By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright 2001 AFP
Australian cyclist Stuart O’Grady rates German rider Steffen Wesemann as the big threat in the Tour Down Under starting in Adelaide Tuesday.
Wesemann, who rides for the German Telekom team, has been training in Australia since December 3 to give himself plenty of time to become accustomed to the Australian heat and conditions.
And 1999 race winner O’Grady said the 29-year-old German, who won a stage of last year’s Tour Down Under and finished third overall, was giving nothing away in the lead-up to the six-stage, 757km race.
“As soon as I found out Steffen was coming over this early I spoke to him and said, ‘what are you doing for Christmas?’ … ‘oh, nothing’, ‘what are you doing for New Year’s?’ … ‘oh, nothing’,” O’Grady said.
“He brought his coach and bought a motorbike and every time I saw him he was, ‘yeah, I’m doing 200km per day’.
“I think Steffen will be one of the main guys.”
For his part Wesemann believes he is in good form saying that working with coach Thomas Schediwie and German mountain bike rider Lado Fumic has been ideal winter training.
O’Grady also pointed to Mapei Quick-Step riders Tom Steels and Stefano Zanini as the men to beat in a bunch sprint along with Jeroen Blijlevens, from the Lotto-Adecco team.
O’Grady, riding for French team Credit Agricole, carries the added pressure of expectation as the Tour’s inaugural winner and hometown hero.
The Tour Down Under begins late Tuesday with a 47km street circuit race in the beachside suburb of Glenelg. It then moves from the city’s eastern suburbs to the town of Murray Bridge for the 142km second stage. Stage three is a 165km ride from McLaren Vale to Victor Harbour, south of Adelaide, while stage four winds from the southern suburbs through the Adelaide Hills for 157km. The picturesque wine-growing area of the Barossa Valley is the scene of stage five, a 156km ride before the final day’s racing — 20 laps of a 4.5km course in the heart of Adelaide.