The Barossa Valley was a sea of light blue today as the Tour Down Under and the Bupa Challenge Tour made its way to Tanunda. The Bupa Tour offers an opportunity for cyclists to tackle the same course as the pro’s, and the light blue Bupa jerseys were worn proudly by those riders who made the finish line before the peloton.
Our day started in Williamstown, where the locals had turned out in force to catch the action. The amount of bikes out had to be seen to be believed, with cycle parking at a premium. The bakery that was lucky enough to be on a corner of the race route was flat out serving hungry customers, but what the fans were really waiting for was the riders to arrive.
The helicopter overhead signalled the riders were not far away, and the din of cow bells rang out. The crowd was in for a treat too, with World Champion Philippe Gilbert and local talent Damian Howson the first to come through after breaking away.
The bunch followed not far behind, with the crowd making plenty of noise. Sadly for these fans, the riders would only visit once, so most packed up and either headed home or tried to make it to Tanunda for the finish.
Our plan was to drive to Tanunda for the bunch sprint, so we jumped in the car and chased the riders. All sorts of well set up groups could be seen along the route, but the best had to be the family in the couch on a trailer, complete with giant esky under the shade of a big gum tree.
We took a shortcut to try and get in front of the Tour convoy, but it wasn’t quite enough, as we came out smack bang in the middle of the convoy. We travelled in it for a few kilometres, soaking up the attention as fans waved and cheered from the side of the road, before a motorcycle police offer asked us politely to drop behind.
We hit Angaston and the Tour convoy stopped to hand out freebies to the spectators lining the street, so we went off in search of those pesky cow bells that ring out at every stage. We found the car with a boot load of bells and asked if we could take them all as a community service, but they just gave us 2 and moved on to the next people. At least that’s 2 bells we won’t hear this Tour.
Once the convoy got moving again, we took a little detour to make sure we got into Tanunda with plenty of time, and stopped at the Tanunda bakery, which was right under the 1km to go banner. A little sustenance was purchased, and then it was into the heart of Tanunda to get a good spot for the finish line.
Tanunda was full of bikes and light blue, with Bupa riders all hanging around to watch the conclusion of the stage, but we still managed to secure a great spot just after the finish line. The race commentators announced crash after crash as the riders neared the finish line, but when they were visible it was the Lotto-Belisol train on the front again, and their man Andre Greipel didn’t disappoint, taking out his 13th career Tour Down Under stage victory, a new race record.
The throng of Bupa cyclists then made their way to the presentation stage, with the loudest cheer reserved for the announcement that World Champion Philippe Gilbert and Adelaide’s up and coming Damian Howson sharing the Most Aggressive rider jersey – I did predict that Howson would show his talents at some stage during this Tour!
The Barossa Valley is one of Adelaide’s famous wine districts, so it would be wrong to come this far and not sample a couple. Leaving the presentation, we made our way to Chateau Dorrien, where our hosts poured us a few samples of their tasty fortifieds and gave us a little tour of the gigantic and uniquely themed cellar door.
From there we went to Kaesler and found a group of Bupa riders from Mates @ Work Landscaping. Not only had they ridden in the Bupa Challenge, but they’d ridden penny farthings the entire way – a very impressive effort! They said they’d had an amazing day, and were really enjoying finishing it off tasting some fine wine in the impressive surrounds of the Kaesler cellar door.
A little wine after a busy day chasing cyclists was the perfect way to finish off, and we drove back to Adelaide content and reflecting on what had been a great week, looking forward to the 2 weekend stages that will wrap up the 2013 Tour Down Under.