Prospect hosted the start of the bikeexchange.com.au 2014 Tour Down Under Stage 2, and the turnout was incredible.
With the start so close to the city, it seemed everyone with an interest in cycling was there, with people lining the barriers at least four deep.
The night before over 18,000 people celebrated at the Tourrific Prospect festival, and there seemed to be almost that many again to cheer the riders as they commenced their journey to Stirling.
After leaving Prospect, the riders headed north and after a few unsuccessful attempts, a group of three managed to form a breakaway, with William Clarke (Drapac), Campbell Flakemore (Uni SA) and Boy Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) escaping from the peloton. It was the second day in a row that Clarke had managed to get in the breakaway.
Van Poppel took the 5 points on offer for the first Adam Internet Sprint into One Tree Hill, with fellow escapees Flakemore and Clarke behind him.
Clarke’s intentions appear to be focused on the King of the Mountain Classification at this year’s Tour, and he took the 10 points on offer in the climb up Seaview Road at Golden Grove from Flakemore and Van Poppel and Adam Hansen, already in the KOM leader’s polka dot jersey, rode off the front of the peloton to grab fourth and two more points.
The course then took the riders through Inglewood, with a large contingent of supporters lining the narrow streets. Corinna and Craig Ward undoubtedly had the best setup, with a custom built deck adorned with Aussie flags on their trailer as they took their son Cooper to his first Tour Down Under.
Then it was time for the riders to face Checker Hill, one of the most iconic climbs in South Australia. We arrived there well before the riders and the hill was already packed, and seeing it in person was rather frightening, I was glad to be in the car and not on the bike. It’s only just over a kilometre long, but the last 600 metres are all over 14% in gradient and it looks nasty.
Perched right under the King of the Mountain banner were 20 members of the North Sydney Cycling Club. Michael Tristam said it was there first visit here an they were thoroughly enjoying it, while Deb Ainslie was excited at being able to ride to stage starts and finishes so easily.
Also lined up waiting for the riders were father and son Lee and Jordan Rains, with Jordan convincing his Dad that if Dad could wear his Orica GreenEDGE jersey, Jordan should be allowed to wear his Buzz Lightyear outfit. The Rains are from Lyndoch and Lee said they’d been out both days so far and really enjoy the Tour visiting their region.
The racing up Checker Hill was serious, with William Clarke again taking maximum points from Flakemore and Van Poppel, and Hansen again jumping out of the peloton to grab the last 2 points on offer. It looks like Hansen and Clarke are both determined to finish the Tour in the polka dot jersey and it should be interesting to see how they tackle the Corkscrew on tomorrow’s stage.
Leaving Checker Hill, it was tough to get into Stirling, as there aren’t many main roads in the Adelaide Hills, so we crept slowly towards the finish line, making it just before the riders commenced the final lap. What we did notice is just how well attended this stage is, driving through Aldgate all you could see were people, and finding a park in Stirling was nearly impossible.
Before the riders made their way to the final loop, there was one more Adam Internet Sprint point in Balhannah, won by Clarke from Van Poppel and Flakemore.
The atmosphere in Stirling was electric and spectators were grabbing every vantage point possible, some athletic young lads had even climbed atop a bus stop to get a good view of the finish.
The breakaway was caught with just under a lap remaining and the crowd were hopeful that the tough uphill finish would see one of the strong local riders grab the stage win.
Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida denied the crowd an Australian win, with his well timed sprint too much for race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEDGE) and fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC).
Gerrans retained the race leader’s ochre jersey with a gap of 7 seconds over Ulissi and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) in third, 11 seconds back.
Hansen and Clarke are tied for the lead of the King of the Mountain Classification on 20 points, with Axel Domont (AG2R) third with 12 points.
Gerrans also leads the Sprint Classification with 31 points, Ulissi in second with 27 points and Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) third with 22 points
Carlos Verona Quintanilla of Omega-Pharma Quickstep leads the Young Rider Classification from Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida) and Julian Alaphilippe (also Omega-Pharma Quickstep) with no time separating any of the top 8 riders in this Classification.
With the race run and won, it was time for the masses to try and make their way home with all the locals roads bumper to bumper and even the Freeway suffering from severe traffic jams.
Upon arriving back in the city, I headed to Victoria Square to check out the Tour Village. It’s just another fantastic initiative run in conjunction with the Tour Down Under, and you can watch the mechanics strip back the riders’ race bikes and prepare them for the next day, grab a massage, test your power output or just grab a drink and relax.