The Tour Down Under may not have started for real but after Sunday’s taste-tester there was plenty to ponder, muses Anthony Tan in Adelaide.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Yes,
I know, I know, it was the first sprint at the first WorldTour race of
the year – not even, actually, since it was not officially part of the
Tour Down Under race per se. But it still told us plenty.

We
learned that even though a number of the Aussie sprinters had begun
racing at the Bay Cycling Classic two weeks ago, it didn't make a
skerrick of difference Sunday when up against German Juggernaut André
Greipel, who already looked to be in Tour de France-stage-winning form.

We
learned that Matthew Goss isn't in the shape that almost won him the
Tour Down Under last year – Cameron Meyer said as much about his
team-mate at the press conference, the day of the Down Under Classic.

This
means that for GreenEDGE, Meyer and Simon Gerrans are the leaders for
GC, and Robbie McEwen, in 15th spot their best-placed rider Sunday, will
be the team's sprint leader, with Leigh Howard running as back-up. No
doubt, team DS Matthew White has a challenge on his hands, if he's to
fulfil the Australian public's – and their own – expectations for this
race.

We learned that even though Mark Renshaw punctured with
just on a lap to go, the final lead-out combination Rabobank will use
from now on will be Michael Matthews, Graeme Brown, then Renshaw. Today,
I had this confirmed to me by Renshaw himself.

It's worth noting
Marky Mark, after five years using Continental tyres, is now on
Vittoria tubulars. Maybe he's getting used to that, too, because
watching these guys lay it on the line through the corners at 70 clicks
an hour, they must be one with their machines… so grant him a little
more time.

We learned just how important a lead-out man is,
because Greg Henderson is perhaps now the old Mark Renshaw, fulfilling
his duties to absolute perfection Sunday. "Did you see the sprint we
did?" Greipel, smiling, told Cycling Central's Sophie Smith, when she
asked him post-race: 'Do you think you've got the best team possible
around you this season?'

How will this impact Mark Cavendish?
this also makes me think. At Sky, Cav' will win plenty, I'm sure – he
is still the fastest, after all – but I'm not sure if he'll be as
prolific sans Renshaw.

After reading this, he'll probably win 50 races this season…

This
we already knew, but Edvald Boassen Hagen reaffirmed his precocious
talent and versatility. Is there anything this man cannot do? Well,
Grand Tours he can't yet win – but at 24 and the cycling world his
oyster, would you dare tell him he can't attempt such a feat in the
future?

For the next two to three years, however, EBH says he will focus on the Classics.

Especially
ones that include those gnarled, deformed stones the devious organisers
of races such as Flanders and Roubaix make the peloton slog over and
over and over again. It's purely for the masochistic of heart, and the
sadistic of spectator. In other words, perfect for Eddy Bos.

Still,
Boassen Hagen still has much to learn when sprinting; the timing of his
launch is not the best, and in the sprints, he handles his Pinarello as
if it were a wild bull in a Texas rodeo meet.

"He's not a pure
sprinter, he's not the best at finding wheels, hiding from the wind or
being in the right place at the right time," Sean Yates, Team Sky DS at
the TDU, told the Adelaide Advertiser this week. "It's just his enormous capacity as an athlete."

We
learned that UniSA's Steele Von Hoff (is there anyone who cannot get
enough of this name?) and Jonathan Cantwell of Saxo Bank is competitive
against the best. Competitive enough to win? I'll reserve my judgement
for a few more days.

The Tour Down Under proper hasn't even
started but already the signs are there that this season has the
foundations to be a cracker.

To quote Julia Gillard to her political nemesis Tony Abbott in parliament last year: "Bring it on. Bring-it-on!"

Twitter: @anthony_tan