Sam Bennett made an emphatic statement with his new team, taking victory on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under 2020.
Irishman Bennett made his Deceuninck – Quick-Step debut in the first WorldTour race of the year, benefitting from a flawless lead-out and taking a narrow win in a pure drag race for the line.
Rising Belgian star Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) pushed Bennett all the way to the line and had to settle for second, with Bora-Hansgrohe’s Erik Baška finishing third.
Bennett now goes into the race lead, with a four-second advantage over Philipsen.
How it happened
The opening day of WorldTour racing at the 2020 Tour Down Under was a 150km run starting and finishing in Tanunda, north of Adelaide.
Riders took on four laps of a 30km loop, which featured the 0.6km-long, four per cent average Breakneck Hill in each circuit.
It took the best part of an hour for a breakaway to form showing the tension in the bunch, but after 45 minutes four riders went clear – Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Jarrad Drizners (UniSA-Australia), Dylan Sunderland (NTT Pro Cycling) and Michael Storer (Sunweb).
The breakaway were allowed around four minutes early in their escape, but the peloton started closing them down in the final 100km of the stage.
With just under 50km left to race, the bunch had closed the gap down to less than a minute and Rosskopf decided it was time to dig in, launching an attack and riding solo to the summit of the Breakneck Hill climb, extending his advantage to 90 seconds.
Rosskopf’s solo move was then closed down early, leaving the peloton to race the final 35km as a whole and setting up a nervous run to the finish for the first major race of the year.
Inside 5km, Sunweb took up duties setting the pace but it was clear they had been overeager and they quickly disappeared from the front..
With two riders marking the head of the peloton, Quick-Step new they were too far from the line and let EF Pro Cycling mass at the front.
Inside 1,500m, Quick-Step then sprung into action as Shane Archbold pulled their train to the head of affairs to avoid getting boxed in.
The with 1km to race, Archbold ramped up the speed and swung off for Michael Mørkøv who sprinted up to the 200m mark, as Bennett then launched off his wheel on the left of the road against the barriers.
Philipsen had been anchored to Bennett’s wheel but he launched right at the same time, but missed out after having to cover more ground. Bennett took it on pure speed to claim an early victory.
Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan was well out of contention in the sprint, only managing to surge to seventh, André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) took fifth while Elia Viviani (Cofidis) was fourth.
Tour Down Under 2020, stage one: Tanunda to Tanunda (150km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 3-28-54
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
3. Erik Baška (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
5. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) EF Pro Cycling
7. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
8. Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9. Sam Welsford (Aus) UniSA-Australia
10. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Sunweb, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 3-28-44
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates, at 4s
3. Erik Baška (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6s
4. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 7s
5. Jarrad Drizners (Aus) UniSA-Australia, at same time
6. Chris Lawless (GBr) Team Ineos, at 8s
7. Dylan Sunderland (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling, at same time
8. Nathan Haas (Aus) Cofidis, at 9s
9. Michael Storer (Aus) Sunweb, at same time
10. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis, at 10s