We assess how the different teams fared in the first race of the WorldTour season
Ag2r La Mondiale 2/10
Starting your season early to race in temperatures exceeding 40ºC isn’t for everyone, and Ag2r La Mondiale were among the teams to ghost through the week without really making any impression. Pierre Latour’s 13th overall was the team’s only notable result.
Having put himself firmly into overall contention by sprinting to third on stage four, Luis Leon Sanchez will have been disappointed at being dropped on Willunga Hill. He did at least show resolve in gaining enough bonus seconds on the final stage to insert himself back into the top ten.
None of Bahrain-Merida’s selection of handy climbers managed to push for overall victory, but they did all perform solidly enough to seal the team classification, with three riders finishing in the top 14. Gorka Izagirre was the highest among them, in seventh overall.
BMC Racing 8/10
BMC rode with the authority of a team expecting to win the overall classification, and that they looked set to do when Richie Porte summited Willunga Hill as stage winner.
But Daryl Impey’s unlikely ride to finish just eight seconds behind the Australian meant that, just as they did in both 2014 and 2016, BMC had to settle for second overall behind a Mitchelton-Scott rider.
Might Bora-Hansgrohe have hoped for more, though? A Sagan on top form could have clung on up Willunga Hill to seal overall victory, while Jay McCarthy looked set to duke it out with Porte for overall honours before being dropped and falling out of the top 10 altogether.
Dimension Data 8/10
Given the searing conditions, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the race’s most overachieving teams was the World Tour’s only African-registered member.
Tom-Jelte Slagter’s sprint for third on Willunga Hill was enough to earn him a podium finish overall, while 22-year old newcomer Nicholas Dlamini fought hard to win the mountains classification.
EF Education First-Drapac 4/10
The new era of Jonathan Vaughters’ team, previously known as Cannondale, got off to a fairly nondescript start, with most of their star riders not riding.
They did nevertheless manage to animate the breakaways, with Will Clarke and Logan Owan being awarded the combativity prize on stages one and six respectively.
FDJ won’t have expected much heading into the Tour Down Under, but their race ended up being a disappointment even by low standards. No rider featured in the top 10 on any stage, while only four made it to the finish in Adelaide.
Nathan Haas signalled his intent to challenge for the overall early on by battling for bonus seconds in intermediate sprints, but his efforts came to naught when the heat proved too much for him on stage four, leaving him, and Katusha-Alpecin, empty handed.
As is so often the case at Lotto-Soudal, it was up to veteran sprinter André Greipel to deliver results. The big German duly delivered, proving that, even at age of 35, he’s still got it, becoming the only rider to win two stages with triumphs on the opening and closing days of the race.
Relying on Robert Gesink and George Bennett in a race that features only one, short proper climb is a bit like trying to use a spade to open a safe – both climbers work well on longer climbs they can gradually set a rhythm on, but lack the explosiveness to make a more sudden impact on a challenge like Willunga Hill. They ultimately finished 10th and 11th overall.
As the World Tour’s sole Aussie representative, the pressure is always on for Mitchelton-Scott to perform at the Tour Down Under, but, looking at the team’s line-up, it was unclear where success might come aside from Caleb Ewan in the sprints (who claimed one win, down from four last year).
Step forward Daryl Impey, who produced the climb of his life to finish second and Willunga Hill, and claim overall victory – the team’s fourth in seven years – by the narrowest of margins.
Movistar’s roster reflected a team believing they have bigger fish to fry later this season, yet they still might have hoped for more from riders like Marc Soler. Jaime Castrillo’s combativity award on stage two was their own prize.
Quick-Step Floors 7/10
Team Sky may already be doubting their decision to let Elia Viviani go. Even though he made his move too early on the sprint finishes of stages one and six, he and his new Quick-Step Floors lead-out already looked a well-oiled machine in stage three’s victory. Dries Devenyns rounded off a solid race for the team with fifth overall.
Team Sky 6/10
Team Sky’s decision to back youth at the Tour Down Under was duly rewarded with victory in the young rider classification courtesy of Egan Bernal, whose sprint for fifth on Willunga Hill reinforces the feeling that the team has a very exciting new talent on their hands.
Team Sunweb 5/10
The Tour Down Under provided two of Sunweb’s young talents the chance to show demonstrate their capabilities, which they did to contrasting degrees – Sam Oomen finished a steady if unspectacular 15th overall, while sprinter Phil Bauhaus nearly won the sprint in Victor Harbour, finishing runner-up to Viviani.
If Trek-Segafredo can take anything out of this Tour Down Under, which was generally a quiet affair for the team, it is the progress of 23-year old Portuguese national champion Ruben Guerreiro, who landed a first ever World Tour-ranked stage race top ten overall.
UAE Team Emirates 6/10
Given the strength of the team they brought to Australian, UAE Team Emirates will have expected more out of the race. Simone Consonni sprinted consistently for three top seven finishes, Diego Ulissi narrowly missed out on the podium in fourth overall, while Rui Costa flopped to finish way down in 35th overall.
The assembly of Australian riders that made up the race’s sole wildcard entry made a decent impression on the race, with both Zak Dempster and Steele Von Hoff registering top ten finishes in the bunch sprints, and the likes of Scott Bowden impressing in breakaways.