Caleb Ewan has emphatically out-sprinted his rivals to open up his World Tour Account on the streets of Adelaide
Words - James Raison
The professional peloton turned wheels in anger for the first time at the 50 km People’s Choice Classic criterium. Our Lord Sagan looked glorious. A dream. A vision. A God come down to Earth to spread joy and cause bum-rush to buy 100% Sunglasses.
The People’s Choice Classic is a prize money race isolated from the six-stage Tour Down Under that starts Tuesday. There’s plenty to play for as teams fine tune their sprint trains and stretch the legs in race conditions.
Opening hostilities always sees a flurry of attacks and moves off the front but it took a couple of laps for Cannondale Drapac’s Will Clarke and Dimension Data’s Ben O’Connor to break away.
Clarke took the first sprint points for team green before dropping back into the peloton. Aussie lankster O’Connor gallantly dropped into the TT position and pushed on solo. He scooped up the next two sprint points as the chasing bunch happily let him dangle off the front.
The peloton was amorphous as until Oric-Scott parked on the front to settle proceedings. There were multiple attempts to cross to O’Connor, including big Dane Lars Bak and Aussie Adam Hansen (Lotto-oudal) and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data).
Bora Hansgrohe got bored of staring at the back of Orica-Scott jerseys and disrupted the rhythm at the front over the next few laps. They shared pace making duties with the Australian outfit for several laps to keep their supported rider Sam Bennett.
O’Connor was still out front until 5 laps remained and the sprint teams began to organise. Trek, Bora Hansgrohe, Sunweb, Sky and Orica-Scott jostled for control at the head of the race until the final lap when the trains dissolved. Orica-Scott dutifully delivered their man Ewan to open up his high-octane sprint as the Sagan-Bennett combo watched helplessly from behind. new signing Roger Kluge co-ordinated with Ewan exceptionally well on their race debut together.
Ewan had enough time to turn his head, see Bennett's futile bike throw behind and raise his hands in victory. Lord Sagan rolled through in third.
Lord Sagan gave a very Sagan-esque description of the race: “It was good, but not super-good, It was OK. We wanted to win with Sam Bennett, but he was second.,” he said. “I will recover, and we will see for the Tour Down Under.”
Sam Bennett appreciated the support of his team-mate , and had to fend off many challengers to Lord Sagan's wheel: “I was shaking, there was a big fight for his wheel and I was nervous,” said Bennett. “I didn't want to take away an opportunity for Peter, because it is the first race of the season with the new team.
“Peter was telling me to relax but it was nerve-wracking,” he said. “I want to say thanks to the guys and I hope I can pay them back with a win this week.”
Stage 1 kicks off on Tuesday morning with a 145 km course from Unley to Lyndoch where a bunch sprint is expected. It'll be hard to look past Ewan with his imperious display tonight.