For the second time in two years, Caleb Ewan has given his Belgian Lotto Soudal team the opening win of the international racing calendar.
Oozing confidence, the 25-year-old kept his cool in the opening stanza of the Schwalbe Classic, hanging at the rear of the peloton for the opening 10 laps while a breakaway absorbed the Santos Prime #1.
Come ‘Business Time’, the 165-centimetre dynamo ensured he was well positioned near the head of the peloton; out of the final turn he surged, sprinting from around 10th place on the final turn. Down the right-hand side of the road he sped while, in his wake, the other sprint specialists looked positively tall as they battled to find an answer to Ewan’s aerodynamic acceleration.
He would claim the win with a solid advantage over two Cofidis Solutions Credits riders Elia Viviani and his lead-out man Simone Consonni.
The rest of the top 10 included some strong sprinters: Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates), Kristoffer Halvorsen (EF Education First), young Italian sensation Alberto Dainese (Team Sunweb) and Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s versatile veteran Michael Morkov. The Australian criterium champion, Sam Welsford claimed eighth place for the UniSA-Australia team.
The Progress Report
The 51-kilometre Schwalbe Classic, 30 laps of a 1.7 kilometre circuit, began with unusual conditions for the traditional prelude event of the Santos Tour Down Under: a new course in Adelaide’s city centre, overcast skies, intermittent rain, and a temperature of just 19 degrees. The headwind down the finishing straight that had been a feature of the final stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under did, however, ease in time for the 6:45pm start of the men’s race.
In the 22-year-history of this criterium, it is the first-time riders began on wet roads and cool weather. Instead of the common sunscreen application scenes at the team shelters, jackets and wet weather gear was being retrieved by riders before the start.
Five riders go on the attack
The attacks began immediately with Manuel Boaro of Astana Pro Team getting things moving, soon followed by last year’s under-23 Australian road race champion Nick White (Uni SA-Australia) and Josef Cerny (CCC Team).
The leading trio were joined by Slovenian champion Domen Novak (Team Bahrain McLaren) and NTT Pro Cycling’s Stefan Jaco De Bod.
Boaro won the second Subaru Prime #2, with an attack before the 350 metre finishing straight leading his escape companions to the line with a lead of six seconds. After 10 laps, the breakaway enjoyed its largest advantage on the peloton, 30 seconds.
White, who finished third in the national criterium championships 10 days ago, won the Santos Prime #1 and Ziptrak Prime #3. The wildcard Uni SA-Australia team had options: either White or the recently crowned Australian criterium champion, Sam Welsford… on his 24th birthday.
The average speed after 40 minutes of racing was 51.4 kilometres per hour.
Cerny attacked the lead group as dark clouds threatened to wet the circuit with 11 laps to go. The Czech rider took the final Schwalbe Prime #4, leading the four by 12 inches and the peloton by 30 inches.
Ewan moves up… and rain falls
Last year’s ‘Classic’ champion, Caleb Ewan spent much of the opening stanza at the very rear of the peloton but Lotto Soudal’s sprint specialist moved up towards the front with around 10 laps to go.
With six laps to go, the skies opened up and rain began to fall but, curiously, only one some parts of the short city circuit. The finishing straight remained dry until just before the finish when the wind got stronger setting things up for a tough sprint at the end of a fast race.
Team INEOS sent three riders to the front of the bunch and their efforts reeled in the escapees with five laps remaining.
Crash hinders two riders
Max Kanter (Team Sunweb) and Marc Sarreau (Equipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ) were victims of a crash near the rear of the peloton with three-and-a-half laps to go but both quickly remounted their bikes and finished with a little lost skin and some lost time.
Wet for the sprint finish
With just two laps to go, there was a light drizzle on the finish straight and the wind picked up in strength.
Team INEOS had command of the peloton until BORA-hansgrohe, Cofidis Solutions Credit, Lotto Soudal and EF Education First all arrived to set things up for their respective sprinters.
EF Education First had the weight of numbers for the final lap, with three at the front but no one had an answer to the top speed of the little aerodynamic sprint maestro from Lotto Soudal.
Caleb Ewan took the victory in fine style, leading the European champion Elia Viviani (Cofidis Solutions Credit) to the line with a solid advantage. It is Caleb’s second win on the opening Sunday of the Santos Tour Down Under.
Ziptrak Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under kicks off on Tuesday 21 January 2020 in Tanunda.