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Tour Down Under preview

…And ends with the new

D-Day at the TDU comes on Stage 5, 151.5km from McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill. Yes, folks, you heard right: for the first time ever, a summit finish atop an ascent that, more than ever, is set to decide the overall race winner.

Tackled twice, the first will be more of a ‘softening up’ than anything, setting the scene for a fever-pitch assault on the ochre jersey later in the day. Just three kilometers long but with a 7.6 percent average gradient, there is enough of a bite in this climb for the light of legs to angelically dance their way into race leadership.

With a number of past editions decided by a matter of seconds, the sixth and final stage in Adelaide City tends to be anything but a procession.

2011 champion Meyer’s two-second margin over Matthew Goss was the equal second-smallest margin in the race’s history, and just 10 seconds separated the top five overall. (In 2003, Mikel Astarloza and Lennie Kristensen finished on the same time of 17 hours, 17 minutes and 45 seconds; Astarloza was declared the winner on a count-back, having placed better in more stages than his Danish rival.)

Time bonuses, which riders and fans appear to either love (generally, the avant-garde) or hate (invariably, the purists), will once again form part of the overall time equation. Throughout the week, for 1st-3rd at the intermediate sprints, 3-2-1 seconds are awarded, with 10-6-4 seconds for 1st-3rd at the finish, respectively.

In years gone by, such a system has worked in favor of the sprinters, but never has there been a hilltop finish in the race, which may place them out of contention and thus make time bonuses irrelevant.

Realizing life in advertising was nothing like Mad Men and buoyed by the Olympic Games in his Australian hometown of Sydney, Anthony Tan turned his back on a lucrative copywriting career in 2000 in pursuit of something more cerebral. Combining wordsmithing with his experiences as an A-Grade club racer and an underwhelming season competing in Europe, a career as a cycling scribe beckoned… More than a dozen Grand Tours and countless Classics later, it’s where he still is today. He has been a contributor to VeloNews since 2006. In 2010, he won Cycling Australia’s media award for best story. Follow him on Twitter: @anthony_tan

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