Sunday, 20 January 2013

2013 Begins: Tour Down Under / Tour De San Luis

Finally! It's been a long time coming but now we can put the off-season and it's dark days of doping and Oprah behind us, today we can once again focus on some actual bicycle racing. Things kicked off in Australia today with the Peoples Choice Classic, the Tour Down Under will start officially on Tuesday and Argentinian Stage race the Tour de san Luis has some big name riders hitting the road tomorrow...

Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) repeated his 2012 feat by taking victory in the Peoples Choice Classic (a criterium which acts as a prelude to the Santos Tour Down Under) though it didn't always look like it would end in a sprint as Zak Dempster and Jens Voigt jumped from the bunch and found themselves with a minute lead before Greipels team and Argos-Shimano decided to reel them in. When it came to the finish the Gorilla looked to surge away leaving only Australian Matt Goss managing to cling on to his wheel to bag second place. It's a great start to the season for Greipel who was the mot prolific winner of 2012 but also good to see Goss in the action - it was maybe a disappointing year for Goss last year as he left the Cavendish train and went solo hoping to go toe to toe with the Manxman and bag a few victories but they were thin on the ground. Perhaps 2013 might be a little kinder on Goss - expect to see him at the front of the action over the next week in his home race, he certainly won't want to leave empty handed.

So the Tour Down Under officially gets under way on Tuesday. The race is made up of 6 stages, mostly flat and for the sprinters but this isn't just the 'training camp' it used to be. Sure there are riders who have come to Australia to shed a few more pounds and fine tune their technique but the WorldTour points on here are just as valuable as in any other race and every rider and team will be looking to get some early season points on the board. The general classification should be decided on stage 5, the Queen stage, and more specifically on the 3km 7% Old Willunga Hill. The Inner Ring has a full preview of the race here. Who's riding? Well, a long list of big names for starters! Greipel, Farrar, Kittel, Goss will be amongst the sprinters while riders looking to take overall victory include Philippe Gilbert, Simon Gerrans, Edvald Boasson-Hagen and Thomas de Gendt.

Starting on Monday is Argentina's Tour De San Luis and it's a shame it isn't televised, because the race offers more of a spectacle than the Tour Down Under. With three sprint finishes, three up-hill finished and a time-trial there is something here for everybody, and it's not short of big name riders either: Joaquim Rodriguez, Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, Mark Cavendish, Tejay van Garderen, Thor Hushovd, and Jurgen Van den Broeck will all make the start line though the headline act is undoubtedly Alberto Contador who returns to Argentina looking to get his an early season victory. Contador has expressed a recent interest in riding both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France this year so every stage will count for the Spaniard.

See, some real cycling to talk about, now wasn't that nice....

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