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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

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Tour Down Under Stage One reports

We posted the report from winner Sam Bennett's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

Here's the race organizer's report:

Sam Bennett, the 29-year-old Irish winner of Ziptrak Stage 1 was pushed all the way to the line by the young Belgian sprint sensation, Jasper Philipsen of UAE Team Emirates, but Bennett took the victory by about a bike length and the Wolfpack was celebrating in the early-season… again!

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett (on the right) takes the stage. Sirotti photo

Bennett, the winner of three stages of the Giro d’Italia and two at the Vuelta a España last year (while riding out his contract with BORA-hansgrohe), held his nerve and maintained his top-end speed in pursuit of the fast finish by Philipsen and, metres before the line, surged into the lead, crossing the line first but saving his salute until he was assured that the win was his.

The Irish champion’s jersey was swapped soon after for the ochre colour of race leader. He was also presented with the blue jersey as leader of the Ziptrak Sprint classification.

The victory in Tanunda today is Bennett’s first TDU stage win and although pleased, he remained calm on the podium offering only a few quiet words when asked to explain his race and the emotions associated with becoming the latest sprinter to join the Wolfpack and benefit from the impressive work of lead-out maestros like Michael Morkov. There were several riders on Bennett’s side who were also part of the support cast that set things up neatly for Elia Viviani one year ago, when – as the Italian champion, and part of the Wolfpack (before his move to Cofidis Solutions Credit for 2020) – took the first TDU stage win in 2019.

Bennett essentially replaces Viviani at Deceuninck-Quick-Step in 2020 and immediately he has reaped the rewards of the work done by his team-mates.

“The team has 11 new riders and here today were four new riders,” said Bennett, “and the team still rode the same. I think the experience of the other guys proved to be the difference.

“It wasn’t easy [to slot into the sprint role],” continued Bennett before adding: “But there’s a lot of experience in the team, and they kept that Wolfpack characteristic and it just worked really well.”

Bennett singled out the work of his New Zealand teammate, Shane Archbold, as something that made a winning difference. “The whole team did a fantastic job and then Shane did a monster effort and it made it perfect for Morkov to wind it up because it meant he didn’t have to be exposed before he did his effort.

“Everybody did a fantastic job today.”

The Race:
The 150km opening stage of the 2020 WorldTour began with cooler than usual conditions and a light breeze in the Barossa, a region of South Australia famous for wine production. Riders faced five laps of a 30km circuit with the start and finish in Tanunda, a regular destination in the history of the Santos Tour Down Under.

There was no neutral zone and the race began with a temperature of 20 degrees celsius but as the cloud cleared and sun shone, temperatures rose to almost 30 degrees – hot, but nothing close to the scorching conditions of the TDU one year ago.

With rolling hills early on the circuit, and the first of Ziptrak Sprints coming after just 15km, the peloton stayed together through to the rush for sprint points (and time bonuses) in Angaston.

On the approach to the first Ziptrak Sprint, Team INEOS amassed at the front of the peloton, setting things up for Chris Lawless and the young Brit did his best collect some early time bonuses.

At the line, however, it was a familiar scene for the Santos Tour Down Under, with the two-time champion (2018 and 2019) from Mitchelton-Scott, Daryl Impey, shaving three-seconds off his time by beating Lawless and Cofidis’ GC hope, Nathan Haas, in the sprint.

Almost immediately after the sprint at 15km, a break formed with Joey Rosskopf (CCC) joining forces with three Australian riders: Dylan Sunderland (NTT), Michael Storer (SUN) and Jarrad Drizners of the ever-aggressive UniSA-Australia team.

After collecting his time bonus, Mitchelton-Scott’s Impey stopped to swap bikes with an apparent mechanical issue so he was seen (for some of the stage) on last year’s grey Scott bike, rather than the new-season colours.

The opening laps were ridden at a steady tempo and the advantage of the escapees grew to 3:00 after 50km. This was the maximum gain for the quartet.
Points for the polka-dot Subaru King of the Mountain Jersey were awarded on Breakneck Hill during the second and fourth laps, 46.9km and 106.9km, respectively. It was Drizners who led Rosskopf and Sunderland, over the line.

