What a Santos Tour Down Under we’ve witnessed so far, with Stage 5 providing even more highlights for what’s already been an exciting Tour. It’s pretty hard to mount an argument for a more enthralling Tour Down Under than the 2014 version.
You really do run out of things to say about the crowd and the atmosphere that line the streets for every stage, today no exception as many thousands of spectators crammed into the loop course to catch the action.
As always, Willunga Hill was the most popular spot, with spot imaginable near the finish line taken long before the riders arrived the first time, but the entire circuit seemed even busier than previous years as barbeques were fired up, picnic rugs laid down and early Australia Day celebrations commenced.
And could you ask for a better way to celebrate Australia Day than seeing an Australian win the stage (Richie Porte of Sky Procycling) while two other Australians (Simon Gerrans of Orica GreenEDGE and Cadel Evans of BMC) fought with all they had for the overall win.
Evans appears to be marginally the crowd favourite, but Gerrans has his fair share of supporters, but surely neither set of fans would have predicted that Gerrans would snatch the lead back in the General Classification by just 1 second with only tomorrows stage to go, and that stage unlikely to have any impact on the overall standings
Every year this race seems to get bigger, attracting more coverage, stronger fields and more support out on the course and this years results will do nothing to stop that trend continuing into the future.
The riders love this race as much as the fans, with the novelty of returning to the same hotel room each night in a stage race greatly appreciated, as it allows families to join up with the athletes and also means they don’t have to pack and unpack their belongings each day.
Though there is still a lingering anti-cyclist sentiment amongst some of the everyday populous, the Santos Tour Down Under is definitely bringing more and more interest to the world of professional cycling, and at street level that can only be a good thing as recreational cyclists have been the poor cousin of road users for far too long.
One stage left is all we have, but it’s always a fantastic stage to attend, with a festival like atmosphere and it gives us one last chance to cheer for our heroes and one last to chance to mingle with the riders as our Tour draws to a close. This race does whet the appetite for the cycling season ahead, but nothing compares to actually being out in the thick of the action and I’m already counting down the days until next years race.