The Tour Down Under took in the iconic Corkscrew Road climb for the very first time today, and what an addition to the race it was.
Thousands of spectators, many of whom tackled the arduous climb on bike to get there, packed the hill and if it weren’t for the heat, you could have been mistaken for thinking you were at a stage of the Tour de France.
With the Skoda King of the Mountain checkpoint situated at the summit of Corkscrew Road, and just a 7km downhill sprint to the finish, this climb encouraged attacking riding as those riders who made the top first were likely to gain some time over the rest of the field. The fans sensed they were in for something special and they wouldn’t leave disappointed.
Walking amongst the fans was an experience, with some very unusual sights keeping people entertained. It was hard to work out how had donned the strangest get up, but it was definitely between one guy in a green skeleton bodysuit riding a tandem to the top and the man running up and down the hill in a Teletubby outfit.
We found a group of enthusiastic (and also shirtless) fans who had come from California just for the Tour Down Under. They couldn’t believe the amount of people that turned out to watch the race, assuming they’d have the hill to themselves, but said they love Adelaide’s weather and country side as it reminded them very much of California.
One thing you notice when standing with the faithful supporters awaiting the riders is that chinese whispers are alive and well in a situation like this. Before the peloton arrived, we’d heard rumours that Uni SA had a rider in a solo breakaway, that Andy Schleck had dropped the peloton at the start of the climb and that Simon Gerrans had been dropped. None of these stories turned out to be true, but it was fascinating to see them spread like wildfire.
The excitement when the helicopter was visible overhead was tangible, and as the crowd got a glimpse of the peloton at the bottom of the hill the noise was deafening. A Radioshack rider (George Bennett) could be seen riding away off the front, and though there is no way anyone could confidently say who it was, the Andy Schleck has broken away rumour got a second airing.
As the riders finally reached the crowd near the summit, the din of cow bells, whistles, cheering and clapping drowned out the noise of the helicopters and police sirens and cries of “it’s Thomas” rang out, as Geraint Thomas reached the fans first after he rode solo off the front of the bunch.
The cheering continued as wave after wave of riders came through, each group treated to the same level of enthusiasm as those that had been through already received, and after the Green Lantern had come through to signify the last rider had gone past, the road was jam packed with cyclists and pedestrians trying to to make their way off the hill. Unfortunately the crash suffered by some of the peloton on the descent after the summit forced Police to close the down track of Montacute Road, forcing a bottleneck as cars and bikes tried to share one very narrow lane up Montacute Road. Despite the chaos, security, police and the general public were all cooperative and in good spirits, a sure sign that the Corkscrew Road climb had been a success.
With no hope of making the sprint finish in Rostrevor, many fans decided to head to the Unley Gourmet Gala in Hyde Park. The Gourmet Gala is one of the many fantastic events that hang off the Tour Down Under, and this year’s edition contained the Unley Criterium bike race, 4 stages set up with live music and cooking demonstrations, fashion parades and a heap of restaurants offering formal or take away dining. There were also plenty of vignerons and brewers on hand to keep diners hydrated. On a balmy Adelaide night it was no surprise to see a massive crowd turn out and enjoy themselves, as the party atmosphere generated by the Tour continues to roll on.