The 2014 Australian Tour Down Under boasts one of its most impressive fields to date. As the first major hit out in the UCI world road tour series, many riders are taking the opportunity to escape the cold European winter and get some miles into the legs. This year will see some of Australia’s finest riders battle it out in early preparation for the first grand tour of the season, with both Cadel Evans and Richie Porte focusing on the GC at the Giro d’Italia.
Here’s a look at some of the riders to watch in this year’s Santos Tour Down Under.Cadel Evans:
Cadel needs little introduction and will lead his BMC racing team to this year’s Tour Down Under and the Giro d’Italia. After a successful career in Mountain biking, Evans turned to the road full-time in 2001. Cadel became the first Australian to win the UCI ProTour in 2007 and the UCI Road World Championships in 2009. Cadel won the Tour de France in 2011 after he finished second in the 2007 and 2008. At age 34, he was among the five oldest winners in the race’s history. Along with American Greg LeMond, he is one of only two non-Europeans to “officially” win the Tour. Cadel finished on the podium in the 2013 Giro and will be keen to improve on last year’s effort, finishing with the Maglia Rosa on his back.
2013 saw this young German rider leap onto the world stage. A sensational young talent, Kittel won the first stage of the Tour of Oman in a massive sprint, his first success of the season. Then in the Tour de France, Kittel found incredible success as a sprinter. He finished first in the Tour’s first stage in Corsica and took the inaugural Maillot jaune of the 100th Tour de France. He lost the yellow jersey the next day, however, to Jan Bakelants of RadioShack-Leopard. Kittel then went on to win stages 10 and 12 before his grand finale in Paris. On the final stage, Kittel triumphed again on the Champs-Élysées; ending the four-year winning streak of rider Mark Cavendish. Kittel finished 4th in the Green Jersey points standings.Andre Greipel:
The Gorilla returns. André Greipel returns for another stint in Adelaide, leading team Lotto-Belisol. Greipel is a pure sprinter who is one of the most successful cyclists of the modern era. Andre’s major successes in Grand Tours include 5 stages at the Tour de France, 4 stages at the Vuelta a España and 2 stages at the Giro d’Italia. The Gorilla has also prevailed in the classic Paris–Bourges and won the overall classification of the Tour Down Under twice, in 2008 and 2010. His rivalry with Mark Cavendish is well documented and he is sure to be in the front of the pack at the business end of the Tour.
Frank rides for Trek Factory Racing from Luxembourg and is the older brother of 2010 Tour de France winner, Andy. A renowned mountain goat, Frank’s greatest achievements include winning a stage on the famous Alpe d’Huez in the 2006 Tour de France. He also won the 2006 edition of the Amstel Gold Race classic, and an alpine stage of the 2009 Tour de France, finishing in the sole company of his brother Andy and Alberto Contador. On 30 January 2013, Schleck was suspended for 12 months following a positive test for xipamide at the 2012 Tour de France. The ban, backdated to the date of the positive test, expired on 13 July 2013.Jan Bakelants:
Jan Bakelants is a Belgian rider and the new face at Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Jan previously rode for RadioShack-Leopard, where he had considerable success. His major wins include the 2008 Tour de l’Avenir and stage 2 of the 2013 Tour de France, claiming the yellow jersey. Supported by new team mate Mark Renshaw, he is well suited to the course of this year’s Tour Down Under.Mark Renshaw:
Aussie Mark Renshaw is a sprinter who rides for Omega Parma-Quick Step. Widely regarded as the world’s best lead out man, Mark is a rider of immense talent and strength. His most notable wins are the general classification of the 2011 Tour of Qatar and the one-day race Clásica de Almería in 2013. Having been re-united with Mark Cavendish, this will undoubtedly be the beginning of a massive season for Mark.
The Tassie Devil, Richie Porte will begin his Giro d’Italia preparation at this year’s Tour Down Under. In his first year at ProTour level, Porte won the young rider classification at the 2010 Giro d’Italia and featured prominently in the general classification at several stage races. Porte moved to Team Sky for the 2012 season, and quickly made an impact, winning the Volta ao Algarve. In 2013, Porte achieved his biggest victory to date, winning two stages and the overall classification in the 2013 Paris–Nice and featured prominently in the Tour de France, often seen dragging Chris Froome up the hefty slopes of the French Alps.Geraint Thomas:
Geraint Thomas, rides for Team Sky. A track cycling world champion and Olympic gold medalist in the team pursuit, Thomas has also enjoyed success on the road, winning the 2004 Junior Paris–Roubaix, and the 2010 British National Road Race Championships. Geraint returns to Adelaide after a successful 2013 Tour Down under. He won Stage 2 after attacking on the Corkscrew Climb, and outsprinting three riders that had joined him on the descent. Thomas held the race lead until the penultimate stage, where he cracked on Old Willunga Hill and dropped to fifth overall. However, he fought back on the final stage in Adelaide, taking enough bonus seconds to rise to third place overall.
Shut Up Legs. Jens Voigt is an entertaining German rider for Trek Factory Racing. Voigt is known for his propensity to attack, and for his positive racing attitude. He is capable of repeated attacking, holding a high tempo, and breaking away from the peloton. He has worn the yellow jersey of the Tour de France twice. In cycling folklore, Jens is considered as one of the best rouleur riders in the modern era. Voigt is very popular with cycling fans, both for his aggressive riding style and his often hilarious interviews. Jens has announced his retirement from professional cycling at the end of 2014 and this will be the last time he graces Aussie shores as a rider.Thomas Voeckler:
Thomas Voeckler is a French rider who races for Team Europcar. Voeckler is a national hero in France, due to his recent strong performances in the Tour de France. Voeckler held the maillot jaune for nine days in the 2011 Tour de France. He has also featured strongly in many of the European Spring Classics. He is famed for his grit and determination and often animated face pulling during epic climbs. Voeckler is often seen grimacing in pain or sticking out his tongue during difficult ascents.
Another home grown Aussie rider, Gerrans is an all-rounder who rides for Orica-GreenEDGE. Gerrans is the 2012 Australian National Road Race Champion. His biggest triumphs include twice winning the Tour Down Under and the 2012 Milan – San Remo. Simon also won the 2012 Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and a stage in all three Grand Tours. In the 2013 Tour de France, Gerrans famously claimed the yellow jersey on Stage 3 in Corsica by winning the sprint finish and was also part of the winning team in the Stage 4 team time trial in Nice. In the process Gerrans became only the 6th Australian cyclist to ever wear the prestigious riders Yellow Jersey.
Haydn Thomas: email@example.com