It’s remarkable to think that Team Sky, currently top of the UCI team rankings with a Tour de France winner, British and Norwegian national champions, and some of the finest riders in the world, rode its first race three years to this day. The 17th January 2010 was the opening day of the Tour Down Under, that day’s criterium serving as a showcase for the following stages. Team Sky proved they meant business by winning in immaculate style and setting the tone for the coming seasons.
The team begin their 2013 campaign, their fourth year as a WorldTour team, at the Santos Tour Down Under this coming Sunday, 20th January. This will, of course, be the first time the riders compete as a team in the kit designed by Rapha. Not only will we see how the riders cope in the heat and early-season chaos of a newly ordered peloton, but to view the team in their Rapha-crafted Sunday best will be an exciting moment.
Sunday’s action takes place in Adelaide, with the race proper starting this coming Tuesday. It’s a race that offers early-season points and a chance to see who’s in form over six scorching stages. Team Sky have sent their Classics group of riders to compete (read about preparations at their Mallorca training camp here ».
Mat Hayman will be looking to show his mettle on home tarmac and Edvald Boasson Hagen will undoubtedly be given the chance to emulate his points jersey win last time round. Australian team GreenEDGE, meanwhile, will be hoping Simon Gerrans can win the ochre jersey once more. Other dangerous teams on the roster include Quick Step and Saxo-Tinkoff; proof, were it needed, that the TDU is not simply a warm-up for bigger dates later in the calendar. With large, vociferous crowds in cycling-mad South Australia, Team Sky will be straight into a fast-paced and testing 2013 season opener.
Tour Down Under Stages
*Sunday 20th January: People’s Choice Classic*
The TDU opens again with a criterium, a high-octane curtain-raiser over 30 laps around Rymill Park. A furious bunch sprint is likely to be the order of the day here.
*Tuesday 22nd January: Stage One – Prospect to Lobethal*
This 135km stage has one categorised climb at Checker Hill. The action concludes over three laps of a lumpy circuit.
*Wednesday 23rd January: Stage Two – Mt Barker to Rostrevor*
With the steep climb of Corkscrew Road just 7km from the finish, this will be an interesting day out for the peloton.
*Thursday 24th January: Stage Three – Unley to Stirling*
139km stage with another bunch sprint more than likely. The riders will tackle an early KOM at Mount Barker Road, followed by six anti-clockwise laps before a climb to the finish line.
*Friday 25th January: Stage Four – Modbury to Tanunda*
A series of short and sharp hills kick off this 127km day. The categorised climb at Humbug Scrub will test the riders before potentially another bunch sprint.
*Saturday 26th January: Stage Five – McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill*
The penultimate – and possibly decisive – stage is also the longest, at just over 150km. Tackling the now famous Old Willunga Hill, the rider with the sharpest legs – and wits – here could easily ride themselves into top-spot contention.
*Sunday 27th January: Stage Six – Adelaide Street Circuit*
A 90km criterium concludes the TDU of 2013. And unless there is a clear leader at this point the race could go down to the wire. Twenty laps of the 4.5km circuit may well culminate in a climactic final sprint.