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Once Upon a Time Down Under...

Once Upon a Time Down Under...
LAST TIME, DOWN UNDER: Riders descend through the scorched Adelaide hills, carrying the scars of terrible wildfires that engulfed Australia in early 2020. (Photography by Russ Ellis)


With the first Tour Down Under since 2020 well underway, it’s a perfect time to look back on the last edition of this thrilling race. So dust off your Road Book 2020 and dive in!

If you aren’t so lucky as to own a RB2020 have no fear, there are still some available to purchase on our webstore: https://www.theroadbook.co.uk/product/the-road-book-2020-first-edition/

We have also compiled each of Kit Nicholson’s excellent stage summaries here for your enjoyment. But first of all, we’ll let Ned Boulting set the stage with a little excerpt from his introduction.

‘It started with a fire… large swathes of Australia simply ignited. Seen from space, an incomprehensibly vast ridge of smoke from uncontrolled bushfires was drifting across the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand. The sky above Auckland turned ochre. At ground level, the blaze raged across the parched land, leaping from tree to tree and almost instantaneously devouring whole neighbourhoods. These were the worst fires the country had seen in its lifetime. The television and online images that emerged from the inferno had at times appeared lifted from science fiction. ‘Biblical’ was another word that was used. Not for the last time in 2020.

Into this disturbing context, road racing – a sport inseparably bound up with landscape, geography and weather – launched its programme for another year. It is affecting to think back to that race, when we were innocent of what was about to unfold, unable to imagine what was about to happen.

Only days after the fires had finally abated, the peloton of the Tour Down Under arrived in Adelaide. One by one, the teams went out on training rides to see with their own eyes the scorched hillsides and blackened tree stumps. When the flag dropped on the first WorldTour race of the year, firefighters and volunteers were among the members of a shocked public standing by the side of the road and observing the passage of the riders, as if quietly celebrating a return to some sort of normality. This was late January.’ NB


Stage 1
21 Jan 2020
Tanuda – Tanuda 150km

‘WorldTour racing got underway with a familiar display of domination from Deceuninck-QuickStep and their new star rider, Sam Bennett. The transfer market was busy over the winter as far as sprinters were concerned, so a number of teams were looking to show their cards at the first opportunity. Greipel’s Israel Start-Up Nation and Viviani’s Team Cofidis, both newly upgraded to the WorldTour, put their noses in the wind in the closing stages, but it was Deceuninck-QuickStep that led the field under the flame rouge. Philipsen (UAE Team) made a good account of himself in the sprint, but Irish champ Bennett was able to come through and overhaul him on the line.

Earlier in the stage, the playbook was laid out for the remainder of the race, with Rosskopf (CCC) collecting KOM points and Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) hunting down bonus seconds at intermediate sprints.’

Results: 1) S. Bennett (DQT) 2) J. Philipsen (UAD) 3) E. Baska (BOH)
GC: 1) S. Bennett (DQT) 2) J. Philipsen (UAD) 3) E. Baska (BOH)


Stage 2
22 Jan 2020
Woodside – Stirling 135.8km

‘Caleb Ewan was the last to win on this uphill sprint finish, but the fast men would have to be on their best day to make it over the relentless dips and rises of the Adelaide Hills with matches still to burn.

With Rosskopf intent on consolidating his KOM lead from the breakaway, the peloton was controlled by the team of overnight leader Bennett. Home team Mitchelton-Scott left it until deep in the last 10km to pile on the pressure, having kept their powder dry all day with Impey closely watched by his rivals. On the drag up to the line, the South African opened his sprint as Bennett’s lights went out and Ewan came Roaring up the middle for an easy victory. With his leader caught up in a big crash just outside the final kilometre, Haas (Cofidis) got up for third.’

Stage Results: 1) C. Ewan (LTS) 2) D. Impey (MTS) 3) N. Haas (COF)
GC: 1) C. Ewan (LTS) 2) S. Bennett (DQT) 3) D. Impey (MTS)


Stage 3
23 Jan 2020
Unley – Paracombe 131km

‘The climbers had the company of sharp shadows at the finish after the day got off to an unusually cloudy start in Unley. It was expected to be a decisive stage, not least because on the previous two occasions the Paracombe finish had been used, the winner went on to overall victory a few days later.

Anticipating a headwind at the finish, positioning was key on the approach after the breakaway was caught. Mitchelton-Scott led the pelaton onto the climb, easily dealing with Marcato’s (UAE Team) early attack, then Porte was brought up by neo pro Juan Pedro Lopez who pushed until he popped, leaving the Tasmanian to attack with a burst of speed that no man could match. There was a frantic chase behind with a remarkable effort from Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), heavily strapped after crashing yesterday, and a furious acceleration from Power (Sunweb) to pip the Brit to the line.’

Stage Results: 1) R. Porte (TFS) 2) R. Power (SUN) 3) S. Yates (MTS)
GC: 1) R. Porte (TFS) 2) D. Impey (MTS) 3) R. Power (SUN)

By Kit Nicholson

Check back in a couple of days to read through the summaries for stages 4-6, or purchase a Road Book 2020 to breakaway from the chasing pack.

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