At the second Ziptrak Sprint, points (and time bonuses) were won by: 1. Drizners 5pts/3 seconds; 2. Sunderland 3pts/2 seconds; 3. Storer 2pts/1 second.

The leading quartet worked well together through to the 93km mark when Rosskopf took advantage of a slight rise and went on the attack. There wasn’t a reaction from the Aussie trio and the American from CCC worked up lead of 25 seconds after a couple of kilometres on his own.

There was a touch of wheels at the 101km mark, with riders from BORA-hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates caught up on the right-hand side of the road. Aleksandr Riabushenko (UAE) suffered most and didn’t remount his bike. He got in the race ambulance, holding his wrist and will attend hospital for examinations this afternoon.

On the approach to Breakneck Hill for the second category-three Subaru King of the Mountain, Rosskopf was alone at the front of the race, while the other escapees were all soaked up by the peloton. Rosskopf had a lead of 1:35 going through Angaston (105km). There was a surge from Drizners and De Vreese (Astana) on the approach to the second KOM; Rosskopf claimed first (3pts) with Drizners second (2pts) and De Vreese third (1pt).

Rosskopf and Drizners were equal on points in the quest for the Subaru King of the Mountain Jersey but Jarrad Drizners got the nod to attend the podium ceremony as he finished the stage ahead of the American from CCC.

Once Rosskopf took the points of the final climb his time in the front was over; he got swallowed up by the bunch at the 114km mark. From there the peloton was bunched through to the finish, with only a handful of riders – including world champion, Mads Pederson, drifting behind the peloton in the closing kilometres.

Meanwhile, Rosskopf’s CCC Team was asked to ensure he was present at the podium to collect the award for the Honda Motorcycles Most Aggressive Rider prize.

“I think it was definitely the work of the team that earned the win today,” said an elated Sam Bennett moments after taking his first victory with the Wolfpack. And he certainly doesn’t take the support for granted. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure coming to Deceuninck-Quick-Step and trying to get that first win.

“The guys did an absolutely fantastic job, kept me in a great position, and then executed the lead-out perfectly. Every one of them played a superb role today.

“I did make one mistake, leaving it too late because it was a fast final,” said the humble winner in Tanunda. “I had trouble getting my wheel back in front but hopefully there’s another win later this week.”

The peloton is down one rider and we wait to find out how Riabushenko was affected by the crash that forced him to abandon. It’s a shame for UAE Team Emirates but that team can also take inspiration from the efforts of Philipsen who was Bennett’s closest rival in the sprint.

The top placings were earned by riders with a considerable reputation for sprinting: Bennett and Philipsen, followed by Erik Baska (BORA-hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation), and Kristoffer Halversen (EF Pro Cycling); but down the results list you’ll see Caleb Ewan’s name in seventh place. Ewan, the winner of the Schwalbe Classic on Sunday, wasn’t able to challenge Bennett today. He lamented his poor positioning but also insists that he’s not done with yet. He’s still feeling confident and believes he can win again this week but it wasn’t to be in Tanunda where the Irishman from the Wolfpack got the last laugh.

Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team had this to say about the stage:

Two-time and defending champion Daryl Impey picked up a handy three bonus seconds on the opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.

Daryl Impey

Daryl Impey at the end of the 2019 Tour Down Under. He's trying to do it again. Sirotti photo

Whilst the day suited the sprinters, and was eventually won by Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Mitchelton-SCOTT took full advantage of the first opportunity to gain an edge in the general classification battle.

Mitchelton-SCOTT controlled the first 15km of the stage to set up Impey for bonus seconds at the first immediate sprint on offer.

Their efforts were rewarded with the South African taking maximum seconds ahead of Chris Lawless (Team Ineos) and Nathan Haas (Cofidis). With their first job completed, they settled back into the bunch for the remainder of the day.
As the intensity backed off after the sprint, a move of four riders formed the day’s breakaway.

The peloton controlled the quartet’s advantage at under three minutes before final survivor Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) was caught just ahead of the bell lap and the race headed for a bunch sprint.

Bennett won the stage ahead of Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) and Erik Baska (BORA-Hansgrohe) with Impey the highest finisher for Mitchelton-SCOTT in 13th.

