The organisers have decided to give us something totally different, they’ve got to be applauded for that. Out goes Willunga Hill, in comes a prologue and a lot of punchy stages, but they’ve crucially also brought the Corkscrew Road climb back into the race. This is an event which has been dominated by those who spend their winter in the southern hemisphere, it gives them a massive advantage in terms of preparation, but will we see a surprise this time round? The intermediate sprints normally have an impact on the GC battle, but they seem to be positioned in spots where the breakaway will take all the seconds, which means stage wins will be the main factor in determining the winner of the race. The Corkscrew is the only stage where big gaps can be made, but to do that someone needs to be on a totally different level to the rest and I’m not sure if anyone will. Anyway, enough of my chat and time to look at the stages.
The race starts with a 5.5km race against the clock. With only a few corners requiring the brakes, this is a power course. It might be short, but this is a crucial stage for climbers wanting to win the GC, they can’t leak more than 15 seconds to the TT boys.
A lap circuit featuring the Menglers Hill climb, which isn’t overly difficult. The final 1000m does average around 6% but this stage should finish in a bunch sprint. Caleb Ewan is the standout sprinter in the race, he’ll be hoping to add to his 9 stage wins. Those who have already checked the weather report will be worried about the strength of the wind, we could see echelons.
Scenario – reduced bunch sprint thanks to the wind.
All eyes will be on that final climb. 2km at 8% and cresting with just over 20km to go will certainly be enough to drop some of the fast men but the bunch will still be big enough to ensure the stage finishes in a sprint. Hopefully some of the GC riders decide to test their legs on the climb, that will make for an exciting end to the stage. Oh aye, it’s another windy day!
Scenario – reduced sprint.
Welcome back the Corkscrew. 2.4km at 9.1% doesn’t sound that bad, but in terms of this race it’s like Ventoux. A full-on sprint lead out into the foot of the climb and then bam! If someone is on super form, they can drop everyone and solo to the win, but if the best riders are on a similar level, we’re looking at a group of 5-10 going clear and seeing if they can hold off the chase from behind. The descent has some technical sections, I remember Michael Woods making a mess of it back in 2019. This is a huge day in the fight for the ochre jersey.
Scenario – we’ll have to wait and see if someone is on a different level and can go solo.
We’re in Willunga but the bunch don’t go up Willunga Hill. Instead, they spent a lot of time in wide open roads and if you’ve watched this race before you’ll know that this part of the world is always windy. It should be a sprint, but if the wind is in the right direction, we’ll see echelons and a GC fight.
Scenario – bunch sprint, as long as the wind doesn’t blow.
The big final stage with laps of Mount Lofty. Just 112km in length but it contains 2800m of climbing, which is a lot for this time of year. The climb isn’t too hard, but the whole day is constantly up and down. We’ll have to see how hard the riders want to make it, but whoever leads the race will need a strong team to control this one.
Scenario – it all depends on the GC situation. It should be a full gas day and a reduced sprint.
Jayco AlUla – they missed out at the nationals, that will only add extra motivation to claim their home world tour race. The change of route means that Michael Matthews has a wonderful chance of taking the win. He’ll be one of the best in the opening prologue and has the speed required to challenge for multiple stage wins and bonus seconds. Corkscrew Road will be a slight concern, but as they also have Simon Yates they have another card to play. He was strong here back in 2020, and word is he’s got good legs. In Matthews and Yates, the team have two genuine contenders to win the ochre jersey.
Ineos – fresh from winning the Aussie road race, Lucas Plapp is one of the men to watch in this race. To win this race he needs to drop Matthews on Corkscrew Road, something he couldn’t do on Mount Buninyong. Ethan Hayter provides an excellent back up option, just like Matthews, the route Is very good for him. I know nothing about Hayter’s current form, like many of the European based riders, it all depends on how hard they’ve been able to work over the winter. The same is true of Magnus Sheffield, he’s another option for Ineos. Like his two teammates, the young American will go well in the prologue, and he has the punch required for Corkscrew Road. They’ve got the bases covered.
UAE – yet another strong team, they have Vine, Bennett and Hirschi. Vine just won the Aussie TT title, but he wasn’t great in the road race. Bennett doesn’t get too many opportunities to chase personal glory, he’ll be keen on taking this one. Hirschi ended 2022 in good form, it was great to see him back near his best. These three give the team lots of options, but it would be a surprise to see any of them winning the race, the podium is a more realistic goal.
Ben O’Connor – he’s unlikely to win the GC but he should be challenging for a stage win. He’ll be ahead of his European rivals thanks to spending the summer in Australia. Corkscrew Road will be his main target, if he goes well there, he’ll be in the mix at the end of the week.
Pello Bilbao – if this race was a couple of months down the line, he’d be a big favourite. Like all the European riders, he’ll come up against those from the southern hemisphere who are flying. He should be in the top 10, and will hope to win a stage, but taking the overall will be tough.
Rob Stannard – technically speaking, this is a good race for him. Last year was his first with Alpecin, and it was a good one. Stannard is a rider who blew everyone away in the under 23 ranks, but it’s taken him a while to settle at the highest level. Now that he’s got a few results under his belt I expect an excellent 2023 from him, starting here.
Paddy Bevin – crashed in the crit, so we’ll have to wait and see if there are any injuries. Bevin is the typical rider who goes well in the TDU, he can do a little bit of everything. 2022 was his best climbing season, this is a part of his game that’s come on leaps and bounds. He’ll be in the mix in most stages, the podium is a realistic ambition for him.
Rohan Dennis – didn’t ride the nationals, not defending his TT crown was a bit of a surprise. Does this mean he’s not in form? I have no idea, but it doesn’t give me a good feeling.
Jai Hindley – his main goal for the year is the Tour de France, so he’s unlikely to be in top form in January, but he can’t be written off.
It looks like a straight fight between Ineos and Jayco-AlUla, they seem much stronger than everyone else. I cannot ignore the advantage those who have trained in the southern hemisphere have over the rest, history shows this is massive in this race.
I’ll take a win for Lucas Plapp, hopefully he can monster Corkscrew Road like he did a couple of years ago, and keep an eye out for echelons.