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News feature, August 16, 2006
So More than just a bike race; the 2007 Tour Down Under
The 2007 Tour Down Under was launched in the Wallis Cinema in Adelaide on Wednesday. Even though the race has yet to secure a top naming sponsor, Khairunnisa Schebella found the staff of race promoter SA Events and the dignitaries in attendance optimistic and enthusiastic about what's in store for 2007.
Without Jacob's Creek's presence, the launch of the 2007 Tour Down Under was very much a coffee and muffin affair. Although Event Director Mike Turtur claimed there are a number of other major players in discussions, it may well be that the flagship sports event of South Australia will belong not to one company in 2007, but to the more than 60 sponsors that make the race happen. "I always thought it would be tough finding the right deal that fits the race and fits the company,"Tturtur said, adding that the organisation could be patient. "We would rather get a good deal in place and a long term commitment!"
When asked whether drug abuse in cycling (and particularly whether the most recent accusations in the sport in Europe) may have scared off potential partners, Turtur said yes. "I would be disappointed if people didn't come to the race because of a few idiots," he said. "Look at O'Grady, McEwen and Evans, these are good quality athletes that do us proud in the Tour de France. Let's support them, the honest athletes, and forget about the cheats." Turtur then reiterated that although riders who have admitted guilt and completed any suspension periods would be allowed to participate, the TDU would not deal with any team or riders under accusation.
Long term King of the Mountain Jersey sponsor, optometrist chain Laubman and Pank, also withdrew its sponsorship and the KOM jersey is yet to be announced. Despite the hiccups and open questions about the long-term financing of the event, the Tour Down Under was officially launched.
A stage for all champions
Some of the best professional cyclists from around the world will converge on South Australia in January to take part in the Tour Down Under. With a new route (the riders set off from Mannum on Stage Two for the first time, along the banks of the Murray River for one stage start, and return to the popular finish locations of Victor Harbor and Tanunda after a one-year absence), the race is set to provide an even greater challenge than years prior. This 717-kilometre race route will provide some great viewing spots for the nearly 500,000 spectators who line the streets each year to cheer on the cyclists as well as provide a showcase for some of South Australia's spectacular regions to an international television audience.
On Tuesday 16th January, the Tour starts with its traditional 50km circuit around the parklands of Adelaide. On the city streets of the East End at twilight, the first race of the women's crit series will start the night's action. Over 85,000 spectators lined the city streets last January to see Tour de France Green Jersey Champion Robbie McEwen claim his 11th TDU stage win.
Stage One heads back to Mawson Lakes after a successful start there in 2006, and tracks up and over One Tree Hill for the first sprint points and to Humbug Scrub for the first KOM points of the race. The second sprint points competition will be fought at Williamstown. Riders then race through Tanunda and around one and a half loops of Seppeltsfield, Greenock, Nuriootpa, Penrice, Angaston to finish again in Tanunda covering 152km. The women also race their second in the crit series around Tanunda and the Vets kick off their racing series here as well.
Stage Two departs in river-town Mannum on Thursday the 18th for the first time in race history. The course heads back towards Adelaide with Tungkillo at 25k marking the first sprint. The race then tracks through Birdwood and up Mount Torrens towards Lobethal for the second sprint and Lenswood with Fox Creek Hill as the KOM competition for the stage. Then it's back to the familiar circuit of Woodside, Littlehampton, Hahndorf for three and a bit laps to complete the 150km in the saddle in Hahndorf. The Vets series continues today at Hahndorf.
Stage Three goes back to the beautiful hamlet of Sterling, just up the freeway into the Adelaide Hills, for a Friday morning start the second year in a row. Heading due south for 70 km, the two intermediate sprints for the stage are to be contested in Echunga and Goolwa. From there the race turns west and follows the coastal towns of Middleton and Port Elliot with two northern loops to include Kerby Hill KOM sprint at 87km and the picturesque Inman Valley. A stage finish on the busy Esplanade in Victor Harbour at 128km is always a place to catch great fish and chips or the coach back to town for those on the Challenge Tour!
Stage Four on Saturday the 20th of January is the traditional Willunga to Willunga circuit with three loops around the beaches and vineyards of the Fleuriaeu Peninsula. This penultimate stage of the race usually is decisive in the general classification and includes the spectacular climb up Willunga Hill and a lightning fast descent into Willunga for the finish at 147km. Snapper Point, just north of Aldinga Beach, offers two opportunities to add to the sprint jersey classification for the day. The women's crit Series concludes here as well so a vantage around Snapper point will get you two great races in one day. The Vets also conclude their series in Willunga.
The finale, Stage Five, will lap around the familiar final TDU circuit in Adelaide 20 times, including Montefiore Hill offering KOM points on laps ten and fifteen, and the SA Lotteries Sprint Points on laps eight and twelve. This 90km street race is fast and furious with everyone aiming for a final stage victory.
The 2007 Tour Down Under is the highest internationally accredited race out of Europe at Hors Classe 2 rating, endorsed by the world cycling federation, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), and is owned and managed by Events South Australia, a division of the South Australian Tourism Commission. The 2007 Tour Down Under - so much more than a bike race. In the words of Race Director Mike Turtur, "Why wouldn't you want to come here?"
Something old, something new
In its ninth year, the 2007 edition of the Tour Down Under remains true to its roots of being a small and compact six-day stage race, yet offers some new innovations. Launching the event Wednesday, Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith announced a new 20km Fun Tour for families and a Night of Stars event at the Adelaide SuperDrome. "The Fun Tour allows casual and beginner riders to ride part of the Tour Down Under, while the Night of Stars at the Adelaide SuperDrome introduces track cycling to the program for the first time," Minister Lomax-Smith said.
These new events, coupled with the Challenge Tour (formerly the be active Tour) and the Powerade Mini Tour for Kids, means there is now an opportunity for cyclists of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels to participate.
The Fun Tour will be staged at 9am on Sunday the 21st January. The 20.5km ride heads off under police escort from Barrett Reserve at West Beach and heads north east along Anzac Highway to the city. Participants will be given the exclusive opportunity to do a lap of the closed circuit of the race route for Stage Six around the Adelaide City Gardens and across the race finish line.
The Challenge Tour will begin in Sterling at 7am on Friday the 19th January if you go the full 128k monty or if 84k's sounds more your cup of chai, then head of to Ashbourne by 8am and follow the other few thousand cyclists on their way through the beautiful Adelaide Hills to Victor Harbor. (For more details on the Fun tour or Challenge Tour contact Bicycle SA or online via www.tourdownunder.com.au).
The new Tour Down Under Night of Stars also means that the general public will be able to watch the team presentations for the first time. Formerly a privilege awarded only media, VIPs guests and cycling aficionado, this night of nights will be staged at the Adelaide SuperDrome on Monday the 15th January. AIS track program stars, including Shane Kelly, Ryan Bailey and the Meares' sisters, are among those who will display their cycling talents in a showcase to start the night's entertainment. Tickets can be bought online at www.southaustralia.com.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Khairunnisa Schebella