Sam Welsford won the first stage of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday, edging Phil Bauhaus by half a length in a bunch sprint. Biniam Germay owas third and Caleb Ewan fourth.
Welsford was riding his first race for his new team Bora-hansgrohe and was set up for the stage win by a brilliant team performance at the end of the 144-kilometer stage which started and finished in the town of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley wine district.
The 140-strong peloton completed three circuits of a 48-kilometer loop through Tanunda which included three climbs up Mengler’s Hill. Conditions were hot and testing for the first World Tour event of the season.
The last climb and fast descent came provided a particular test to teams trying to establish themselves at the front of the peloton and to bring their sprinters forward for the finish. Several riders fell and there was considerable jostling on the final decent.
“It was really hairy down the hill, there were a lot of crashes and near misses,” Welsford said. “But the boys just kept calm and patient and did a great job for me today.”
When riders completed the slight rise and turned into the long straight towards the finish, Ewan, Welsford and Bauhaus all were in strong challenging positions. Bora-hansgrohe was at the front of the lead-out train heading for the finish and Danny van Poppel played key role in setting up the finish for Welsford.
Ewan was next to Welsford early but faded, possibly feeling the effects of a recent illness, while Bauhaus finished strongly for Bahrain Victorious.