You don’t need to be a world-class athlete to join in on the fun at the Australia’s biggest cycling event.
The annual Santos Tour Down Under is set to kick off in Adelaide on 19 January 2014, for eight days of thigh burning excitement. Touted as the biggest cycling event in the southern hemisphere, the 2013 event drew a staggering 760,400 spectators and some of the best cyclists in the world. Australia’s only cycle race (a six stage race) to be included alongside the 28 others that make up the UCI World Tour, receives tremendous support from fans and the coverage on race day for spectators is second to none, rivalling any of the big Grand Tour races in Europe such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, but of course on a smaller scale.
Coming up to its 16th year, the race is finally getting the recognition and exposure it deserves, attracting some big names on the cycling circuit. The Tour Down Under kicks off in the evening of the first day with the People’s Choice Classic, a fast-paced closed circuit race through the streets off Adelaide. The next six stages see riders hammering through the Adelaide Hills, Barossa ValIey, McLaren Vale and along the Fleurieu Peninsula’s stunning coastline. I was lucky enough to attend some of the events in 2013, and on Australia Day at the top of Willunga Hill I cheered on Aussie cyclist Simon Gerrans as he won the Stage 5 jersey. Somehow I also ended up alongside 2010 champion Andy Schleck in a photograph at the Awards Dinner – just another day at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Amateur cyclists and recreational riders can scratch their ‘pro-cyclist itch’ and lycra-up, entering the Bupa Challenge Tour. Following the route of the Bupa Stage 4, start time is at 6am, well before the professionals line up at 11am. If all the passive riding is getting you down then it’s your opportunity to experience the terrain and the thrill of the ride just like the Pro-teams. There are four start options, so suitable for a range of fitness levels, but diehards will definitely want to tackle the full 154.5km.
The beauty of the Santos Tour Down Under is that competitors get to stay in Adelaide, the hub of the race, and are transported to the start line each day. Be sure to visit the tour village and bike expo opposite the Adelaide Hilton in Victoria Square. It’s free to get in and is where all the action away from the race route happens. If you’re looking to upgrade your cycling gear, you’ll find the latest and greatest with an opportunity to test ride bikes and if you time it right, watch team mechanics at work preparing bikes for the upcoming stage.
The event not only satiates cycle nuts, but also highlights Adelaide and its surrounding areas. Community events accompany each of the six race stages and afford the opportunity to get to know locals, sample regional produce and attend street parties. During my visit and as a lead up to the Stage 5 race we join locals in downtown McLaren Vale the evening before to celebrate at ‘Love Velo’. To a backdrop of lush vines and the hypnotic beats of The Urban Jazz Quartet, we indulge in the finest South Australian food and wine, peruse the stalls selling local arts and crafts, and listen to South Australia’s favourite daughter, Olympic Gold Medallist Anna Meares, share her Olympic journey.
What you should know:
- The Santos Tour Down Under will be held in Adelaide on 19-26 of January 2014. For more information go to www.tourdownunder.com.au
- Individual or social, corporate and sporting teams looking to ride a stage of a UCI World Tour event can register for the Bupa Challenge Tour which allows you to ride Stage 4 of the event before the professionals.
- The Legends’ Night dinner for a chance to rub shoulders with professional cyclists and legends of the cycling world. www.tourdownunder.com.au
- Dinner at The Star of Greece in Port Willunga watching the sun set over the ocean www.starofgreece.com.au
- The world-class wineries in McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and the Clare Valley.
- Adelaide’s Central Market www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au
Article by Toni Krasicki, who was a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission.