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A beginner’s guide to watching the TDU

It’s not just the weather that’s hotting up as the Santos Tour Down Under enters a weekend of racing to decide not only line honours but also who wears the coveted stage jerseys. Here’s what you need to know to look like a pro.

Jan 18, 2023, updated Jan 19, 2023
The Santos Tour Down Under is showcasing the spectacular scenery of South Australia to the world.

The Santos Tour Down Under is showcasing the spectacular scenery of South Australia to the world.

So you’ve been invited out to the Adelaide Hills or McLaren Vale this weekend to take in the Santos Tour Down Under and you don’t know your soigneur from your domestique?

For a sport that looks relatively straightforward – getting to the end as fast as possible – road racing is almost ridiculously confusing.

First up, although there are 20 teams competing in this UCI WorlTour event, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is an individual sport of 139 riders. The stars – the riders who get to salute the crowd at the finish – are usually the only ones mentioned in the news and at this year’s TDU get ready for lots of mentions of legendary Chris Froome, local Rohan Dennis and veteran Simon Yates.

But they ride for Israel Premier Tech, Jumbo-Visma and team Jayco-Alula respectively and have six other riders on their side working hard all day to ensure the team gains enough time and points to win the entire tour overall.

The seven riders lining up for each team this weekend have been hand-picked by their team management from a bigger roster for what they offer on this specific tour – judged by their form, specialty, season goals and, especially down here in Adelaide, their availability.

In the mix there will be grimpeurs (hill climbers), sprinteurs (sprinters), a puncheur (puncher – can make a break), roulleurs (all-rounders) and the important domestiques to protect the GC Rider and supply the team with food and drink. This combination ensures the team can earn as many points as possible by winning sprints and hill climbs through the day while also being able to protect one rider by letting them coast along in the draft of the pack to lead out for the final sprint across the finish line.

So, in essence, everyone is racing for different reasons and prizes and the cumulative outcome of this is gaining enough time bonuses and points for the team to win or for one rider to top the General Classification.

Here’s how it works.

General Classification

The general classification (GC) is the category that tracks overall times for riders in multi-stage races. Each stage will have a stage winner, but the overall winner in the GC is the rider who has the fastest cumulative time across all stages. It is possible to win the GC without winning a stage. GC riders are usually the team’s nominated lead rider because they have extra power and stamina to hold onto the climbers and punch away near a finish.

Santos Leader’s Jersey

This is worn by the GC leader – the rider with the fastest cumulative time – at the end of each stage. Once the tour is a few stages in, it might not be the rider who won the stage the previous day. In any case, whoever is wearing this jersey has a target on their back and must fight hard to keep it.

Watch for local cycling legend Rohan Dennis in the ochre jersey today, the Jumbo-Visma rider having blitzed to the stage win in Victor Harbor yesterday.

Ziptrak Sprints

Each of the stages has a sprint section – head to Snapper Point near port Willunga on Saturday to see both sprint contests – in which the teams set up their sprinters a few kilometres down the road to lead them (pull them along in their draft) until launching them a few hundred metres from the sprint line to battle it out for sprint points. The rider who accumulates the most points on stage sprints (worth 3 points each) and the finish (worth 30 points) gets to wear the blue Ziptrak Sprint Jersey on the next stage.

Coming into the weekend, Aussie sprinter Caleb Ewan will be in the blue and will be looking to hold on to the jersey till the end of the tour.

efex King of the Mountain

The distinctive green polka dot jersey – a jersey tradition started at the Tour de France in 1975 – is worn by the rider who accumulates the most points climbing the two ascents on the stage and is crowned King of the Mountain (KoM). On Sunday the KoM vantage point is on the way to Mount Lofty at the 33km and 85km points of the circuit.

Making it a trifecta for the Aussies, Jay Vine will be sporting the polka dots for UAE Teram Emirates today over on the biggest climbs of the tour up Corkscrew.

Zwift Young Rider’s Jersey

It’s exactly what it says it is. The white jersey is worn by the rider under the age of 23 with the best cumulative time in the stage and finally the race. This is an especially important jersey at the TDU because, as the first tour of the season, it is often a rider to watch for the rest of the year wearing the white by the second stage.

American Magnus Sheffield maintains the white jersey today but has French rider Hugo Page hot on his heels.

It all goes to prove that there is more than one way to glory in road cycling. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the individual who crosses the Mount Lofty finish line with the fastest time on Sunday goes down in the history books.

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