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Tour Down Under
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Written by DZI (2007-12-29 14:36)

While the northern hemisphere offers only sleet, snow and cold, there's no 'chill factor' on the southern hemisphere. A great opportunity to utilise mid summer Down Under for cycling. Events South Australia hosts a new cyclingrace in 1999, based in, of course, South Australia. Local festivities, organised by the South Australian Tourism Commission, are now joined by a cycling race and since visited by hundreds of thousands each year. Massive crowds of over half a million visited the event in recent years, those numbers are still increasing and show the popularity of sports and cycling in particular in Australia.

The stage race is launched as a major race in Australia, yet doesn't attract much attention from Europe and the USA being a 'mere' UCI 2.3 classed race. Lots of national riders attend in the first year, together with big teams like Lampre, Telekom and Casino in the race that was won by Stuart O'Grady. Two overall victories in 1999 & 2001 get Stu' on top of the Tour Down Under all time leaderboard. Manyyears later it's Simon Gerrans heading that list, with no less than four (2006, 2012, 2014 & 2016) overall victories. Since the first year the organisers have tried to get an international rapport going by inviting teams from Europe, leading to an international winners roll. Some of the other well known winners are Martin Elmiger, Mikel Astarloza and Luis LÚon Sanchez Gil.

In 2005 the race received a 2.HC qualification, the category below the UCI ProTour. When founded, one of the main objects of the UCI ProTour was to branch out to other continents in an attempt to globalise the cycling sport in the elite category. Hein Verbruggen's (UCI's former chairman) first baby is born in 2007 when the Tour Down Under is granted the ProTour status for the year 2008. That upgrade ensures competition on a wider world-wide scale and higher and more international level in Australia for years to come. Organiser Mike Turtur also takes good care of the riders with a race program that contains shorter stages than usual for the WorldTour level, while taking the summer heat into account as well. Mike Turtur has his pension coming up in 2020, so the reign will be in Stuart O'Grady's capable hands as from the 2021 edition.

The race format is slightly different from what is a regular stage race. According to the official website, the Tour Down Under kicks off with a crit, called the 'classic' and then pauses for one day. The real Tour Down Under then starts as a six day event, the 'race-capital' Adelaide usually hosting both start and finish of the event. The heat is probably the biggest opponent: The riders usually do their laps in temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees celcius. In 2006 it's so hot (temperature of over forty degrees celcius) that locals start to cool the riders down with sprinklers and garden hoses in the climbing stage to Willunga. Another telling detail for the Santos Tour Down Under is the friendly atmosphere and the very approachable Tour village in front of the usually fully booked Adelaide Hilton Hotel for this occasion.

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