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TDU countdown: Phil Anderson talks racing

Gerrans’ absence more significant than Evans’ presence, Anderson says

Phil Anderson may never have had the chance to race the Tour Down Under, but the first non-European to wear the Tour de France’s yellow jersey regularly makes an appearance at the race and is well versed with the roads of Adelaide and surrounds.

As we countdown to the race, Cyclingnews spoke to Anderson ahead of the WorldTour opener about his expectations for the January 20-25 race.

With Simon Gerrans missing the race due to injury, Anderson gave his thoughts on how he sees Orica-GreenEdge approaching the week without the three-time winner.

“There will be stage wins and opportunities a bit like the opportunity they were looking for the other day [at the Australian nationals],” he said. “They will look to place someone in every break and they won’t be riding strategically for one rider like they have in the past so much. They have a lot of horsepower and they will be looking to animate the race which is different to what they’ve done in the last few years.”

With GreenEdge chasing stage wins rather than overall victory, Richie Porte (Team Sky) or Cadel Evans (BMC) will enter the race as the Australian favourites for the win although Anderson is tipping the emergence of several dark horses.

“The Aussie’s are doing well and all trained up and we saw at the Australian championships on the weekend that a lot of young guys are coming up, Cadel and Richie will be up for it and obviously there are some outsiders there like Haussler and a host of GreenEdge riders there as well in for a spin too,” he said.

Anderson sees Willunga Hill as once again being the decisive GC stage of the race before the final processional stage around an Adelaide city circuit.

“Willunga Hill is an exciting stage that sees the race come down to the second last day and then the final day is always going to suit the sprinters on the streets of Adelaide,” he said of the final two stages. “Up the road to Willunga it comes down to the last time up the climb. It’s no secret where the race is won. Simon Gerrans was training all summer for a 12 minute effort because he knows how long it takes to get from the bottom to the top and it’s all about placing your key riders at the base of the climb for that final time up.”

Breakaways are a common sight at the Tour Down Under but rarely do they make the short distance and upset the peloton. A surprise move up Willunga Hill could be on the cards though as Anderson explains.

“There is all the opportunity for a rider to disturb the peace like Jens Voigt did last year when he was in a break all day and only caught coming into the second last time coming into the climb and then he attacked on the last lap again,” he said. “There will always be a few riders looking to sneak out and that is probably a game that GreenEdge will play.”

Just as Gerrans’ absence will change the complexion of the race, an absent Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will also open up the possibility of a new sprint king emerging Down Under.

“Kittel certainly in the sprints. He’s very strong, very fast and whether he has the top end like Greipel did depends on what his training has been. Kittel won the criterium last year and showed Greipel and Ewan a clean set of wheels. We will have to wait and see as obviously coming from the winter, the riders spend a lot of time in the gym and still have the power but not necessarily the fitness and follow through so if there are any hills too close to the finish it can be difficult for them to come back.”

While Evans is making his last appearance at a stage race in Adelaide, Anderson expects the forced changes to GreenEdge’s squad to have a greater impact on the racing than Evans’ retirement.

“The crowds will certainly come out and see Cadel. I think it’s possibly the fact that GreenEdge don’t have a GC rider will impact on the race more than Cadel being there at this stage.”

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Von Hoff ready to take on the WorldTour sprinters at the Tour Down Under

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) is the standout sprinter at this year’s Tour Down Under but his top billing has done nothing to discouraged those who are planning to take on the German, starting with Sunday’s 51km People’s Choice criterium in Adelaide.

Newly crowned Australian criterium champion Steele von Hoff will ride for the Uni SA-Australia team after earning selection with his title and an impressive ninth place in the Australian road championships.

At the Tour Down Under, new Australian champion Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and von Hoff will be up for the sprints. Other names to watch for include Italians Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek), Belgians Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) and Boris Vallee (Lotto-Soudal), Australians Chris Sutton (Team Sky), Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) and Graeme Brown (Drapac), Dutchman Barry Markus (Lotto NL-Jumbo) and Russian Aleksei Tsatevich (Katusha).

Von Hoff got a major boost in confidence for the Tour Down Under by winning the national criterium title. He was strong tactically as much as he was physically strong and fast. Von Hoff is not short of inspiration and is ready to take on the WorldTour sprinters.

“Sunday is a criterium. It suits me. I like that course,” von Hoff told Cyclingnews.

The Victorian anticipates that the Uni SA-Australia team could be in store for some push and shove from the WorldTour teams for position in the peloton.

“It’s going to be a bit more difficult wearing the Uni SA colours because the WorldTour riders do not like to see us at the front,” von Hoff explained. “So trying to fight for position is going to be a little bit harder. As far as they are concerned we are the small people but I am quite capable of it and will see how we go.”

Making a good impression

For von Hoff, earning a berth in the Uni SA-Australia team has provided him an opportunity to showcase his talents to the WorldTour Teams in Australia. He still hopes to make a return to a WorldTour team. When Cannondale-Garmin did not keep him on after last season, he signed up with the British-based NTFO Continental team. But getting the place he needed on the Uni SA-Australia team for the Tour Down Under and the chance to show the WorldTour teams that he was still worthy of a return to cycling’s top level, was by no means a sure-bet.

Even after he won the Australian criterium championship, von Hoff knew he needed a strong ride in last Sunday’s Australian road championship to get a place on the Uni SA-Australia team for the Tour Down Under. He was grateful for how the race unfolded, with a break staying away to the end, and the pace behind in the peloton being slower than in past years.

“I was pretty stoked about that. It was a little bit easier into the hill this year, just because everyone was watching each other,” von Hoff explained. “I looked and it was 42 seconds slower actually up the climb than the year before. That meant the race was a lot more achievable which suits me perfectly. Then I was able to get a result in the bunch sprint, which managed to get me a job here. So job done.”

However, von Hoff realises too that his eventual fortune in his fourth participation in the Tour Down Under will also be determined by the Uni SA-Australia priorities.

“It is a very good team here …,” he said when asked what he hopes from the race. “Basically [it will be] to try and get up and get good results in the sprint finishes and to try and assist the team wherever I can in the ‘GC’ aspirations and the Under 23 jersey aspirations with the squad. We definitely have a few cards to play.”

Can we expect Uni SA-Australia to employ the traditional race strategy of sports director Dave Sanders and often go on the attack?

“I am not sure. We have not really sat down and had a chat about it yet,” von Hoff said. “We definitely do not want to waste the talent we have by just sending them up the road unnecessarily.
“But I am sure we will be aggressive as always in the Dave Sanders fashion and try and get results that way as well.”