Australian cyclist Sam Welsford, representing Bora-Hansgrohe, triumphed in the opening stage of the Tour Down Under, marking a victorious start with his new team. The stage, stretching over 144 kilometres in the picturesque Barossa Valley, culminated in a high-octane bunch sprint, where Welsford edged out Phil Bauhaus by a narrow margin to claim his first victory. Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay finished third, closely followed by Australia’s Caleb Ewan in fourth.
Welsford’s victory was the result of a concerted team effort, particularly in the challenging final descent. The peloton navigated three laps of a circuit through Tanunda, featuring three ascents up Mengler’s Hill. The intense heat and demanding course set a testing backdrop for the first WorldTour event of the season.
Reflecting on the race’s demanding conditions, Welsford shared, “It was really hairy down the hill, there were a lot of crashes and near misses. But the boys just kept calm and patient and did a great job for me today.” The race saw several crashes and intense competition on the final descent, underscoring the perilous nature of the course.
Bora-Hansgrohe and Jayco AlUla, Ewan’s team, were instrumental in shaping the race for their sprinters. In the crucial moments leading to the finish, it was the combined effort of Bora-Hansgrohe’s lead-out train and the strategic role played by Dutch rider Danny van Poppel that set the stage for Welsford’s victory.
Ewan, who showed early promise alongside Welsford and Bauhaus, seemed to wane towards the end, possibly due to the impact of a recent illness, leaving Bauhaus to secure a strong finish for Bahrain Victorious.
With this win, Welsford now leads the general classification, holding a slender lead over Bauhaus and Girmay. The stage’s dynamics were shaped by the rapid descent from Menglers Hill, with riders reaching high speeds and jostling for position in the run-up to the finish line. Welsford praised his team for their composure and strategy, leading to his successful sprint finish.
2024 Tour Down Under Men result
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Main photo credit: Getty Images