Fresh Brew: Season Starts Early Down Under
- by Chris Brewer

- Official race web site: www.tourdownunder.com.au

Team Astana Riders:
Koen de Kort (NED)
Ren Haselbacher (AUT)
Benoit Joachim (LUX)
Aaron Kemps (AUS)
Julien Mazet (FRA)
Steve Morabito (SWI)
Chechu Rubiera (SPA)
Director: Sean Yates

Greetings, all! While it's certainly good to be back in the proverbial saddle here with Team Astana, it's definitely very odd to be telling you about a ProTour race in mid-January. Yes, we've seen the big boys head over to Qatar but that was always viewed more as a spectacle / training race than truly serious competition. The same can not be said about the Tour Down Under, now in its 10th edition, as it is granted ProTour status, the first race to gain such status outside of Europe.

Looking at the profiles of this six stage event it certainly looks on paper to suit the quick men versus the other specialist riders. Things get started in an unusual way courtesy of a very short 50km criterium, "The Down Under Classic." One heckuva warm up as last year's stage was finished in 1'03" with an average speed of 48 kmh / 30 mph! While there's plenty of up-and-down work to be done throughout the race, there are no epic climbs nor time trials to really weed things out, so time bonuses and stage wins will be the keys to overall victory. And of course while those above the equator are looking for warmth indoors, summertime temperatures in south Australia await the riders with average readings in the mid 20sC / upper 70sF and possibly higher.

Seven of the boys in blue will join assistant director Sean Yates to debut not only their racing form in the team's first 2008 appearance, but also the new team kit when they take to the line this Sunday. Long-time Tour de France veteran "Chechu" Rubiera gets the #1 spot for the team, but I wouldn't be looking for him atop the final podium in Adelaide. "My aim for the team in this race is for the guys to settle in and get to know each other," Yates said from Australia as the team made its final preparations. "We have Aaron, Ren, and Koen who have been in warm climates the whole winter so in theory they should be our best bets for a result. They all seem in good spirits - motivation plays a big part here - and because it is such a fast event the race is often decided early on the first stage, so we will aim to not miss that move."


Aaron Kemps

Ren Haselbacher

Koen de Kort

While it is a ProTour event don't expect all the Big Guns to be in attendance. That said, there are some strong men for sure and of course the Aussies will be looking to rule the roost. Riders to watch: AG2R has a solid history at TdU and brings back defending champion Martin Elmiger. CSC comes with 1999 champ Stuart O'Grady, Silence-Lotto features Robbie McEwen, Rabobank Graem Brown, and Team Australia has former Discovery Channel sprinter Allan Davis. Yates' final word? " Obviously the Australians will be up for it, and in good shape. O'Grady is the home town boy and coming back from his TDF crash. He looks fit, and I reckon he would love to repeat his 99 win. Regardless, we will be trying to get a result of some sort for sure."

- So there you have it, while the rest of the team is hoping for good weather and good training in ABQ, be sure to see how Sean and the boys are doing down under as well! Ciao for now - Cb...

* You can write to Chris Brewer any time at chrisbrewer62@gmail.com

Previous winners of the Tour Down Under:
2007 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2r Prvoyance
2006 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prevoyance
2005 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros
2004 Patrick Jonker (Aus) UniSA
2003 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Ag2R
2002 Michael Rogers (Aus) Australian Institute Of Sport
2001 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
2000 Gilles Maignan (Fra) Ag2r Prevoyance
1999 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole