Dig out your Lycra – the Santos Tour Down Under is coming to town, and it’s set to be bigger and better than ever before! To get everyone in gear for the largest cycling event in the southern hemisphere, here’s a guide to seven highlights you won’t want to miss (street parties included).
An unbeatable event
The Santos Tour Down Under (TDU) is the largest cycling event in the southern hemisphere and the first on the elite international Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) WorldTour calendar each year. This means the race represents the highest level of international cycling competition and attracts the best cyclists in the world. The greats – both men and women – will once again descend on Adelaide from 12-21 January 2024, to battle it out on roads through the city and surrounding regions in front of massive, cheering crowds.
It’s not just about the pro-racing though. The TDU features a range of related activities, participation rides, community celebrations and live entertainment. Basically, it’s a massive party across South Australia that everyone can enjoy – even people who are a bit wobbly on a bike.
A word from a cycling legend
Santos Tour Down Under Race Director Stuart O’Grady OAM says no other race in the world compares to the “unbeatable” TDU. He should know, since he’s competed in most of them and won twice, including the inaugural race in 1999. Born in Adelaide, this home-grown hero won a gold medal in cycling at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games before going on to compete in the Tour de France 17 times – finishing second overall four times.
Stuart – who designs new TDU race routes each year – says the 2024 routes will test the elite international cyclists like never before.
“South Australian events have been bigger and better than ever this year,” he says. “We look forward to continuing the momentum into 2024 with the Santos Tour Down Under.”
The new race format will see women’s racing held on the first weekend to enable even more South Australians to get out and see elite cyclists in action. This follows 2023’s coup when the TDU became the first women’s race in the southern hemisphere to become a UCI Women’s WorldTour event – the highest level of cycling competition.
The economic impact
The elite level of the TDU race, combined with its huge festival of associated events, means it’s a key economic driver for the state’s tourism industry.
2023 was a bumper one for South Australian tourism, with visitors spending more than ever before. As one of our state’s biggest events, the TDU has contributed to this record spend, with the 2023 event creating 776 full-time jobs and injecting $66.5 million into our economy.
Around 780,000 people attended the 2023 race over its 10 days, with tens of thousands of visitors pouring into Adelaide and regional SA – a boon for businesses along the race routes. In 2024, fans at the TDU will once again be able to enjoy not only cycling, but also South Australia’s food, wine and regional tourism destinations. These include the River Murray communities hit hard by the floods last Christmas.
How to TDU – a guide to the highlights
Amid all the TDU heat and hype it can sometimes be hard knowing where to start. Don’t sweat. We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to the 2024 TDU highlights.
- Men’s and Women’s Road Race
This year, Race Director Stuart O’Grady OAM has designed some especially exciting new routes, featuring huge climbs, beachside sprints and a street circuit. Cycling fans can enjoy a combined 1116 kilometres of action over 10 days through Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Barossa, Adelaide Hills and the Riverland.
It’s all free to watch, and our tip is to bag your viewing spot along the race route at least an hour before the race passes through. That way you can relax and be entertained while you wait for the spectacle, mascots and giveaways of the colourful Tour Parade, which passes through 30 minutes ahead of the riders. Race route details and maps here.
- Go premium!
This one’s for the people who appreciate air-conditioned transport and wine tasting with their TDU spectator experience. The ‘Detours’ and ‘Breakaway Zones’ packages are your ticket to exclusive access and gourmet experiences. With VIP seating and meet-and-greets with cycling legends, these curated packages offer the ultimate blend of race action and premium dining. Get closer to the action, the entertainment and the athletes, exploring one of SA’s wine regions along the way. Premium options and bookings here.
- City of Adelaide Tour Village
The free City of Adelaide Tour Village in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga will once again be the TDU festival hub, with 10 days of free fun. There’ll be panel discussions with riders, the race live streamed on the big screen, and a new ‘recovery zone’ for fans to cool off with ice baths, physio and cryotherapy. There’s also the southern hemisphere’s largest bike expo, plus daily knock-off hour drinks and a whole lot of South Australian food vendors serving up tasty treats. More info and the village events calendar here.
- Participation events
If you really want to feel the rush of the TDU, jump on a bike yourself for the best seat in the house. Participation events in 2024 cater for riders of every age and fitness. For recreational cyclists, there are group rides leaving from the tour village daily.
For the more hardcore Lycra-lovers, there’s the Garmin Willunga Hill Time Trial. This pits riders against the clock on three kilometres of a seriously steep hill climb, famous for its toughness. The new RADL GRVL event, a race partly held on unsealed roads, is another one for the serious athletes. Then there’s the loud, hectic and quirky Oakley Car Park Climb – free to enter and featuring a bar and DJ at the finish. Information about how to join the rides here.
- Street parties
Councils hosting TDU stage starts and finishes have pulled out all the stops for some epic celebrations in 2024. Jetty Road will come alive with the Glenelg Ice Cream Festival. Live music, street theatre and circus performers will create a carnival atmosphere for the Barossa Loop de Loop party at Tanunda, plus Unley Gala is back, baby! This much-loved event will take over King William Road with food, wine, fashion and live entertainment. Last held in 2020 when it attracted 20,000 visitors, the Unley Gala street party is the longest running event associated with the TDU, generating almost $1 million for the local economy. All the parties’ dates and details here.
- UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup
In a first for SA, the 2024 TDU’s festival of events will include a round of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup. More than 300 of the world’s best para-cycling athletes will converge on Adelaide to take part from 13-17 January. For many it’s a vital step on their road to qualify for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games. Fans will be able to cheer on para-cycling athletes as they compete on the 1.35km TDU Adelaide city track before the event moves to The Bend Motorsport Park near Tailem Bend for two days.
More information here.
- Family Day
For families with up-and-coming cycling superstars to entertain, Saturday 13 January is your day. The program of free fun includes the chance for children to learn new cycling skills (and road safety) from experts, make and enjoy delicious bliss balls, meet their cycling heroes, and get their bikes on the track for the Family Day Ride. There’ll also be face painting, balloon artists, prize giveaways and a poster competition to keep the kids entertained all afternoon at the City of Adelaide Tour Village.
More information here.
Visit the Santos Tour Down Under website for all the latest news and information.