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TDU Time! Cycling Kicks Off 2015

Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

At what point does it make intuitive sense to human beings that winter in the northern hemisphere is summer in the south? I get that you can travel back and forth nowadays and experience it first hand, but does it ever stop being weird? Southern hemispherites might well say the same thing, though as it happens there are far fewer people down below/up there living in places where the climate varies like it does in much of the Eurasian and North American land masses. You just don't get as many antipodeans living in deep winter and wondering what the hell people are doing wearing shorts in London. They exist, but mostly in New Zealand and Patagonia, and I'm not sure how much people in such paradisical locations care about what they're missing.

Anyway, it's time to put our collective Northern Hemispheric suspicions aside and embrace the fact that the cycling world is embracing the fact that the cycling season is about to get underway. Yep, it's time for the Santos Tour Down Under, featuring a long list of very fit, tanned Australians and a shorter list of European sprinters who can't wait for their own seasons to get into gear. The Tour de France is still half a year away, but there are pedals to be turned in anger, and throngs of Australians standing by, ready to cheer it on.

Here at the Cafe, our "please don't make me watch cyclocross" contingent will be glad to know that it's safe to come out again, starting tomorrow, or more like Sunday. The TDU begins with a short evening romp around Adelaide, the People's Choice Classic, which isn't really part of the TDU in terms of the general classification, and doesn't tend to produce time gaps anyway. But it's on Sunday -- the time difference is gouge-your-eyes-out-complicated -- and from there the road cycling world won't rest again until October.

What Do I Need to Know About the Course?

A few things. The route changes pretty substantially every year, and this is no exception. Stage 3 is a new event, finishing at Torrens Hill in Paracombe, with a power climb similar to the Corkscrew climb won in Campbelltown by Cadel Evans last year, minus the descent. Considering Simon Gerrans won last year's overall by a single second over Evans, it's safe to say the stage battles will be fought fiercely everywhere there's a chance to get a gap.

TDU Stage 3

As usual, the main chance will be on the penultimate stage to Willunga Hill. No big differences there.

I could pick over a few more course maps, but the reality is that you can expect sprints most days.

Who Do I Care About?

Easy one: Cadel Evans. Cuddles is making the STDU his farewell race, and his close-knit BMC team will be emptying the playbook to get him the title. Of course, that would be the overall title, and this early on stage wins will probably be a bit more exciting than the Ochre Jersey. But then again, the pathway to Ochre probably goes thru stage victories, or close finishes, so yeah.

Evans is said to be in good shape -- reverse sandbagging? -- and is untethered to any later goals, an ideal way to approach this race. But of course there are no shortage of Australians making this an equal priority, with Richie Porte tabbed as another big favorite. 2014 winner Simon Gerrans busted his collarbone in a MTB crash, leaving team stewardship for home favorites Orica-GreenEdge in the hands of South African Daryl Impey. That opens the door to guys like Michael Rogers of Tinkoff Saxo to challenge Evans, in a battle of the aging titans.

Heinrich Haussler of IAM Cycling won the Australian national road race last weekend, indicating solid form from a guy whose abilities are well suited to most of this race. Jack Bobridge might be heard from as well, based on his finish last week. Graeme Brown returns to the big time for Drapac Cycling. Mark Renshaw will appear for Etixx.

Foreigners of interest include Cadrius (Blel Kadri), Lars Boom (in new pajamas), Marcel Kittel (world's fastest man), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek), and whichever surprising starter emerges out of nowhere.