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6th Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under - 2.3

Australia, January 20-25, 2004

2003 Results    Stages & Results    Start List    Past winners

Astarloza returns to Adelaide

2003 winner Mikel Astarloza pays tribute to his directeur-sportif
Photo ©: Tom Balks

The sixth edition of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under (JCTDU), the first major UCI stage race of the year, will begin in the heart of Adelaide's East End on Tuesday January 20, 2004, with Spanish rider Mikel Astarloza and his Ag2r Prevoyance team returning to Adelaide to defend the title he won last year on a countback.

Twelve teams of eight riders will comprise the 96 rider peloton who will base themselves at the Adelaide Hilton throughout the six-day event. Over the years, the JCTDU has grown into a race of enormous popularity, with a number of European-based professional teams choosing to make the journey south to capitalise on the warmer climes Australia has to offer during its summer months. The race is also arguably the only road event on the UCI calendar that allows the best home-grown Aussies to compete against some of the best Europe has to offer in their own backyard.

Stage 1, a 50 kilometre criterium around Adelaide's East End, was a proven crowd-pleaser in 2003 and returns unchanged to kick off the physical - and often verbal - fireworks between top sprinters Robbie McEwen, Baden Cooke and Graeme Brown. Last year, speedy Panaria sprinter Brown crossed the line first ahead of The Benalla Bullet Cooke and Pocket Rocket McEwen, but was later relegated after officials announced he had deviated from his line, setting up a media free-for-all between the trio over the ensuing days that never let up.

Beginning at Norwood, riders head north into the Adelaide Hills on Stage 2 for possibly the most arduous and longest stage of the JCTDU at 157 kilometres. Surrounded by wildlife parks and conservation reserves, riders will grab a taste of typical Aussie wildlife as they tackle the first King of the Mountains points at Checkers Hill less than 30 kilometres into the stage. The race then proceeds through Gumeracha and onto Birdwood, where those sprinters still in the front group will duke it out for the first of two intermediate sprints, the second coming in close succession at Springton at the 67.5 kilometre mark. Speedsters will be pleased to see a mostly downhill run into the finish at Kapunda via a hair-raising descent down Menglers Hill, a scene that has defined a number of JCTDUs in years past.

Dark horse Allan Davis
Photo ©: David Magahy

Covering the coasts and hinterlands of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Stage 3 at 150 kilometres incorporates some of the State's most popular southern coastal areas and historic farming countryside. Commencing in Goolwa, a pioneering port near the mouth of the Murray River, riders make a short out-and-back loop across the Hindmarsh Island Bridge before heading to the surf havens of Middleton and Port Elliot for the day's first sprint points. The peloton then proceeds along The Esplanade through the seaside town of Victor Harbor and past the SA Whale Centre before the King of the Mountains climb at Newland Hill. Riders continue their undulating journey north for the second sprint of the day at 91.9 kilometres in the town of Myponga, taken from the Aboriginal word maippunga, meaning "locality of high cliffs". The race then returns to Victor Harbour via Myponga Reservoir, the summer beachside town Carrickalinga and Inman Valley for a high-speed finish along The Esplanade.

Stage 4, starting in Unley, is a 141 kilometre route on familiar roads for riders of previous years' JCTDUs, and follows the tried and true parcours up the South Eastern Freeway from Unley to the Stirling exit, through the lushly forested towns of Aldgate and Mylor, before riders vie for the day's first sprint points at Echunga. Riders then head to Mt Barker over the freeway to Littlehampton and across to Hahndorf, one of Adelaide Hills' much-loved heritage towns and the eventual finish town for the stage. The race winds its way through other familiar towns, changing direction for three passes under the finish arch in Hahndorf - one towards Adelaide (including a King of the Mountains sprint at Croft Road) and two towards Nairne. As riders complete the final loop towards Nairne, the sprinters are certain to have last year's photo finish in mind as they race down the straight in Hahndorf for what is likely to be another battle royale.

With action, parades, live music and demonstrations throughout the day, Stage 5 on Saturday, January 24, is easily the most popular day of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, held in the region of Willunga. A carbon copy of previous JCTDUs, the 147 kilometre, beach-and-vine circuit around Willunga, Aldinga, Port Willunga and McLaren Vale is essentially comprised of three 40 kilometre loops, finishing with a 20 kilometre circuit that includes the climb of Old Willunga Hill approximately 10 kilometres from the end. Fans who line up along the Snapper Point sprint line will have plenty to keep them entertained, with the last race of the National Women's Criterium Series conducted in between. It was also on this same stage last year that eventual winner Mikel Astarloza made his move from fifth place overall to the top of the leaderboard, displacing the leader for the previous three days, Fabio Sacchi.

For what has normally a traditional procession in stage racing and on paper, a relatively easy day, the race returns to the streets of Adelaide for the final stage of the JCTDU. However, as has happened on previous occasions, the 90 kilometre circuit race consisting of 20 laps of a 4.5 kilometre circuit could once again prove to be decisive: in four out of the last five editions of the race, less than 12 seconds has separated first and second place overall.

So while a number of stages are destined for bunch sprints, the overall winner of the JCTDU needs to be an excellent all-rounder. Former winners Stuart O'Grady (winner in 1999 and 2001), Gilles Maignan (winner in 2000), Tour de France revelation Michael Rogers (winner in 2002) and 2003 winner Astarloza, all possessed qualities required to win on varying terrain, and each victor has benefited from their victories in the JCTDU as a launch pad for a successful campaign in Europe.

Cyclingnews will be providing our readers with unparalleled coverage of the 2004 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, including live race reports, full results, photos, interviews and features stories, and extensive tech coverage.

The Stages

  • Stage 1 - January 20: East End Adelaide Street Race, 50 km
  • Stage 2 - January 21: Norwood to Kapunda, 157 km
  • Stage 3 - January 22: Goolwa to Victor Harbor, 150 km
  • Stage 4 - January 23: Unley to Hahndorf, 141 km
  • Stage 5 - January 24: Willunga - Willunga, 147 km
  • Stage 6 - January 25: Adelaide City Council circuit, 90 km

Past Winners

2003 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Ag2R
2002 Michael Rogers (Aus) Australian Institute Of Sport
2001 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
2000 Gilles Maignan (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance
1999 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole