2023 Tour Down Under Prologue – Men

Adelaide 5.5km ITT

The race kicks off with a 5.5km prologue around the streets of Adelaide. This is going to be 7 minutes of utter pain, time to find out who’s been training well over the last couple of months. As we’re all the way down in Australia, the riders will be on their road bikes, which adds a certain “je ne sais pas” to proceedings. 

Route

There are several corners in the short route, but quite a few of these can be taken at speed. After 1.6km there are three tight ones in quick succession, this will be used as a micro-rest for the riders, time to take a few deep breaths before getting back on the power. This is all about who can hold their maximum effort for as long as possible.

Weather

Different forecasts say different things, welcome back to trying to write a preview! The one I’m currently looking at says the wind will decrease throughout the stage, which is good news for the later starters, but the same forecast predicts a 40% chance of rain throughout. The number of corners means that only those on dry roads can compete for the win, we’ll have to wait and see what the weather does.

Contenders

Ethan Hayter – starts as the overwhelming favourite to take home the win. Hayter is exceptional in this discipline, and the short distance is perfect for someone who excels on the track too. The problem could be this is his first race of the season, will he be able to go as deep as usual? At the start of 2022 he was 12 seconds behind Ganna over 7.1km in Provence, a similar performance will likely be enough to take the win. One of his best performances last year was in winning the Romandie prologue over 5.1km, where he beat Rohan Dennis by 4 seconds, that will give him confidence heading into this one.

Magnus Sheffield – last year he was another who impressed in this discipline, his best result was winning the Tour of Denmark TT over 12km. He’s another who’ll like the distance in this stage, he set the world junior individual pursuit record back in 2020, clocking 3:06.447 for 3000m, that’s bloody fast! He spent most of the winter in Europe, aside from popping back over to the US for a couple of weeks, so there are same doubts surrounding him as the other European based riders. 

Luke Plapp – lost his Aussie TT crown last week to Jay Vine, but he did puncture and only lost by 27 seconds. Despite not showing it too much in 2022, Plapp is excellent in this discipline. He’s also one of the few contenders who’s enjoyed training in the sunshine over the last couple of months. He did crash around Christmas time, and couldn’t train for a week, but his performance in winning the Aussie road race answered most of the questions I had. Ten days have passed since that day, Plapp will only continue to grow over the next few weeks, he should be close to his best at this point. 

Rohan Dennis – didn’t defend his Aussie TT title, so I have no idea about his current form. Adelaide is his hometown; he’ll know the route and will have the extra motivation of trying to win in front of his family and friends. I would expect him to be going well, but I’m still unsure as to why he didn’t try and defend his Aussie title, which makes me start to second guess him.

Michael Matthews – normally goes very well in short TTs, he’ll see this as a big opportunity to put himself in a strong position for the ochre jersey. Matthews stayed in Europe over the winter, only returning to Australia a couple of days before the road race. He might not have won the jersey, but given the circumstances, he performed incredibly well, so he starts as one of the men to beat here.

Paddy Bevin – it all depends on how his body responds to crashing on Saturday. If he’s okay, he’ll be challenging for the win.

Jay Vine – he’s the new Aussie TT champion, so he’ll start this race full of confidence. Normally, I would say the distance means he won’t challenge for the win, but Vine can produce the incredible, so I expect him to be up there.

Prediction Time

The number of corners swings the advantage over to those with the fastest acceleration, so I’ll say it’s a fight between Hayter and Bling with Ethan Hayter taking the opening stage by a second or two.

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