The final stage of the 2013 Tour Down Under was a grand spectacle. The crowds of Adelaide lined the circuit in their thousands, the peloton presented a fitting finish to what has been another successful week of cycling here in South Australia.
It's a very pretty circuit through the parklands of Adelaide with great public access and room to move from one fast corner to another. Like the last stage of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees, a circuit finish is a real show, it is the celebration of a great race, the winner already decided and a great example of bike racing at the top level of the sport.
The stage itself was predictable in the end with Andre Greipel once again just too powerful. An exciting challenge in the final sprint from Australian Mark Renshaw of the Blanco team, saw a momentary change of trajectory from Greipel, Renshaw and Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagem tried their best to upset Greipel and the Lotto-Belisol roadtrain, but it's difficult to surprise someone with so much strength. An inform Renshaw possible attacked a little too early for the big German strong man. He is super powerful and it will be interesting to see what happens when he goes back to Europe and lines up against a couple of the top Euro sprinters.
It's still five months away until the Tour de France with a lot of racing between now and then. If we include the Down Under Classic, Greipel has won four stages out of seven at this event, he is the undisputed sprint king so far this season. This is an awesome start for the Lotto-Belisol team.
The Tour down Under exceeded expectations with some great performances this week from most of the teams. Simon Gerrans's triumphant win on Old Willunga Hill was as thrilling as any you will see in a bike race.
Geraint Thomas was far from disgraced, almost sneaking away with an overall victory for Team Sky. His climb on the Corkscrew and subsequent sprint to the line in Rostrevor was the stuff of champions. He should still be proud of his performance at the Tour Down Under.
Tom Slagter, the overall winner, showed great poise and strength when winning in Sterling. He then pushed Gerrans all the way up Old Willunga Hill. Young guys like Slagter, fresh new talent are part of the renaissance of cycling and I will watch his career with interest from here.
It's hard to tell how the 2013 season will pan out after just one race. It stands to be exciting, that’s for sure. The once outstanding Rabobank team now team blanco are true to form with the selection of new suprising faces like Slagter but on the other hand, the efforts of great champions like Andy Schleck have been, in this tour a little disappointing. In five months' time at the Tour de France however it could all be different and we have yet to see how Contador is shaping up.
The next 12 months is a critical time for cycling. The Armstrong affair is likely to bubble away on the sidelines and fallout will underminethe sport for some time. Sponsors are a bit gun-shy. Team Rabobank now Blanco a classic example. The fallout will mostly likely cascade to many event associated with the sport. Having said that, this week in South Australia, the locals have come to town and partied in support of an event Adelaide own’s.
The TdU has started the season with a bang and the future has promise. On the international stage, hopefully the cyclists are cleaning up their acts and recent events have provided a wake-up call to every stakeholder in the business of cycling. The governing bodies of the sport are likewise responsible and they too have much work to do. The future of our beautiful sport is at stake, change is necessary but this week we have learnt the cycling has moved on from Lance and the passion for good racing remains.
Phil Anderson is a Skoda Ambassador at the Tour Down Under