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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. - John Wooden

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Tour Down Under stage one team reports

We'll start with winner Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Four months after concluding the most successful season of his career with a perfectly-timed sprint in Madrid, Elia Viviani picked up where he had left off, scoring another victory – his 68th since turning pro – after producing a fantastic late burst which saw him blitz the Tour Down Under field in the last 150 meters of an opening stage held in extreme heat and windy conditions which prompted the organisers to take out the 3.4km finishing circuit.

“First win of the year for the team, first win for me, it’s a really great day for us. I felt a bit of pressure after the amazing season I had last year, but now I am more relaxed and already looking forward to the next opportunities I’ll get this week here in Australia”, Elia said after his masterclass sprint performance in Port Adelaide, host for the first time in history of a Tour Down Under stage.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step were one of the teams who controlled the four-man breakaway which animated the 129km-long stage that rolled out from North Adelaide, with the likes of Rémi Cavagna, neo-pro Mikkel Honoré and James Knox, whose fair share of work at the head of the peloton helped keep the quartet on a leash before eventually reeling them in. 

Two days after a crash took him out of contention in the closing kilometer of the Down Under Classic, the 29-year-old Viviani showed once again why he was the best sprinter of 2018, a combination of world class bike handling skills, huge confidence, crazy turn of speed and fearless sprinting, coupled with a solid lead-out provided by Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini, propelling him to a convincing victory in a scrappy finish.

Elia Viviani

Viviani takes the stage. Sirotti photo

Elia decided to leave it late in Port Adelaide, where the strong headwind played an important role in the outcome, and charged through the left of the peloton after finding an unreal gap, no wider than his handlebars. The Italian Champion’s daredevil move helped him power past Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) and win stage 1 of the World Tour race by several bike lengths, claiming the ochre jersey in the process.

“We knew it was going to be a headwind, and this made for a difficult and chaotic sprint, but our plan was to wait a little bit before putting me in the best position. All the teams were committed and it wasn’t easy to find some space, but Michael and Saba did a great job, as always. Despite some guys having a few meters on me in the final, I didn’t panic and opened my sprint at the right moment. Once I found that space on the left of the barriers, I felt that I could win”, said the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider, first Italian in 16 years to top the Tour Down Under general classification.

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

As the first UCI WorldTour race of the 2019 season, riders were keen to show the results of their winter training regime on the first official stage of the Tour Down Under. With an attack from the drop of the flag, this group formed the day’s break and controlled much of the day. However, an early catch caused some uncertainty in the bunch, while heavy winds and high summer temperatures sapped the riders’ energy reserves. The late twists and turns as the race neared its end in Port Adelaide saw a chaotic sprint finish where BORA-hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan took eighth position.

The out and back stage saw riders tackle an undulating parcours, shortened slightly to 129km due to the extreme weather conditions, before a predicted sprint finish in Port Adelaide. While the day saw only one King of the Mountain climb, it was just a small part of the day’s 1,851m of climbing, making for a taxing stage. From the drop of the flag a group of four escaped and built up a strong advantage, topping out at more than four minutes, but with 38km remaining, this group was reeled back in earlier than expected. The ferocious heat put an end to any further escape attempts, the racing more relaxed from this point. Preparing for the finish, the BORA-hansgrohe riders took to the front to control the pace and prevent any further breakaways, while also protecting Peter Sagan from the strong winds. In spite of a crash in the feed zone, Lukas Pöstlberger, fought hard on the front in support of his teammate. The final twists and turns made for a chaotic sprint as many riders were caught out of position, making it a scramble for the line. In spite of his efforts, the Slovak National Champion, Peter Sagan, was unable to take the win in the finale, claiming eighth position and looking ahead to the race’s later stages to make an impact.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan was in the mix, but eighth was the day's result. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line
"The first official stage of the Tour Down Under and the 2019 season was fast and it all came down to a quite hectic sprint finish. My result wasn't the best we would have liked but as I say, this is just the beginning of a very long season. I feel in good form and we have more stages ahead to fight." – Peter Sagan

"It was a stage marked by very high temperatures and a very strong pace. As expected, it was decided in a fast bunch sprint. The straight-line final kilometre saw all the sprint teams fighting for victory and Peter was there in the bunch. He wasn't able to get the win but he stayed safe in that hectic finish while the rest of the team worked well. Unfortunately, Lukas Pöstlberger had a crash in the feedzone and although it seems he just suffered superficial wounds, he will undergo some more tests." – Steffen Radochla, Sport Director 

CCC Team sent me this report:

15 January, 2019, Port Adelaide (AUS): Jakub Mareczko opened his season with CCC Team by sprinting to third place on stage one of the Santos Tour Down Under, while Patrick Bevin was rewarded with the most competitive rider award after his day in the breakaway which saw the New Zealander claim five bonus seconds.

