TANUNDA, Australia (CT) – Fast-finishing Irishman Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) has taken out the first stage of the 2020 Tour Down Under after a fast and furious bunch gallop decided the victor in the first race of the 2020 UCI WorldTour.
The win represents Bennett's first with new team Deceunink-Quickstep after switching across from Bora-Hansgrohe at the end of 2019. The Irishman launched his sprint with 200m to go, closing down a fast-finishing Jasper Pillipsen (Team UAE-Emirates) to take line honours by half a bike length. Former teammate Eric Baska (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the podium, narrowly edging Elia Vivian (Cofidis) on the line for third place on the day. Bennett heads into Stage Two with the Ochre Jersey firmly planted on his shoulders, while Jarrad Drizners (Uni-SA) holds the KOM jersey on countback after his efforts in the days break. Jasper Phillipsen (Team UAE-Emirates) holds onto the young riders jersey while Bennett also holds the Sprint jersey after taking the days line honours.
How It Unfolded
Stage one (150km) took in five 30km loops around the idyllic town of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley with the peloton contesting two sprint points and two KOM sections over the course of the stage.
It was a sedate start as the peloton rolled out of Tanunda. The race was lifted it’s intensity towards the first intermediate sprint point in Angaston, with the first bonus seconds of this year’s tour up for grabs. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) showed his intent for this year’s race and went long to take the first sprint points of the tour, and importantly three bonus seconds in the general classification. Christopher Lawless (Team Ineos) followed a length or so back, with local hope Nathan Haas (Cofidis) rounding out the points in third.
Soon after the first intermediate sprint point, a break consisting of Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Joey Rosskopf (CCC), Dylan Sunderland (NTT Data), and Jarrod Drizners (UniSA) skipped away with 134km to run. By the close of the first lap, their advantage was out three minutes and 54 seconds as the peloton initially seemed content to minimise any further time gaps in the GC and let the break sit out front and mop up the remaining sprint and KOM points.
As soon as the gap crested 4 minutes, however, the peloton reeled the escapes back in to two minutes, keeping them on a tight leash for the remainder of the day.
Drizners showed his sprinting prowess to take the second sprint point of the day, easily outsprinting his breakaway companions. The breakaway continued to ride valiantly, attempting to secure a result for their efforts, however as the break dipped under 1 minute, Rosskopf attacked his breakaway companions while the Australian trio of Storer, Drizners and Sunderland sat up. However, after a short lull, Drizners took off in pursuit of Rosskopf after it was confirmed he’d hold the KOM jersey on a countback at the end of the day, so long as he finished second on the final classified KOM of the day with 43km to go. Drizners was caught up the peloton just before the KOM, however, a lead-out from his UniSA teammate Kelland O'Brien allowed Drizners to frantically sprint for second place and secure the polka dot jersey.
Rosskopf cut a lone figure, dangling out the front of the peloton for a further eight kilometres before the main bunch absorbed the American with 35km to go, setting up what was set to be a fast final lap. Once the break was absorbed Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took control of the peloton, leading the train, with the entirety of the Lotto Soudal squad including Caleb Ewan fanned out behind the strong Belgian.
As the kilometres ticked down under 10km the peloton speed edged up to over 60kph as the sprint trains jostled for position. Adding to the madness, the teams of the GC hopefuls were also jostling for the front of the bunch to safely deliver their team leaders to the safety of the 3KM mark. From here the GC contenders and their lieutenants stepped aside to allow the fast men of the peloton to contest the first bunch gallop of the 2020 season.
On the dead straight run in to the line the peloton blasted through the flamme rouge with Deceuninck quickstep jostling to the front of the frantic pack. From here, Bennet launched his sprint with 200m to go, Beating a fast-yet-fading Jasper Phillipsen into second place. Eric Baska (bora rounded out the peloton in third place. Local hope Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) was out positioned on the run in to the line, haplessly rolling across the line in seventh, while fellow Aussie sprinter Sam Welsford (UniSA) was also outclassed by the WorldTour competition, rolling across the line in ninth.
Stage Two see's the peloton head into the Adelaide hills for the first time in the 2020 edition. The Category 2 climb up Quarry Road features twice in the route which is sure to shake things up over the day.
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