Friday, 25 January 2013

Tour Down Under: Queen Stage - Willunga Hill

So far the Australian tour has been it's usual crash riddled self as riders find their feet after the winter break and get used to riding in a fast moving peloton once again, but the first WorldTour race of the year is drawing to it's conclusion and tomorrows queen stage is likely to provide some explosive entertainment and decide the overall winner. Tomorrow will be a battle decided on the slopes of Willunga Hill.
The now infamous climb has moved this race away from the sprinters and firmly into the range of the puncheurs. Leading by five seconds is Geraint Thomas (Sky) - a surprise leader but with some heavy winter training and his desire to shift his 'track weight' and make the step up on the road into a genuine 'contender' he has so far been true to his word, taking victory and the leaders jersey in stunning style on stage 2 of the race.
Trailing just behind though is the also in-form Tom Slagter (Blanco) and many are predicting that he will overhaul Thomas and take victory on Willunga though nothing about this race is proving predictable - original contenders like de Gendt, Simon Gerrans and Phil Gilbert find themselves minutes behind rather than seconds and with Geraint Thomas and Slagter both looking lean and hungry it's certainly going to come down to the wire and should make for an entertaining conclusion to the early-season race which has suffered with a reputation as a 'training camp'.
It will all come down to the double ascent of Willunga Hill. The climb itself is only 3.5km in length but averages a good 7.6% with ramps of around 10% along the way and riders will hit the hill fast on both occasions. It starts steep and ends steep and is quite unrelenting - especially as riders jostle for position and ride flat-out as there is no point trying to take it easy and reserve energy - there just isn't time. The only stage remaining after this is the traditional final crit so unless there is a moment of madness that sees a breakaway stay away then the winner of the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under will be crowned on Willunga Hill.

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