Tour Down Under 2018 – Stage 1 Preview
By David Hunter
Port Adelaide – Lyndoch 145km
After the People’s Choice Classic, the race begins for real. The opening stage of a race can often see teams looking at who is going to work, I doubt we’ll see that here. This should be a well controlled stage and a bunch sprint. Too many teams want a bunch kick.
We have an early KOM, which will reward a breakaway rider with the jersey the following day. The intermediate sprints are both far enough into the stage for the break to take the seconds, I just wonder if we’ll see someone with GC ambitions spend 100km in the break and go for 6 seconds. It is a tactic we sometimes see early in the season, but the concern is burning too many matches with big stages still to come.
We start the race with a real scorcher, the temperature is expected to reach 31 degrees. This will be a challenge for some of the European riders.
Caleb Ewan – he won’t be happy at losing on Sunday, neither will his team. Their lead-out wasn’t brilliant, forcing Ewan into launching first and from a little far out. These things happen in sprinting, Ewan will use it as motivation for this stage. Given the standard of teams going for sprint glory, it is a brave decision for Mitchelton-Scott not to bring Mezgec or Kluge. Having Edmondson and Impey is good, but the pressure is really on Impey to deliver, something he usually does in this race.
Peter Sagan – took a very impressive win, on Sunday, something that will worry his rivals. If Sagan is already on form, it could be a long season for some. Bora have a very good sprint train, I’m a big fan of Rudi Selig, one of the finest final men in the business. I would expect Sagan and Bennett to share sprinting duties, but the Irishman is still recovering from a cold, which means Sagan should be sprinting in Lyndoch.
Andre Greipel – despite not winning, I was impressed by Greipel, on Sunday. He bounced a few people out of the way, showing a motivation that we don’t always see from him. He is supported by his trusted team of Bak, Hansen, Sieberg and Debusschere. That is a grand tour sprint train. He might be 35, but the Gorilla seems in no mood to let the youngsters have their fun. Expect to see a lot of Lotto in the closing kilometres.
Phil Bauhaus – was in a very strong position in the closing kilometres, on Sunday, but received a bump from Greipel and that knocked him off balance and he had to stop his sprint. Sunweb are another squad that are here to win a sprint stage and they have lots of speed to put Bauhaus into a strong position. He is a very fast sprinter and I do expect him to be challenging for wins this week.
Elia Viviani – it was the same old story for Viviani, on Sunday. He sprinted faster than everyone, but his poor position meant he only finished 4th. QuickStep do have a strong team at the race, but they really need to keep Vivani at the head of the race, inside the final 2km. Sabatini is used to helping Kittel rescue glory from poor positions, but Vivani isn’t as fast as the German. Keep him at the front and he can win races.
Simonne Consonni – of the “lesser” sprinters, he impressed the most, on Sunday. UAE have Marcato and Ferrari to help position him in the closing kilometres and these boys usually do a good job. Now that Modolo has left the team, Consonni will find himself with lots of sprinting opportunities and he did look quick compared to some of the big names. He’ll be delighted if he can slip onto the podium.
This is a finish that Caleb Ewan likes, he won in Lyndoch in both 2016 and 2017. Despite “only” finishing 3rd, on Sunday, I see no reason to abandon him. Given his current form and record in this town, I think Caleb Ewan will take his 7th TDU stage win.
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