With its wineries, beaches, history and fantastic places to camp, South Australia is a great place to visit any time of the year, but if you’re a cycling aficionado pack your bike and your camper and head for the Tour Down Under which starts in Adelaide this week.
The largest cycling event in the Southern Hemisphere, the Santos Tour Down Under attracts the biggest names in world cycling who gather in Adelaide to battle in out over a number of stages through the city and surrounding regions.
But it’s not just pro cyclists who have all the fun. The Santos Tour Down Under features a range of associated events, participation rides, music and community celebrations, creating a massive party across South Australia. With long lunches served up trackside, day trips following the race, world-renowned wine regions and street parties, there’s so much to see and do.
Men's and women's road race
Pro cycling at an international level is a fantastic spectator sport and the charming towns around Adelaide through which the race passes go to great lengths to provide a festival atmosphere and make visitors welcome.
The Women’s Road Race starts today (Friday, 12 January) in the charming Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf — Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement — passing through Echunga, Balhannah, Woodside and Lobethal before navigating down the steep Gorge Road and finishing the 93km stage at Campbelltown’s Fox Oval.
Beachside Glenelg is hosting the start of the second stage on Saturday, 13 January — a tough 104km stage with more than 2000m of climbing to finish in the pretty Adelaide Hills town of Stirling.
Sunday’s stage takes the women from the Tour Down Under village in Adelaide towards the coast with the finish after 93km on top of the leg-burning Willunga Hill which will be packed with spectators lining the route.
The beautiful Barossa Valley with its stunning vineyards and delightful eateries everywhere you turn, will host the start of stage one of the men’s race on Tuesday, 16 January, when the peloton tackles three laps of a large loop through Tanunda (144km total). This is a great location to grab your picnic supplies and park yourself under a shady tree to watch the riders zip by.
The 141km stage two starts in Norwood on Wednesday, 17 January, and twists and turns across the Adelaide Hills and includes three passes of a 35km loop that encompasses sprint and stage finish host town Lobethal, along with Kenton Valley, Gumeracha and Cudlee Creek. There’s lots of great vantage points along this route including Fox Creek climb that riders will tackle twice.
Tea Tree Gully hosts the start of Thursday’s stage which will see the riders off on a 145km journey to the Barossa’s eastern edge with climbs and sprints before the Campbelltown finale.
Murray Bridge — about an hour southeast of Adelaide — hosts the start of the 136km stage four to Port Elliot. A neutral loop to begin the stage will see the peloton cross the mighty Murray and show support for locals’ ongoing flood recovery.
On Saturday it’s back to the Fleurieu Peninsula for the penultimate stage: a 129km test starting in Christies Beach, then through Port Noarlunga before heading inland for two ascents of the infamous Willunga Hill.
Sunday’s final stage starts in suburban Unley with a sharp climb to Windy Point, then into the Adelaide Hills for an extended loop through towns including Mylor, Aldgate, Uraidla, Stirling, Crafers and Bridgewater. A first pass of Mt Lofty forms part of this circuit, while the second will see the stage winner and overall champion.
The free City of Adelaide Tour Village in central Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga is a great place to visit during the Tour. Expect music and entertainment for all ages as well as delicious South Australian food and drinks. There’s also plenty on offer for cycling fans who can attend Australia’s largest bike expo, giving you the chance to test the latest gadgets, check out new technology and hear from brand experts. If you’re lucky you might get a glimpse of some of the pro riders and see the team mechanics at work after each stage.
If you’ve packed your own bike to take to Adelaide, there’s plenty of participation events you can take part in whether it be a time trial up the imposing Willunga Hill, the chance for kids to ride a city street circuit route before the professionals, group rides leaving from the City of Adelaide Tour Village or even a quirky car park climb in the CBD.
If you didn’t bring your own bike you can always hire one from a number of companies which rent out conventional and e-bikes.
Across metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia, towns hosting stage starts and finishes get into the festive spirit by hosting street parties. This year they include the Unley Gala, the Glenelg Ice Cream Festival and the Barossa Loop de Loop.
There’ll be plenty of local food, activities for the kids and a buzzing atmosphere at these free celebrations, which unite both local residents and fans visiting from interstate and overseas.
Spectator travel guides
If you’ve not been to the Tour Down Under previously and you’re not sure how to plan your week, head over to the event website where there are travel guides for each stage that will help you navigate each region with interactive maps and places to visit around each race route.
For more information, visit the Tour Down Under official website.