Cycling in the Adelaide Hills at the Tour Down Under

January is the best month to be a road cycling fan in Australia’s southern states. The Bay Crits, Road Nationals, Tour Down Under, Cadel’s Race — it’s a veritable cornucopia of great local racing. And it’s not just the racing that makes these events so enjoyable, it’s the fact that it’s so easy to do some great rides of your own while at these races.

There’s some terrific riding around Buninyong and Ballarat, where the Road Nationals were held a fortnight ago, and as I’ve written several times before, heading over to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under is as much about the riding as it is about the year’s first WorldTour race.

It seems that every cyclist in Australia descends on Adelaide for the week of the TDU, riding out to watch the stages, doing long k’s in the summer sun. Many people only catch fleeting glimpses of the race itself — the TDU is simply an excuse to get over to Adelaide and enjoy the amazing local riding.

Climbing Norton Summit.
Climbing Norton Summit.

Given I was over in Adelaide to cover the race for CyclingTips, I didn’t have as much time as many others did, but I still managed to get out for the odd ride:

Ride #1: Norton Summit time trial

The CyclingTips/Bike Exchange crew was organising a small ride up Norton Summit but with temperatures above 40°C, the turn-out was small. I figured I might as well have a crack at the climb anyway, given I was there, and I quickly paid the price. I blew up after a kilometre of the 5km ascent, learning something I should already have known: it’s simply not possible to go as hard as normal when it’s above 40°C. Ouch.

Click through for the Strava file from this ride. Note that the file is missing a bunch of data — my Garmin didn’t seem to enjoy the heat.

Ride #2: A return to Norton Summit

With a couple hours to kill before heading to cover the race, I headed back out to Norton Summit a day later to climb it again, this time a little more sensibly. I rode a comfortable pace and enjoyed myself.

I descended Coachhouse Drive, the toughest climb in Adelaide, to enjoy the terrific views over the city.

Click through for the Strava file from this ride.

The view over Adelaide from Greenhill Road.
The view over Adelaide from Greenhill Road.

Ride #3: Getting Corkscrewed

On the morning of the stage in which the pros would tackle Corkscrew Road, a couple of CyclingTips colleagues and I went out to tackle the steep 2.5km climb. It was every bit as hard as I remember it to be, but it was satisfying to get to the top. And the Montacute Road descent back into town? Simply stunning.

Click through for the Strava file from this ride.

Ride #4: Up the Old Freeway

With a few hours before we had to head to work, my colleague Dave and I went out to do a nice 40km loop up the old freeway (the longest climb in Adelaide) and then down Greenhill Road (see image above). We ran out of time to go all the way up to the summit of Mt. Lofty, but it was a fun and satisfying ride nonetheless.

Click through for the Strava file from this ride.

With only limited time I didn’t get the chance to explore as much as I would have liked. In fact, all the climbs I did last week were ones I’d already done. But I’m definitely not complaining — riding in Adelaide is always a joy and I love the fact you can set out from the CBD, go and do a solid climb, and then be back in the city within just 40km.

If you’re keen to get out and do some climbing for yourself in the Adelaide Hills, I can recommend the Adelaide Hill Climbs blog, this page at the Tour Down Under website, and this map.

The view from the media car while climbing Willunga Hill. I'm still yet to climb this now-famous climb by bike.
The view from the media car while climbing Willunga Hill. I’m still yet to climb this now-famous climb by bike.

Beyond the riding, the vast majority of my time at the Tour Down Under was spent on the road covering the race, then back at various hotels writing reports and pulling together other pieces of content.

An average day would entail going out for a short ride, then getting to the Tour village at 9am ready to depart in one of the media cars. We’d go to the start, spend about 45 minutes getting interviews and other information about the day ahead, then we’d drive to the finish of each stage, leaving just before the riders.

We’d watch the race on TV, getting out of the media centre every so often to take in the atmosphere and talk to people at the finish. When the stage finished it was a case of getting the interviews and quotes that we needed, then writing up the articles as quickly as possible. Then it was time to drive back to the hotel to put together other articles and so on.

I’d normally be finished all my work for the day after 10pm, making for a very long week of work.

Cadel Evans chats with Gerry Ryan at one of the stage starts.
Cadel Evans chats with Gerry Ryan at one of the stage starts.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to cover a race like the Tour Down Under, or anything else about the trip, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. And be sure to check out the video below!

Video diary

Photo gallery

5 Replies to “Cycling in the Adelaide Hills at the Tour Down Under”

  1. Strange, I thought every cyclist in Australia was in Bright for the Audax classic…wonder how many tried to do both…

    1. Bright was packed with cyclists over the weekend! I didn’t do the Audax, but did 4 peaks – Dinner Plain, Hotham, Falls Creek, Mt Buffalo and saw plenty of others out on the climbs to have a chat to along the way.

  2. Thanks for the insight and different perspective to the TDU from a working media point of view.

    We too went to Adelaide for the TDU and would have to agree that the riding over there was great fun. So much choice and the variety of options so close to the city was a real treat. We did the Mt.Lofty climb and then on to Sterling for the stage finish, a good climb with a bit of variety. The trip back down interspersed with team riders returning to the Hilton after the stage finish was an added highlight. Climbing Norton Summit the next day and going on to the top of the Corkscrew was another solid day of climbing and provided some more fantastic views of Adelaide and the Hills. Seeing the Pros come up that climb was inspiring! Finally, there were two laps of the Willunga Hill finishing circuit, climbed on Friday, the day before the Queen stage of the Tour. What a climb, and to do it twice was a personal challenge that I’m glad I took on. A tough climb but well worth the effort and doing it the day before thousands of people descended on it was a real treat. We had the hill virtually to ourselves, what a buzz!

    The TDU is a great excuse to go riding in and around Adelaide, the hills are a bonus and the variety available is great; something for everyone!

    TDU by bike was a bucket list item for me and I’m happy to have done it and thoroughly enjoyed it; even with all the climbing!

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