For 135km of the 145km first stage of the Tour Down Under, the breakaway took centre stage, leading the peloton from the start of the day. The peloton wasn’t to be denied though, and timing the catch to perfection, BORA-hansgrohe’s time trial specialist, Maciej Bodnar, was instrumental in driving the pace hard to make sure the predicted sprint finish in Lyndoch took place. Fighting hard for position and picking off his rivals, UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took third, coming from ten riders back and narrowly missing the win.
Starting in Port Adelaide, the parcours rose gently for the first section of the stage’s 145km length, taking in the first King of the Mountains points on Humbug Scrub before looping through Lyndoch, where riders would get their first glimpse of the finish on the first of three laps of a finishing circuit. Intermediate sprint points available on two of these laps would inject pace and excitement into the racing, while the sprinters would have a chance to do their research on the finish before trying to claim the win on the opening stage of this UCI WorldTour race.
The Team Tactics
With UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, having taken the win in the sprint in the Adelaide People’s Choice Classic, the flat finish meant another fast finale was likely. Warm weather throughout the day would see riders in a good condition to contest a bunch sprint and while the stage did see riders take on a categorised climb, the remainder of the day was flat and would promote some fast speeds for the sprint trains in the closing kilometres.
An early break created some distance on the peloton, with three men making their way up the road. While the gap was fairly large, the chasing bunch wasn’t worried about making up any time gaps. As the day went on, the break shed riders until only one was remaining, but with BORA-hansgrohe’s Maciej Bodnar driving the pace, a solo win from the lone escapee was unlikely. With exactly 10km remaining, it was all back together and teams began preparing for a bunch sprint, ramping up the speed to more than 60km/h. In a messy sprint that saw a crash on the final bend, Peter Sagan pushed through the bunch, squeezing through to take third position on the line.