Adelaide during the Tour Down Under is nothing short of awesome. The city comes to life with a new-found colour and vibrancy as people from all across the country make the journey to South Australia for the cycling, weather, food, wine and general festival atmosphere. Like so many seem to do, I chose to travel south with an assortment of guys and girls from my road riding club (Northern Sydney) – many of which now attend TDU religiously every year.
Heading down with NSCC meant organised rides were coordinated each day, by people who knew where they were going (as opposed to me, who had no idea) and with a wealth of options for extra hills, extra kilometres and extra punishment. When we were not riding our bikes, we were watching the race live, eating, drinking or taking photos of each other in compromising positions (sometimes all four at once).
I was also fortunate enough to spend some quality time watching and supporting the women’s tour – from the side of the road, from the pits on the criterium stage and from the Boss Racing Team car, where I stepped into the role of a guest soigneur. I covered stage two, which was four laps of an undulating 25km course, on a day where temperatures soared to over 40 degrees. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on bottle duty, handing out fluids to any riders who needed them (and generally being thrown around the back seat of the car while trying to do so). Listening in to race radio, where team directors, support vehicles and tour commissaires all interact with each other was also incredibly insightful.
Back to my own riding, where I covered over 750km and 10,000 vertical meters of climbing for the week. For my first serious week back training, this was a more than adequate way to not only get back into the swing of things, but to build up my base fitness (and attempt to shed all the Christmas puddings I had consumed in December).
Adelaide is famous for it’s hill climbing. We traversed up most of the major climbs in the area, including the very mainstream Norton Summit, Belair, Montacute, Mt Lofty and Greenhill. While I enjoyed every minute of these, the most memorable for me were the hidden gems – the climbs that were both the most challenging and the less frequently visited. The only exception to this is Corkscrew, which given it now lives in the folklore of the Tour, is very popular with the punters.
My top five favourite climbs were as follows:
Torrens Hill Road
1.2km at 9%
Torrens Hill Rd is a climb that starts just as the Gorge Road climb ends (if you are coming up Gorge Rd from Adelaide, it’s off to the left). Nobody else wanted to join me on this one, probably because the commencement of the climb is incredibly steep (close to 20%) and wraps around a corner, leaving you unsure if it actually flattens out. The good news is that it does, but not by much. At least it wasn’t very long!
Coach House Drive
2.7km at 10.7%
Billed as one of the hardest climbs in Adelaide, this one is an alternative to Norton Summit. Coach House climbs the same vertical height but in approximately half the distance, with spikes of 20%+, making it seriously challenging. The final ramp and corner at the end was a heart breaker. Plenty of riders were walking or “posting mail”, zig-zagging across the road.
Little Italy (Burdetts Road)
1.7km at 7.0%
This one really lives up to it’s name, as climbing up this narrow country lane way with horses, orchards and tractors on both sides does make you feel like you could be in Italy. It’s a reasonably tough climb, as the first section is rather flat, meaning the second half is pretty steep. The road surface wasn’t great (which actually adds to the rustic appeal), but absolutely one to add to the list.
2.5km at 8.9%
Part of the Tour Down Under route and made famous by some epic attacks (Cadel Evans anyone?). The start is nice and gentle, but then you reach the “corkscrews” – a few sets of nasty switchbacks that really, really hurt. Leave a bit in the tank, the last 800m is comparatively flat. Standing on the side of the road watching the pros absolutely suffer up Corkscrew was a real highlight of the Tour!
Blockers Road (Unsealed)
4.0km at 5.5%
Only three of us attempted this one, partially due to how challenging it is, but also because it’s dirt! It doesn’t look so bad at only 5.5%, but over the 4km, at least half of it is relatively flat (or even downhill). The final third has some seriously challenging ramps of up to 25%, which are made that little bit harder given the gravel beneath you makes it close to impossible to get out of the saddle without slipping the rear wheel. In the blinding heat of the day, this was probably the hardest climb I did in Adelaide.
Regardless of your level of ability or how closely you follow the professional tour, if you are a cyclist, you should make sure you visit the Tour Down Under at least once in your life. There is something for everyone in terms of riding (i.e. a number of women’s specific rides were organised, on top of the Bupa Ride, the Cure Cancer Tour, various Rapha and shop rides, etc) and watching live cycling was so much better than I ever anticipated. I could have reached out and touched Richie Porte – in fact, I very almost did!