There are few better places to start the cycling season than Australia. Wide roads, varied terrain and perfect weather combine to produce exciting racing and the season’s WorldTour opener, the Tour Down Under (January 17-22), is always fiercely competitive.
Starting with a crowd-pleasing criterium around the streets of central Adelaide a typical mix of sprint stages and tougher climbing tests follow, before the race returns to the fearsome Wilunga Hill on stage five, where the 2017 crown is likely to be won. It wraps up on stage six with a 90km blast back on Adelaide’s city streets.
To whet the climbers’ appetites ahead of Wilunga Hill there’s a tasty finish on stage two that should cause some fireworks. The peloton will pass through Sterling five times before heading for Adelaide’s hills, where the bunch is likely to fracture over the King of the Mountains climb up Torrens Hill Road, setting the stage up for a thrilling finish into Paracombe.
Since 2010 the team has never finished outside of the top five at the Tour Down Under, courtesy of Greg Henderson (2010), Ben Swift (2011), Michael Rogers (2012), Geraint Thomas (2013), Richie Porte (2014 & ’15) and Sergio Henao (2016). That’s some record, although the overall win remains elusive - Richie Porte’s second-place finish in 2015 is the team’s best result to date. Last year Henao finished third while picking up the King of the Mountains jersey, while back in 2013 Thomas took a dramatic stage win on his way to finishing third and claiming the points jersey. We also have history on Wilunga courtesy of Porte - the Australian won on the climb in both 2014 and ’15.
The ‘King of Wilunga’ Richie Porte is chasing his fourth straight win on the race’s famous climb, although he’s never taken the overall title. After a stop-start first year with BMC, a win in Adelaide would set the Australian up for a strong 2017, but four-time winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) will have something to say about. He’s after his fifth title, although team-mate Esteban Chaves may lead the Australian outfit in his team’s homeland. Both Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi) will make their first appearances for their new teams in Australia and are sure to be on the hunt for stage wins.
41. Geraint Thomas
42. Sebastian Henao
43. Sergio Henao
44. Kenny Elissonde
45. Luke Rowe
46. Ian Stannard
47. Danny van Poppel