10-20 January 2019

20th Tour a massive achievement as teams mobilise for victory
14 Jan 18

By Matthew Agius

Above: Peter Sagan watches on at Saturday's official Santos Tour Down Under press conference. [Pic: Tour Down Under / John Veage]

The 20th edition of the Santos Tour Down Under marks a significant achievement for South Australia according to race director and Olympic gold medallist Mike Turtur.

The man who has been charged with operating Australia’s Greatest Cycling Race since 1999, Turtur will once again take his seat in the race director’s car at the front of the race convoy on Sunday afternoon when the People’s Choice Classic gets underway on Wakefield Road. 

While this year has seen big names in the sport like triple UCI World Road Champion Peter Sagan, former world champion Rui Costa, and a swathe of former winners like Gerrans, Greipel, Porte, Dennis, Slagter, Sanchez and Meyer return, it the evenness and strength of the field overall that has Turtur most excited

“It’s a big milestone for the race - it’s 20 editions, and that’s significant,” Turtur said.

“We are excited about the quality of riders at the start line, we have seven past winners at the start.

“All of the former winners here, except Mikel Astarloza, are here [for Legend’s Night], so it’s a big occasion for the event.

“We look forward to a good race, the course provides something for everyone [and] It’s important for us to have high-quality teams and riders who come here.”

For Turtur, there is no question that the sheer size of the race now compared to 1999 is what has amzed him most.

Indeed, from humble beginnings on the city streets at the turn of the century to the spectacular UCI WorldTour event that graces South Australia annually, the Santos Tour Down Under continues to grow through its expansion into women’s racing, and the attraction of bigger crowds each year.

The WorldTour status was something we always strived for, so to achieve that was significant,” Turtur said.

“The quality of riders over the years has been important - to have the rainbow jersey here [with Sagan] is also significant.

“The race has grown, with the women’s race, the street party, the village, the whole package of entertainment has worked out terrific for the event. It’s an iconic event.”

Sagan here for teammates

He might be the reigning UCI World Road Champion but Slovakian supremo Peter Sagan will be racing for Aussie Jay McCarthy this week.

Regarded as one the best lead-out man in the peloton, it will be his job to give McCarthy and teammate Sam Bennett the chance to win the stage, particularly the sprint finishes like those in Lyndoch, Victor Harbor and Adelaide.

In his second time to Adelaide, Sagan is enthusiastic about his return to racing on the streets despite a crash in last year’s race.

“We are a stronger team than last year and I hope it [the Tour] is good preparation for the coming season,” Sagan said.

“[Last year] was a nice race for me, my first WorldTour race in my life.

“It was a magic experience. I also crashed, but I was also surviving. It was a nice time. It’s nice to race here. It’s quite a calm race here. Nice weather, good people, same hotel. It’s a no-stress race, it’s very nice to start the season here.”

Above: Richie Porte is all smiles [Pic: Tour Down Under / John Veage]

BMC honed for overall

Defending Santos Ochre Jersey winner Richie Porte has given an ominous warning to his BMC team’s rivals, saying the Australian trio leading the outfit are primed for another conquest.

With six victories between them (including five of the last six Tours), Porte, Simon Gerrans and Rohan Dennis have sharpened their legs at last weekend’s national road titles in Ballarat.

Porte talked up his teammates’ chances ahead of the race, particularly with Bupa Stage 4’s finish with Norton Summit heading into Uraidla.

The climb up Norton Summit is not the hardest, but there will be a select few guys up there - it could be good for Rohan Dennis or Simon Gerrans,” Porte said.

“Dennis showed in the time trial [in Ballarat] he is absolutely flying, and I think he is quietly confident.

“Norton Summit really suits him, and we also have Gerrans. We have some good cards to play.

“To win the Tour Down Under last year was so big for me, especially as I was close so many times to winning it. It was nice to tick it off. As an Aussie, it’s the best race to win. I’d love to win it again.”

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