You Can Have A True Tour De France Experience In Adelaide
The Santos Tour Down Under rolls into town next month.
We’ve teamed up with SA Tourism to explore and celebrate unique approaches to life and culture in South Australia.
There’s no denying that the Tour de France is one of the greatest sporting events in the world. Even if you’re not into cycling – and even if you’re not into sports – there’s something truly mesmerising about watching the racers bolt along through the broad, winding landscapes, and stubbornly struggle up the stupidly steep mountain climbs.
Say all of that sounds good, but you don’t want to a) learn French or b) travel all the way to Europe. Well then, my friend, the answer is simple: head to the Santos Tour Down Under.
The Tour Down Under, which snakes its way in six stages in and around Adelaide, is the first event on world cycling’s annual calendar, and it’s the biggest cycling race held south of the equator. It was also the first race outside of Europe to join the UCI WorldTour – which means that you’ll see the same respected international teams and riders racing around Adelaide that you would climbing l’Alpe d’Huez.
Australia may not have the colossal, soul-mutilating mountain ranges of Europe, but the Adelaide race offers a compact and unique challenge for riders. In recent years huge crowds have descended on South Australia to witness the battle for the race leader’s ochre jersey, and the Tour Down Under has evolved into a solid, week-long festival for the city, with a heap of associated events and festivities held around the region.
The race itself is varied and punchy. The 2015 circuit winds through hills, rural, coastal and city street stages, showcasing just about everything that Adelaide has to offer along the way. As such, the Tour Down Under is not only a good opportunity to see some world-class cycling action, but also a pretty good excuse to come and explore Adelaide. And these days there’s plenty to explore.
Glug glug glug
The regional stages of the Tour Down Under wend their way through South Australia’s wine growing regions – including the Barossa and McLaren Vale – meaning that you’ll be able to catch some delicious food and wine at one of many award-winning wineries along with the main event. (Here’s a helpful hint: the magical words “delicious food and wine at an award-winning winery” might just be the carrot you’ll need to coax your less-cycling-interested partner or friends to come along for the trip with you.)
In the opinion of fermented grape juice gluggers from all over, South Australia is home to some of the best wines in the world – at the very least, a worthy adversary to the French drops. From fresh, fruity Rieslings to full bodied Shiraz and everything grape-related in between, there is enough variety to suit any palate. Just make sure you leave plenty of bottle-shaped spaces in your luggage for the trip home.
Don’t forget to bring your own bike! The Bupa Challenge Tour, held on January 23 , allows anyone to cycle a section of the Tour – and with over 6500 people already signed up, it’s going to be massive. The 2015 route is a cracker, stretching from seaside Glenelg all the way to Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills, and riders are able to select one of four start locations along the way to suit their ability. It’s a unique opportunity to ride on the same stage used by the pros, plus you’ll look just like the real deal in your personalised Bupa event jersey.
If you’re more of a casual cycler, the City Council and Bicycle SA rent out bicycles through their Adelaide Free Bikes program. The good news is that this is totally free, and you can pick up bikes from 19 locations in the CBD, as well as seven locations in the suburbs. The better news is that helmets and bike locks are also free to rent with your bikes. But the best news is that the land between Adelaide and the beach is flat as a stingray under a steamroller – meaning that there are no steep climbs, and your legs will remain joyfully lactic acid free.
Life’s an ocean
It is a 99% guarantee that it will be hot hot hot in Adelaide during the Tour’s mid-January schedule, but luckily it is a 100% guarantee that the ocean is cool and close by. Trams from the CBD run directly down to Glenelg, which is home to one of the city’s most popular beaches and seaside café strips, as well as being the starting line for stage four of the Tour. Here, Adelaide’s advantage as a location for the Tour Down Under really shows: you can travel between the beach and the city in a half hour, and then head out to the wine regions within another hour.
Live big in the small town
All of that watching people working hard on their bikes can be exhausting work – but luckily you’ll have no problems finding refreshing beverages and delicious food to assist in your recovery. In just the last few years, Adelaide city has transformed dramatically. The recent passage of small venue legislation combined with a revived entrepreneurial spirit has led to a whole heap of new cool little bars, restaurants and cafes popping up all over the CBD.
If you haven’t visited Adelaide in a while, chances are you’ll be surprised by the transformed West End and now-lively city laneways, and the compact size of the city means you’ll potentially be rubbing shoulders with the athletes themselves. Since the Tour both begins and finishes with CBD circuits, you’ll have plenty of excuses to explore the best that Adelaide has to offer. As they say in France, bon appétit!
(Lead image: Sue Hixson/Flickr)
South Australia is home to long summers, stunning beaches and award-winning wine, events and festivals. It’s the gateway to the Barossa, Flinders Ranges and Outback and Kangaroo Island. For more info, click here.