Australia’s Sam Welsford claimed the biggest win of his UCI WorldTour career at Tanunda on Tuesday.
Welsford won the Ziptrak Tanunda to Tanunda Stage 1 after an emphatic sprint, beating last year’s Tanunda stage winner Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Intermarche-Wanty’s Eritrean star Binian Girway.
Welsford’s victory saw the WA-born road and track star wear the sought-after Santos ochre leader's jersey for the first time after a brilliant debut for his new team Bora Hansgrohe.
“It was a bloody hard day out there in the heat as well,” Welsford said at the Tanunda finish line.
“I got a good position on the downhill and there were also some pretty scary crashes and we were lucky enough to stay safe for the final.
“We knew there was a bit of a headwind, and we didn’t want to be on the front too early.
“Coming into the sprint we were in the wind a little bit but once you get the red line line finish you just put your head down and give it all you’ve got.”
The peloton saw an incredible 74 riders make their Santos Tour Down WorldTour debut of the 139 that started in Tanunda.
Australian national team’s Jackson Medway was the youngest debutant at 19 years and 93 days, with Lidl-Trek’s Dutchman Bauke Mollema the oldest at 37 years and 51 days.
Medway, the 2024 Australian under-23 national time trial champion, crashed 11km before the finish but gallantly got back on his bike despite hitting the tarmac quite hard.
It was also the first time no past Santos Tour Down Under champion started since current race director Stuart O’Grady won the inaugural race in 1999.
South Australian Tristan Saunders also made his debut at the WorldTour race.
New Zealand gun Fin Fisher-Black of UAE Team Emirates took out the first Ziptrak prime sprint, with the peloton out of comfort mode in the heat soon after.
A counterattack after the first prize disappeared into Kiwi hands hardly fazed favourites during the first lap past Angaston before the first efex King of the Mountain climb approached Menglers Hill.
Frenchman Louis Barre (Arkea B&B Hotels) claimed maximum points before he was joined by Georg Zimmerman (Intermarche-Wanty).
The pair then launched a daring breakaway which blew out to more than three minutes with about 100km before the race finish.
The peloton would face the same climb two more times before the slightly uphill Tanunda finish line.
Zimmerman used his experience to claim the second Ziptrak intermediate sprint ahead of Barre, with New Zealand’s Corbin Strong (Israel Premier Tech) taking out the final bonus second before the peloton chased down the leaders 68km before the Tanunda finish line.
Barre made sure he would be wearing the efex King of the Mountain jersey during efex Stage 2 from Norwood to Lobethal on Wednesday when he was first over the line ahead of Zimmerman for the second time at Menglers Hill.
The peloton was together for the final lap 24km from Angaston. Reigning Australian national champion Luke Plapp led the charge as his Jayco AlUla teammate, sprint gun Caleb Ewan, stayed well protected from head and cross winds which picked up during the 30C hot afternoon.
However the new season started with drama for Bahrain Victorious’s Norwegian Torstein Traeen when he crashed into a median strip before the first prime sprint as all members of the peloton were trying to navigate their way out of trouble.
Traeen hit the deck and promptly got back on his bike, with Santos Tour Down Under medicos then patching up the 28-year-old’s arm from a rolling vehicle and giving him the all-clear to resume the race.
Bahrain Victorious’s Italian Nicolo Buratti’s later crash with 10km to go was a blow to his team and put pressure on his Australian teammate Jack Haigh amid a push get last year’s Tanunda stage winner Phil Bauhaus atop the podium given Traeen is also a potential GC contender.
24.5km: Ziptrak Sprint 1 - Murray Street, Angaston near Penrice Road
UAE Team Emirates’ New Zealand gun Fin Fisher-Black drew first blood for the new 2024 UCI WorldTour season when he claimed the first intermediate sprint of the day and a provisional lead.
Fisher-Black, 22, claimed a three-second time bonus ahead of a fellow Kiwi – Israel Premier Tech’s Corbin Strong – while the 2024 Down Under Classic champion Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers) earned a one-second bonus in third place.
32km: efex King of the Mountain 1 - Menglers Hill (Category 4)
Louis Barre (Arkea B&B Hotels) earned three points, ahead of Georg Zimmerman (Intermarche-Wanty) and Austria’s Tobias Bayer (Alpecin – Deceuninck). The trio were content to bag their first points of a new WorldTour season.
73.9km: Ziptrak Sprint 2 - Murray Street, Angaston near Penrice Road
Louis Barre (Arkea B&B Hotels) earned three bonus seconds, ahead of Georg Zimmerman (Intermarche-Wanty).The pair reaped their rewards from a counterattack after the first KOM at Menglers Hill.
81.3km: efex King of the Mountain 2 - Menglers Hill (Category 4)
Barre claimed more points when he was first atop Menglers Hill for the second time ahead of Zimmerman. That win earned him the polka dot jersey for Tuesday’s efex Stage 2.
130.7kmkm: efex King of the Mountain 3 - Menglers Hill (Category 4)
Australia’s Luke Burns claimed the final efex King of the Mountain on offer before the race settled to set up the grand finale.
All the jerseys
Santos Leader’s Jersey – Sam Welsford (Bora Hansgrohe)
efex King of the Mountain – Louis Barre (Arkea - B&B Hotels)
Ziptrak Sprinter’s Jersey – Sam Welsford (Bora Hansgrohe)
Zwift Young Rider’s Jersey – Mads Mihkels (Intermache - Wanty)
Most Competitive – Louis Barre (Arkea - B&B Hotels)