It's heaven for MAMILs and it can't be faulted. Sorry, Melbourne, but Adelaide is home to an event that's damn near perfect, writes Simon Morris.
Africa may be thousands of kilometres to the west, but once a year South Australia is just a vowel and a consonant away from the Serengeti.
The vast hordes of Middle Aged Men in Lycra (MAMILs) who swarm through its valleys are a mammalian migration as spectacular as the wildebeest who pour over the grasslands under the hungry eyes of hilltop lions.
South Australia's hills are for growing grapes rather than predatory stalking, but each January they are witness to a display of snorting nostrils, terror-wide eyes and thumping hearts to rival anything you can see on the African plain.
As you can see from my video below, it's not just MAMILs who get to ride a stage of the Tour Down Under, but their numbers can't fail to impress.
You can spot the gathering begin at almost any Australian airport in the week of the Tour as queues of men pushing large rectangular bike boxes form at oversize baggage.
If this begins to sound like something only for hardcore cyclists let me say right away that having experienced it, it seems almost like the perfect event, for reasons I hope I can make clear.
Vanity stops me wearing lycra, and I've never previously followed cycling as a sport, but as a middle-aged man with bicycle, it wasn't hard to blend in.
On day four of the Tour I found myself among a mass of tomato-red jerseys at Tanunda, in the heart of the Barossa, as 700 of us lined up for the community ride.
We were the 10 per cent who were only riding the shortest section of the route due to be covered by the professionals – a 33-kilometre circuit. Most of the 7000 amateur riders were doing the full 138 kilometres from Adelaide, with some doing intermediate distances.
Tanunda is a pretty, historic town surrounded by some of Australia's most famous vineyards. It's the kind of place you'd go for sophisticated grown-up pleasures: winetasting, leisurely lunches and insight into how ancient European viticulture has shaped the modern Australian landscape.
Why then, you might ask, subject yourself to the slog of a bike ride designed to challenge some of the world's top sportsmen, when so much relaxed indulgence is easily at hand?
This, I think, is where the genius of the event begins to reveal itself.
We were led on our ride by a man whose name rang only the faintest bell with me, but who I now know is regarded as the Don Bradman of cycling, the greatest athlete ever to ride a bicycle: five times Tour de France champion and three times world champion Eddy Merckx.
Trailing behind the legendary 66 year-old Eddy I found myself wondering at the contrast between the sweat and grunt of the ride - especially the dreaded impending Mengler Hill - and the promise of pleasure embodied in the vineyards on every side.
The answer began to dawn on me at the end of the ride.
Video: Wheels and wine - my Tour Down Under
After a fairly gentle warm up over undulating rises, grinding up the big hill and claiming a King of the Mountain hat, we finished up a long straight designed for a final sprint by the professionals a few hours later.
Twenty minutes to draw breath, another five minutes ride, and we were at Peter Lehmann's winery sampling Riesling and Sauvignon for our picnic lunch.
A couple of leisurely bottles later and we returned via Langmeil's Orphan vineyard and its ancient Shiraz vines, all in plenty of time to watch Spanish rider Oscar Freire storm home in a sprint finish to claim the day's race.
Over the next three days we were taken on the Club Tour hospitality circuit by SA Tourism giving us a trackside seat at the stage finishes. But we could, like many, have ridden ourselves with mates to key points along the route and seen as much.
So here's a great sporting event where you're not just a passive consumer crammed into a stadium who can be flogged pies and merchandise. You get to take part, at your own level and on your own terms and you can watch as much or as little as you want, for free (although you do need to pay to register for the community ride and have your bike transported) all while taking in the countryside, history and some of Australia's finest wine and food as you go.
Cycling moreover, is purpose-made for our era of age-defying physical activity - not just among middle-aged men with money to burn on an expensive carbon frame – is increasingly fashionable and is increasingly a part of many people's everyday lives.
Finally, I discovered over the three days that the way race stages are organised allows more access to and interaction with the riders than most other sports.
Put all that together and it's hard to see how you can cram much more zeitgeist into one event. I could try to find something negative to say about it, but wouldn't be sincere. I don't know if the organisation went flawlessly but saw no obvious glitches apart from Adelaide airport struggling to cope with a lot of bike boxes at the end of the event.
If you watch my video you can see others seem to be as impressed as me. If not perfect, then damn near it.
The Tour is a key part of South Australia's pitch as an event state, along with the Festival, its fringe, WOMADelaide, the Guitar Festival and V8.
In the absence of Tour de France winner Cadel Evans or the legendary Lance Armstrong total spectator numbers are a bit down on 2011 (753,000 compared to 782,000) but officials say they are pleased with the result.
South Australia still smarts at the way it lost Formula 1 to Melbourne. But while Victorians quarrel over the cost of staging the Grand Prix, SA Tourism says the 2011 Tour put $43 million into their state's economy. This year's figures won't be available until next month.
Gerry Ryan, backer of victorious Australian team GreenEDGE was indulging in some understandable hyperbole when he told me at the end of the race, that the Tour Down Under is "one of the best kept sporting secrets in Australia."
Exact dates for next year's Tour Down Under have not yet been confirmed, but the event normally begins on the third Tuesday of January.
Simon Morris is Video News Editor of smh.com.au. He travelled as a guest of SA Tourism Commission.