Today is the last stage of the 2012 Tour Down Under, it’s about to start shortly.
Yesterday’s penultimate stage saw the hilltop finish at Willunga Hill for the first time (previously they always rode back down for a flat finish). I went down there to watch it and had a great day. It might seem like a weird spectator sport since you actually see very little of the race, but as you can see when you watch road races on TV there are always plenty of people who want to get out there. The key is that it isn’t really about following the race, from the position I was in, about 300m from the top of the Willunga Hill climb, we saw the riders pass twice, the second time being the end of the stage. There was commentary played through loudspeakers so we could follow the progress of what was going on in the race (but of course you could do that anywhere with ABC radio), but the real appeal is be close up as the riders pass, cheering them on and to take part in the overall festive atmosphere created by the massed spectators. For us cyclists there is the added attraction of climbing the hill before the race comes through, I’ve been up there quite a few times, but riding through the town with the course marked out and lots of spectators already out as you climbed the hill really makes you feel part of the event and gives you an idea of what the race riders experience.
For today, with the result very close, the weather warming up a bit, and recovering after the 100km+ ride yesterday I’ll opt for the TV viewing option. The top riders are neck and neck and while the atmosphere at the finish line is great, I’ll be happy to watch from home and see every move in the battle for the overall victory.