Phil Anderson OAM
Phil Anderson was Australia's first cyclist to ever pull on the Tour de France yellow jersey after a stage win, and he joins the Wide World of Sports website for our coverage of the 2013 Tour Down Under.
Once again I am about to head over to Adelaide to review the first of the pro-tour events for 2013 at the Tour down Under. I always look forward to the trip as the 18 Pro Tour teams have to field a team and the Aussie fans get an opportunity to take a look at the world's best up close.
In addition we have a selection of local talent in the UniSA team but it is always disappointing that the UCI won't sanction a place for the winning team of the National Road series. What a great forum to showcase the best of our local teams.
The UCI World Tour Circuit is taken very seriously indeed, the ever valuable points are as much sought after early in the season as they are later on in the grand tour events. With so much money involved to even qualify as a pro-tour team, there is pressure on riders to satisfy their sponsors and maintain rankings right from the start of the season.
For any Australian riders and in particular those on Orica-GreenEdge a strong domestic performance in Adelaide is critical. The team sponsor always hopes to make an impact locally and build the GreenEdge brand on home soil.
For many of the teams the year's focus will be on other events and they will not be ready and in fact field relatively weak teams. Under current UCI regulations all pro-tour teams must attend but we will not see many of the stars. Despite this it will be interesting to see 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck make an appearance as he prepares for the 2013 season. I doubt he is here to snatch victory from the hands of the defending champion Simon Gerrans but there will be a number of teams who will give it a go.
Traditionally a sprinters race, the advent of longer stages and extra climbs at the TDU has seen the likes of Gerrans, a strong all-round rider, being once again the likely candidate for victory. When chatting to Simon's parents last week it seemed his focus was not on the nationals but rather defending his title at the TDU.
That said, Luke Durbridge may be the one to watch after he won both the national time trial title and the national road race title last week. He is obviously going very well and would have to be one of the TDU favourites. It's whether he has the explosive power to stay in touch going up Old Willunga Hill that could define his overall chances. He certainly showed a clear pair of wheels at the nationals and appears to have the endurance needed to make such early breaks and hold his lead – a formulae that was successful at the nationals as he was the last man standing from the first break of the day.
Durbridge's strength should translate to a winning card for GreenEdge as there is nothing wrong with having two trump cards up your sleeve. On the Willunga Hill stage Durbridge could go out hard early on the first lap and see what happens, while Gerrans sits back a bit. Then if it all comes back together Gerrans could have a crack on the last lap as occurred last year when he snatched victory of the stage and overall contention for the Tour.
Many great plans are made prior to a bike rice but as each stage unfolds different scenarios will rise, situations change and you can never 100 percent anticipate how the race will unfold. Each of the 19 teams will have their own plans and there are many variables.
Another team that could do well is Blanco Pro Cycling (the old Rabobank team) with Aussies Jack Bobridge, Graeme Brown and Mark Renshaw all on board for a great show. With relatively quiet seasons behind them I would expect both Bobridge, a former national road race champion, and his sprinting compatriots to give it a real shot for tour honours at the Tour Down Under this year.
Lotto Belisol has German sprinter Andre Greipel who has won the Tour Down Under twice and always has a strong showing early in the season on the flatter sprint stages. Greipel will have support from Aussie teammate Adam Hansen who again will look to a strong showing on home turf.
As always, the Tour Down Under is sure to be a great race great spectacle and of course Adelaide puts on a grand party.
Phil Anderson is a Skoda Ambassador at the Tour Down Under