Tour Down Under to include a hilltop finish in the future?
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tour Down Under to include a hilltop finish in the future?

by Jered Gruber at 2:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Race organizer confirms that the Tour Down Under is "working on it."

With the Tour Down Under wrapping up on Sunday in Adelaide, talk has begun of a new and improved version of the lead off event in the World Tour each year.

The idea of a time trial has been tossed out by the race, so the talk, unsurprisingly, is in the direction of a more difficult course, namely, a mountaintop finish. Or, in the case of the Tour Down Under's stomping grounds around Adelaide, it would better be described as a hilltop finish.

Speaking with sbs.com.au, race director Mike Turtur, says that the idea has gone past the brainstorming stage, and the event is looking to make it a reality.

"We've been looking at the possibility for a couple of years. I don't know if we'll be in a position to do something next time, but certainly we've been looking into it."

The addition of a hilltop finish would certainly change the race dynamic a fair bit, and begin to take absolute control of the race away from the dominant sprinters and their respective teams.

"A hilltop finish - not a mountain finish, because we haven't got any mountains - a hilltop finish adds another element to the race that leaves it a bit open."

Opinions are mixed on the idea. Team Sky's Simon Gerrans sees the possibility as a great way to add an exciting new element to the race, while his new teammate, Michael Rogers, is a bit more hesitant.

Gerrans considers the bright side: "It's been a real sprinter's race since it's been in the ProTour for the last four or five years now, so it would be nice to see it mixed up a little bit. All the teams are bringing their best sprinters out here now, so everyone's relying on it to be bunch sprints every day. If there was one really selective stage in there that really busted it up, in that case a sprinter would have to really be dominant and get a lot of time bonuses to put them back in contention if they are going to lose time. It'd open it up a bit."

Indeed, Gerrans's view looks to be a realistic one. A finish in the Adelaide area would certainly not be a major mountaintop one, but one where seconds could be netted by riders more prone to uphill riding as compared to the sprinters. However, the rest of the Tour Down Under would remain more or less the same most likely, still giving the sprinters a reasonable shot at overall victory.

Michael Rogers is a bit more hesitant about the idea. He's not against it, but instead prefers to encourage a more moderate, careful approach to the addition of a hilltop finish. In his eyes - it is the first race of the year after all.

"The guys from Europe, if the race is too hard, I don't think they'll come out for it, so I think they've got quite a happy medium at the moment. Sure, maybe we need just a hilltop finish, but I don't think it has to be anything exaggerated."

This year's edition was the first to see a non-sprinter take the title in many years. The race winning breakaway materialized not on the normally decisive Willunga stage, but the day before, in a case where the peloton lef the chase just a bit too late to a powerful breakaway and just couldn't quite come to terms before the finish. Meyer's victory proves that even without a hilltop finish, the breakaways do have a shot, but it's a very small one. The addition of an uphill finish could allow for more instances where a rider like Meyer can contend for victory.

 

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