Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick Step) won stage one of the Tour Down Under in Port Adelaide thanks to a superb sprint.
Just two days after he crashed in the final kilometre at the Down Under Classic, won by his rival Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), the Italian champion showed once again why he was rated as the most prolific sprinter of 2018.
The former track champion came from deep to overtake Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) just before the finishing line, winning by more than two bike lengths from the German.
The win kick starts his season in perfect fashion and also makes him the first victor of the 2019 men’s WorldTour. He will wear the leader’s jersey going into stage two, that finishes with a slightly uphill finish in Angaston.
How it happened
Due to the current extreme heat and windy conditions in south Australia, the route of stage one was shortened to 129km, no longer completing a 3.4km finishing circuit in the historic port.
The day’s break formed almost immediately, containing Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Artyom Zakharov (Astana), Patrick Bevin (CCC) and Jason Lae (UniSA-Australia).
Their advantage over the peloton stretched out to over four minutes at one stage, but they were kept in check, absorbed by the bunch with 38km to go.
A lack of undulations meant that the long, finishing run-in didn’t lend itself to any more attacks. While general classification riders were aiming to keep out of trouble on the opening stage, it was the sprinters who were targeting stage victory.
They were greeted with a strong headwind as they approached the final few kilometres: EF Education First-Drapac and Peter Sagan‘s Bora-Hansgrohe led the peloton as they ticked under five kilometres to go, with Lotto-Soudal and Mitchelton-Scott joining soon after.
But both Ewan’s and Viviani’s teams were pushed back as they went under the one kilometre inflatable, Sunweb and Bora-Hansgrohe leading their riders at the front.
In what was a scrappy, tight finish that was devoid of pre-race favourites Ewan and Sagan, Danny van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma) looked to be in pole position to secure victory. It was Walscheid, however, who kicked early, lunging into a sizeable lead.
What he didn’t see what Viviani charging through the left of the peloton, hugging tight to the barriers and rapidly squeezing past Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida). He tucked in briefly behind Walscheid, swung to the right and powered past the German to win by a comfortable margin after a wonderful display of sprinting.
Waslscheid rode to second, with Viviani’s compatriot Jakub Mareczko (CCC) rounding off the podium.
Tour Down Under 2019, stage one: North Adelaide to Port Adelaide (129km)
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick Step, in 3:19.47
2. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
3. Jakub Mareczko (Ita) CCC Team
4. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
5. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension-Data
6. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE-Emirates
7. Kristoffer Halvoersen (Nor) Team Sky
8. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
10. Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) Groupama-FDJ, all at the same time.
General classification after stage one
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick Step in 3:19.37
2. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb, at 4secs
3. Patrick Bevin (NZe) CCC Team
4. Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb, both at 5 secs.
5. Jakub Mareczko (Ita) CCC Team, at 6 secs
6. Jason Lea (Aus) UniSA-Australia, at 8 secs
7. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
8. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension-Data
9. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE-Team Emirates
10. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky, all at 10 secs.