The 2024 Santos Tour Down Under will be the 24th start of Australia’s greatest cycling race, the event that brings all the teams and some of the biggest names of the WorldTour all the way south to the Land Down Under.
2024 also marks the 20th anniversary of former pro rider Pat Jonker’s win of the iconic race. A two-time Olympian, five-time Tour de France veteran and a rider who raced all over the world, Pat closed his impressive career with a stunning and memorable win on his home roads of Adelaide.
This year’s Men’s Tour will end with the grand finale of a Willunga Hill / Mt Lofty Stage 5 / Stage 6 double. The Women’s race will also head to Willunga for the very first time. And for the many tens of thousands of riders heading to McLaren Vale for the Willunga stages – Pat’s pick as the highlight – they’ll be heading there via one of Adelaide’s most impressive pieces of cycling infrastructure, the Patrick Jonker Veloway.
We caught up with Pat this week, here’s what he had to say.
BA: Thanks for speaking with us Pat. The 2024 Santos Tour Down Under marks the 20th anniversary of your impressive overall win of Australia’s greatest cycling race. Can you share your thoughts about this milestone?
Patrick Jonker: Yes, Nat. Two decades feel like a century ago. Time certainly flies. The WorldTour promotion was a significant step for the TDU, and cycling has massively evolved in those two decades. The technology, introduction of power meters, disc brakes, the kit we are now riding, shoe and pedal tech, advances in hydration & nutrition. It’s more professional now, but maybe not as much fun as it was for the riders.
BA: As someone closely involved with each TDU edition, what major changes have you witnessed over the years?
Patrick Jonker: The TDU, under Mike Turtur, was professional from day one and remains one of the world’s most well-organised bike races. It’s a race all Europeans want to compete in, making it one of the highest-regarded races globally. Pro riders love it, the central base of Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel (therefore no daily flights or long transits), makes it very civilised, social and enjoyable bike racing.
BA: Besides contributing bike reviews and features for Bicycling Australia, what other work are you doing these days?
Patrick Jonker: I work for Santini clothing and Bikesportz as a sales rep. I also lead tours to the Giro and Tour de France each year with Bike Style Tours. And I top off each year with a two-week trip to the world’s highest roads in the Himalayas.
BA: You certainly keep busy, and those two decades seem to have flown by super quickly!
Patrick Jonker: Absolutely. In your early 20s as a cyclist, you think you have all the time in the world to reach the top. But injuries and crashes can abruptly end a career. My tip is ‘When you sense and opportunity break down the door and take it. Time flies, don’t wait’.
BA: You’re known for making the most out of life and following your dreams. Tell us more about your overseas trips and tours.
Patrick Jonker: I lead small groups on MTB adventures in the Himalayas which has been a passion project over many years. It’s an awe-inspiring journey that sells out each year. Profits go to local Himalayan guides and porters – it’s a very rewarding trip.
BA: To this year’s TDU, who are the riders to watch, and what’s your standout stage for both the Women’s and Men’s races?
Patrick Jonker: Grace Brown is a favourite for the Women’s TDU double, and I like Chris Harper for the Men’s race, particularly on the challenging Willunga Hill stage.
BA: You’ll be roadside during the TDU. How can people follow you?
Patrick Jonker: I’ll be working with Bicycling Australia, uploading content on the socials @patjonker and @bicyclingaustralia.
BA: Any closing comments?
Patrick Jonker: Good luck to everyone spectating, riding and racing. Enjoy the spectacle of the 24th Tour Down Under, and follow us on socials … it sure is going to be a huge celebration of all things cycling.