As has become customary, 2013 will kick off in Australia with the Santos Tour Down Under and as we gather around the television to watch with the curtains drawn and central heating on the pros will get their first outing in short sleeves under scorching Aussie sunshine. The riders will be glad to get their cycling tan-lines back but they shouldn't get used to it just yet, as many who ride here will fly straight back for in preparation for the chillier Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and the start of the cobbled classics where under armour, gillets and rain jackets will be order of the day.
The Tour Down Under will be in it's fifteenth year and the 6 day-long race is expected to again produce a large crowd of eager, desperate fans who have been cold turkey for longer than they care to remember. Riders too will be looking forward to getting their feet clipped back in and the pedals turning, some will likely feel relief - contracts are hard to come by these days and some are still looking for theirs. The UCI is also late in announcing exactly which teams will be getting a WorldTour licence next year - not ideal as riders return to training still wondering where and when they will be racing next years.
I will preview the race nearer the time, though for now lets just say this isn't every fans favourite race. Often its perceived as a dull affair, a bit of a pre-season jolly but if the racing isn't great you are unlikely to find any fans who are not grateful for it's presence. It's been a long wait for racing and for those who pick fault with the Tour Down Under, they will of course tune in anyway. It would be nice if the season started with the excitement of Paris-Roubaix and finished with it, but patience is a virtue and it's all about the build up. The race is of course, for riders, an important stepping stone on the way to victory in the spring classics - it might look innocuous enough but there are some serious miles being ridden here.
46 Days. It sounds nothing much, finally. The nights are still growing darker but at least now there is a spark, a light at the end of the tunnel and with each day its growing brighter. Actually, it's not been that bad, the time has passed quickly thanks to the USADA, Lance Armstrong, the UCI and a call for change - its kept us busy, kept us sane even if we have grown tired of the dope talk. In previous years there has been nothing much of note from October to January, but lets not dwell. In 46 days time it will be like the off-season never happened. Amen to that.