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Down Under wonder

10 January, 2012

The Tour Down Under sees the world’s best cyclists take on the hills and valleys of South Australia. Get close to the action with Emma Clark’s handy guide.

The Tour Down Under is Australia’s answer to the Tour de France: it’s the biggest professional cycling race in the southern hemisphere; each year attracting more and more of the world’s best cyclists. Held every January, thousands of people from all over the world descend on Adelaide to cheer on the pros and celebrate cycling.

Next year’s event is held from 15-22 January, and will see Australia’s first accredited  ProTour team, GreenEDGE Cycling, make its WorldTour debut. Last year’s Tour Down Under winner Cameron Meyer will ride with GreenEDGE to defend his title, alongside fellow Aussies Jack Bobridge, Simon Gerrans, Allan Davis, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady.

In another coup for the event, the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddie Merckx, will be riding at the Bupa Challenge Tour, the mass-participation public ride where anyone can ride Stage Four of the tour.

The official broadcaster this year will be Channel Nine. They will show the final weekend action live, with the remainder of the event shown on a dedicated highlights package.

Ride with The Cannibal

At the 2012 Bupa Challenge Tour, you will have the chance to ride with a very special guest: Eddie ‘The Cannibal’ Merckx, arguably the greatest cyclist of all time. Eddie won the Tour de France five times, won 19 UCI ProTour rides, won the Giro d’Italia five times and the Vuelta a Espana once, won the world championships four times, and broke the world hour record. At his peak in the early seventies, he had a win rate of 45%, meaning he won almost every other race he rode. He won a record 34 Tour de France stages and wore the yellow jersey 96 times. Phew!

Eddie will pull on a Bupa Challenge jersey and ride the 33km leg of the event, which is held on Friday 20 January 2012. The total distance is 138km, which is the full Tour Down Under Stage 4 route. Riders can choose to ride the entire distance from Norwood to Tanunda, or shorter options of 102km, 79km or 33km. More information about the ride can be found at

For kids who don’t want to miss out on the action, the Bupa Mini Tour for Kids give kids aged 6-12 years the opportunity to ride on a UCI WorldTour track just like the world’s cycling superheroes. They will ride along the start/finish straight of the Stage Six street circuit just a few hours before the world’s elite cyclists race the final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. Kids will be split into age groups, with each age group allocated 20 minutes to ride as many laps of the special mini tour track as they can. Let your kids show off their cycling skills while being cheered on by the crowd lining the track. Entry is $30 per child, and limited to 600 participants only.

If you aren’t up for riding but still want to rub shoulders with Eddie Merckx, the Legends Night Gala Dinner on Saturday 21 January gives cycling fans the chance to dine with Eddie and his Belgian compatriot, track and road all-rounder, Patrick Sercu, at the dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Tickets are $250; visit to book. 

Who to see

As the race is accredited as a UCI ProTour (the only accredited race in the southern hemisphere), all UCI ProTour teams must compete. This means that an expected 133 of the world’s elite cyclists – 19 teams with seven riders per team – will make up the peloton at the 2012 event. The final start list will be announced in mid-December; keep an eye on for the latest updates.

Where to watch the action

The course varies each year, but traditionally begins and ends within the streets of Adelaide. There are six stages, but they do not join in a consecutive loop; instead, the stages are all individual point-to-point rides, allowing spectators more opportunities to see the riders.

The race begins with the Down Under Classic, a 51km closed-circuit preview road race through the streets of Adelaide on the Sunday evening. It is a great opportunity for Adelaide locals and visitors to see the riders zoom through the CBD.

Stage One – 17 January

Stage One is the first official stage, and begins with some significant hills. The riders will ride 149km from Prospect on the outskirts of Adelaide, directly north up to the Clare Valley. The best spot to watch the riders is in the town of Kapunda, where the first serious sprint of the Tour takes place. There is a big climb at the Kapunda to Tarlee Road, which builds up to an uphill sprint at Riverton, right past the Central Hotel.

Stage Two – 18 January

The second stage begins east of Adelaide, from Lobethal to Stirling. The riders leave Lobethal at 11am and arrive in Stirling at about 2.45pm, riding 148km. The first sprint is down Main Street in Mt Torrens, a quaint historical town that hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years. The final leg of the ride is three laps of a 20km circuit from Stirling to Aldgate, so by setting yourself up in the main street of Stirling, you will see the riders pass through three times.

Stage Three – 19 January

Stage Three travels 134km from Unley, just south of Adelaide, down the coast to Myponga, and across to Victor Harbour. Riders will tackle a few big climbs, including a 42km slog up Sellecks Hill and a long climb up Mt Compass. The best viewing point is along Victor Harbor Road in Mt Compass, where the riders will zoom past on a downhill sprint, and the race finish; which ends on the flat in Victor Harbour.

Stage Four – 20 January

The fourth stage takes on the hills north of Adelaide, travelling 130km from Norwood to Tanunda. A short and steep climb near at Forreston and sprints at Kersbrook and Mt Pleasant will make for good viewing.

Stage Five – 21 January

The penultimate stage is full of epic climbs through Adelaide’s southern wine region. Leaving from McLaren Vale, the riders will do three laps of a 40km circuit between McLaren Vale and Port Willunga on the coast, before completing one lap of a circuit from Willunga North to McLaren Flat and finishing at Old Willunga Hill. The riders will climb 250m over 10km up Old Willunga Hill, twice, finishing on top of the hill. The best spot to watch would be at Snapper Point, to see riders sprint pass three times, or on top of Willunga Hill for the climbing finish.

Stage Six – 22 January

The last stage takes to the streets of Adelaide, with 20 laps of a 4.5km crit circuit (90km overall) on the River Torrent near the Adelaide Oval. This is a great chance for locals and visitors to fill the streets and cheer on the riders. The race will finish on King William Road outside Government House, with podium presentations at the finish line.

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