8 things we learnt after the Tour Down Under

1. Dutch Cycling may have another star on its hands

Tom Slagter won the Ochre Jersey, surprised many, and catapulted himself into cycling’s big league. After finishing the Willunga Stage a close second to Simon Gerrans, the Dutchman declared that the parcours of the whole race “was made for me. It’s perfect.” Slagter now joins teammates Bauke Mollema, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruiswijk and Wlico Keldermann as standard bearers for a newer,cleaner era of Dutch Cycling. Likened by some to Joaquin Rodriguez, the diminutive Slagter has the kind of explosive climb that will bring him much one day success.

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2. Blanco hit the ground running

Results in Adelaide have given Blanco more points in one week than they ammassed in 5 months as Rabobank in 2012. The entire team were superb, with aggressive, positive racing, strong results and a good team spirit. The Aussies on board, led by a rejuvenated Graeme Brown, did their bit too. David Tanner led out Slagter in Stirling, Mark Renshaw almost snatched victory from Andre Greipel on the final stage, and Jack Bobridge was active in the KOM competition. A great start for a team with money in the bank, for now, but no name on the shirtfront.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Greenedge are more comfortable in their own skin

Pressure? What pressure? The Orica-GreenEDGE team arrived with fanfare, and public expectation, but left with a stage win, some promising signs and a sense of calm amongst the team. Simon Gerrans delivered on Willunga but it wasnt a tour solely about results as it was 12 months ago. This year was about building. Building Matt Wilson as a DS. Building the Mouris/Impey/Goss train. Building Luke Durbridge into a real threat in week stage races. And I think they’ll be pretty pleased with the outcome. The confidence gained from Gerro’s win eased the angst felt after Stage 2 where Simon Clarke admitted that the team had “screwed up”, and now with a good start both here and in San Luis the team

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will head toward the European season in high spirits.

 

 

 

 

4. Lotto’s sprint may be unbeatable

The way Lotto handle the sprints is a thing of beauty. The power. The precision. The trust. The intelligence. They are making the High Road train look shabby. If Lotto deliver Greipel as they plan at 200m he is unbeatable. Andre is in the prime of his career and is blessed with a group of teammates with believe in him totally. And vice versa. Greg Henderson is in “world’s best lead out territory” and the battles throughout 2013 between Greipel and Cavendish will be epic.

5. Adam Hansen is Australia’s most underrated rider

Maybe not in the cycling fraternity, but in the wider sporting world. 3 Grand Tours completed in 2012. Pivotal member of the aforementioned Sprint Train, decent climber, hard man, good bloke, leader not a follower. Hansen is a class act.

6. Andy Schleck has a lot of work to do

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Pre-race Andy said that it was about just being on the bike and racing again. He also admitted that he was nervous. 7 days later, he’d lost 16 minutes on the Stirling stage, got dropped in the first 500m of Willunga’s first circuit, and abandoned the street circuit at halfway, before riding home and not making the teams presentation. Not the greatest return for the

2010 Tour champ. Jens Voigt said that “Andy needed a kick up the arse midway through the week, and after today (Sunday) he needs another one. Schleck is targetting being at full tilt in April for the Ardennes. On this showing that is highly unlikely. All’s not lost for Radioshack though. Their old guard may be failing, but in Hermans, Bennett and Machado, they have a talented group.

 

7. The Tour Down Under should stay in Adelaide

There have been more noises of the race going elsewhere but let’s be honest. Could it work elsewhere? The riders love it. Great weather, same hotel, short transfer, good racing. The race works in South Australia. Why change? That’s not to say we can’t have another UCI race around this time, and the great challenge is for the organisers to work with the new UCI Oceania President Tracey Gaudrey, and the men behind the Sun Tour in Victoria, to allow that race to complement the TDU.

8. We place way too much importance on the Tour Down Under

And I’ve done it myself! But it is the first race of the year. Every rider’s modus operandi is different. Every rider’s condition is different. We read so much into a performance or a result, but in the context of a 10 month season, what happens in Lobethal in January is forgotten by the time we get to Lyon in July. Let’s enjoy the Tour Down Under for what it is.