Bevin formed part of a four-rider breakaway that went clear in the opening kilometers of the 129-kilometer stage, and quickly established an advantage of four minutes after ten kilometers.

The breakaway, also featuring Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Artyom Zakharov (Astana Pro Team), and Jason Lea (UniSA-Australia), worked well together and managed to maintain a steady advantage of three minutes for the first half of the stage, while temperatures soared well above 40 degrees out on the road.

Bevin took the honors at the first intermediate sprint, scoring three bonus seconds in the process, and followed it up with second place at the second intermediate sprint, for a combined five bonus seconds.

Patrick Bevin

Patrick Bevin was one of the riders who went away early. Sirotti photo 

The sprinters’ teams began to reel the remaining three riders in, at which point Bevin sat up and was absorbed by the bunch approaching the final 40 kilometers, with Storer and Lea following soon after. The race remained relatively controlled in the last 30 kilometers, with no further breakaway attempts, and with 10 kilometers to go, the sprint trains started to form.

Mareczko was surrounded by Francisco Ventoso, Szymon Sajnok, and Łukasz Owsian as they battled to stay at the front of the bunch on the wide run into the finish. At the last corner, Mareczko was positioned well and managed to jump onto the wheel of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step), before sprinting to third place behind Viviani, who took the opening stage and first ochre jersey of the race.

Bevin sits in third place on the General Classification after claiming the five intermediate sprint bonus seconds, and Marezcko close behind in fifth overall with four bonus seconds from his third place at the finish.

Stage 2 sees the peloton tackle a reduced 122-kilometer stage from Norwood to Angaston which another expected bunch sprint.

Patrick Bevin:
“It was definitely our intention to go in the breakaway and pick up some bonus seconds. We talked about it yesterday and if they were going to let a group go away and I could sneak off the front and take some seconds, in a race that is often decided by count back or seconds, then why not take it. So we went out and took them and start the next five stages with a head start. I didn’t find the heat too bad. Up in the hills it wasn’t terrible and because we had a group that was working there was no big effort. We rode hard for a brief period and got a gap, then we went back and forward with the bunch, and when you’re taking water you are not really doing any big acceleration.”

“It was definitely a gamble. You can take five seconds today and lose two minutes in three days’ time. That’s bike racing. We are here to try and win it and to lie down and wait for Willunga, well I’m not going to win it. I’m going to have to fight for every single second and that started at kilometer zero today. I would be happy with a top-five result on the General Classification. I have been in the top ten here before and I think top five in a WorldTour GC is hard to come by.”

Jakub Mareczko:
“The last kilometers were hard because all of the teams were trying to stay at the front. I stayed behind Ventoso, and behind me I had Sajnok, so we tried to stay in front with Owsian, all together. In the last corner, with a bit more than one kilometer to go, Ventoso was in front but I was a bit back so I found the wheel of Viviani when he passed on the left side of the road. I had to brake a bit as two riders in front of me stalled a bit so I preferred to pass on the right side. Viviani held on and I was able to get third place.”

“I am feeling good but the weather was very hot today. I hope it will be a bit cooler in the coming days. It definitely gives me confidence here and we want to take a stage win here. It’s not easy as there are many teams that are trying to stay in front, for the overall or for the stage, so we will keep trying day by day.”

And here's the Tour Down Under report UAE-Team Emirates sent me:

The 2019 season officially starts for UAE Team Emirates with the first stage of the Tour Down Under, 129km without major climbs from North Adelaide to Porte Adelaide. The Emirates jersey was carried to a good placing, just outside the top five. Jasper Philipsen took sixth just behind the pure sprinters, led home by stage winner Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step).

The 20 year-old Belgian received the OK to sprint in the finish after the team worked to cover Diego Ulissi during the day. He made his way through and only found himself closed in on the left side of the road.

“The team worked to protect the classification men then with the line on the horizon, I fought for a good position since I was feeling pretty fresh,” Philipsen (photo Bettini) explained “The sprint started well but ahead of me there was a shifting across the road and I found my path closed against the barriers. I lost some of my speed and the chance to take a top three placing that I thought was in my reach.”

The good start for UAE Team Emirates, above all as a group, was confirmed with the top spot in the team classification. The placings of Ulissi (18th) and Pogačar (19th) helped to achieve that result.

Sports Director Neil Stephens explained, “The priority was to move well as a team and we reached that goal. For the finish, we gave Jasper some space. He moved and read the sprint well.”

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