friends. It’s always well run and well supported. I have a big day out planned, in my head.
I’ll ride to the start in Glenelg from the City which is very pleasant 11km. I’ll do the ride of 159km to Strathalbyn and then ride back to Adelaide of 55km. A 225Km day if you dare.
If you aren’t riding the course then watching the Start in Glenelg is nice and maybe a daytrip to Victor Harbour. This year’s route is quite out of town so do your own thing.
Sunday 20th of January 2019 – Stage 6 McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill
OK so I get all a bit Fanboy here. Willunga Hill is peak TDU. The rest of the week is simply the entree to this serving of the dish of the week. This year my daughter Charlotte is joining me on the Hill. I am very exited that she will get to experience the carnival atmosphere of Willunga with me. She’s training hard already in preparation for her assault on the KOM. She and I will take the train from Adelaide to Seaford station. From the station, it’s 9km of bike path to the Start in McLaren and then another 10km on to the township of Willunga and ultimately the top of the Hill.
For the rest of you, I suggest riding down to McLaren Vale from the Hilton first thing in the morning. Call it an 8am start. It’s about 45Km or two hours, 33km of which is on a beautiful piece of separated cycling infrastructure called the Patrick Jonker Veloway.
The park up is in the Park about 200 metres past the start line. There is usually a big screen and a sausage sizzle there. Leave your bikes, grab morning tea and enjoy the start. There are good amenities in the area as well as wide variety of food and drinks, not to mention the wineries. Watch the Start and the second lap roll through. Once the bunch has passed, roll out and head for the feedzone just outside of Willunga. If you hang out with the junior you’re a good chance for a souvenir from a team. I suggest using this opportunity to eat an icy pole and use the facilities as there’s nothing on the Hill.
Once the bunch has rolled through for the third lap, its time to mount your own assault on Willunga Hill. It’s only 3 kilometres long and an average gradient of 7%. Its neither long, nor steep, but it is a ZOO! The crowd is three deep either side of the road. It’s in high spirits and vocal. If you are in the company of the junior you are sure to be accompanied on foot by a “flag for a cape”, wearing patriot shouting something indecipherable in Spanglish. My spot of choice is the right hand side of the road 300 metres from the top. There’s a bit of a clearing for bike parking and usually a coffee van.
Two laps of the hill are in order. Usually the breakaway comes through being cheered on by the noisy crowd. You can hear the riders long before you see them. The television helicopters, of which I have counted nine in the past, hover over the riders. The crowd noise proceeds the riders by twenty metres. Have your cameras ready and your vocal chords warmed up.
Post finish take an easy roll back down the hill. It’s ludicrously busy so don’t book your flight home for that afternoon. It’s a solid two and a half hours back to Adelaide from the bottom of Willunga. I suggest riding into McLaren Vale to visit the facilities and fill up bottles as Willunga is just too busy.
Reverse you route home and enjoy the ride back with hundreds of other riders. What a week it has been. 110km day with 1000 metres of Climbing.
Night time fun
If you find you are allowed out to play at night then there are a few cycle centric things to do.
The CarPark Ride. For the last couple of years there has been a race up one the car parking stations in the City. It’s a bit Redhook Crit type atmosphere.
The Tour Village usually has something going on. In 2018 the GreenEDGE Mitchellton Scott doco “All for one” was shown on the big screen. Maybe “Mamil” was also shown this year, I can’t recall.
There are few pop up bike related shops and events.
Gouger St, beside the Hilton has a lot of cafes, restaurants and Gelaterias. The riders head out after dinner for their gelato fix. Most of them are happy to pose for a selfie or an autograph. Ritchie generally isn’t by the way……..
I hope this helps make up your mind. See you on the Road
Road cycling & upcoming rides
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