Daryl Impey:
“Obviously we have to try to get as many seconds as possible, so for the first 15km the guys tried to control it. I think most of the peloton expected it because there wasn’t that many attacks.

“The boys nailed the lead out. I probably expected more to contest for the seconds, but I think we made it so hard that a couple of guys knew they couldn’t move up. 

“I only went early (in the sprint) because Heppy’s (Michael Hepburn) chain dropped, so I had to go. I didn’t know if I was going to hold onto it, but it was all good.”

Matt White – Sport Director:
“Intermediate sprints are where we have won this bike race in the past and we’re not treating this year any different. They are crucial – the biggest margin we’ve won by is 13seconds and we’ve won two on countback. Every second does count.

“Once we got those bonus seconds it was a case of conserving energy for later in the week. 

“Tomorrow is a key day. We’ve had good success in Stirling - we’ve won it a couple of times, Daryl has been very consistent in either trying for himself or leading out Simon Gerrans. It’s a course we know and it’s a crucial day for Daryl’s ambitions overall.”

Here's the report from Team Jumbo-Visma:

The first stage of the Santos Tour Down Under has gone without a hitch for Team Jumbo-Visma. The final was a bit hectic, but all riders of the yellow-black brigade completed the stage safe and sound.

Not too much happened in the one hundred and fifty kilometres long stage through the Barossa valley. The stage was dominated by four breakaway riders. The last rider was caught about 35 kilometres from the finish. At that moment, the sprinter teams took control. Team Jumbo-Visma showed itself in front of the peloton. Irishman Sam Bennett took the win in the streets of Tanunda.

Sports director Addy Engels after the overture: “Timo Roosen almost crashed and went out of position to sprint. Fortunately, our classification riders George Bennett and Chris Harper were well placed. That is the most important thing.”

And here's what Team Sunweb had to say about the TDU's first stage:

The Tour Down Under got underway today with five laps of a circuit; that started and finished in the town of Tanunda. With only one short hill out on course, it looked destined to be a day decided by the sprinters.

From the flag drop there were a few attacks but as the opening intermediate sprint was only 15 kilometres into the stage, some teams were interested in keeping things together to chase bonus seconds. Robert Power was in the mix for the team but fell just short of gaining any time as he crossed the line in fourth place.

Once through the intermediate sprint there was a lull in the peloton and a breakaway of four, that included Michael Storer, was able to establish itself at the head of the race. The peloton kept the group in check with the advantage not allowed to grow out any further than just over two minutes. At the second and final intermediate sprint Storer attempted to catch the others off guard and go early, but was overtaken and had to settle for third place and one bonus second on the line.

Heading into the last 50 kilometres the gap was tumbling and the breakaway split up after some attacks, before everyone was caught and back in the bunch with one lap of the circuit to go. All focus then switched to the expected sprint finish as teams and riders jostled for position in the front third of the peloton.

The team worked well to position Alberto Dainese in the final ten kilometres as the bunch charged towards the line, dropping him off on the wheel of the other sprint trains. On the almost arrow straight road it was a very chaotic finish and the battle for position was fierce. As the sprint opened up Dainese had to check his effort a few times but still produced a strong kick to take tenth place on the day, his first WorldTour top ten.

“There was a big battle in the bunch and I was a bit far back before sprint,” explained Dainese. “I tried to pass at the barriers but I had to brake two times and couldn’t sprint anymore for the top placings.”

“It was a reasonably hard day with quite a bit of wind” continued Storer. “I tried to take bonus seconds for the young riders jersey and for the team too. I didn’t have the plan to follow the attacks when Rosskopf went so I just sat up and waited for the bunch. I enjoyed it in the break today in front of home crowds.”
Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “We wanted to try to get a guy in the break for bonus seconds in the GC battle. Michael slipped away and took one second which was good for us at it has helped us in GC, but we’ve also got a better position in the convoy now. It was clear the peloton didn’t want to let the break get too far away and that the stage would end in a bunch sprint. Asbjørn and Max did good work in sprint, which shows some potential this early in the season. Alberto finishing off in tenth place was promising and shows what we can do in future in terms of sprinting with these guys here.”

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