The 2017 road cycling season is preparing to kick off with the traditional lap of South Australia that christens the new kits, bikes, team changes and sponsorship changes: The Santos Tour Down Under (TDU). Going into its 18th year on the calendar, it is no longer a race that is considered a summer camp for European riders and teams from abroad rather an established race that typically ends up with a hotly contested race for the General Classification (GC).
In recent years the Australians have dominated their home race, with Simon Gerrans and Rohan Dennis taking out the last two GC titles and Richie Porte riding hot on their tails. Cameron Meyer, Jay McCarthy and sprinting superstar Caleb Ewan have also faired well on the local stage through winning, wearing the Ochre jersey or assisting their team leader to overall victories.
In 2017, what can spectators expect from the field converged on Adelaide’s streets? Panache, big hits and a race to the overall that many cannot wait to unfold. We’ve picked our favourites with their eyes on the prize whose names might just make it to the top step.
- SIMON GERRANS (OBE)
A no-brainer really, Simon Gerrans comes into the 2017 edition as the defending champion and the outright favourite in the eyes of many. He’s won the TDU a record four times and looks in fine form to take the tally to five after his racing at the Road National Championships.
- RICHIE PORTE (BMC)
He’s hungry. He’s hungrier. He’s been hungry for five years and Richie Porte knows how to win stage races. Having ridden in support of Chris Froome at the Tour de France in 2013, he knows the tactics to win a race and wants to add a TDU title under his belt. Is this the year we see Richie not only win on Willunga Hill, but on the GC too?
- ROHAN DENNIS (BMC)
The hometown favourite, Rohan Dennis came out of nowhere in 2015 to take the win in front of a home crowd. He’s the Australian Time Trial champion and regularly supports international riders, yet has shown he can deliver when the support is for him.
- PETER SAGAN (BOA)
Peter Sagan comes back to the TDU for the first time since 2010 wearing the rainbow stripes of the World Champion. He’s a sprinter, indicating that climbs like Willinga Hill and Norton Summit may not suit the Slovakian, yet, he’s always full of surprises and might pull out the climbing legs for the overall win.
- TOM JELTE-SLAGTER (CPT)
The 2013 winner of the TDU comes back a new Dad and with the Cannondale-Drapac team fully supporting him. He’s done it before and he might just do it again.
- GERAINT THOMAS (SKY)
Geraint Thomas is becoming a TDU veteran, having been at the last seven editions of the race consecutively. He’s been in ochre before and placed third overall, yet being the domestique he is, sacrificed himself for Richie Porte back in 2014. Thomas now leads SKY and looks as though he’s aiming for that elusive GC win.
- NATHAN HAAS (DDD)
The ultimate outsider. That’s Nathan Haas. He might not be the leader of his team but judging by his legs at the Road Nationals last weekend, he has what it takes. Watch out for him in the peloton over the next week.
Images C/O Rapha, Cycling News, Team SKY, BMC Pro-Team, SBS, Tour Down Under.