Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Easypost) has claimed the first leader’s jersey of the men’s Tour Down Under after winning the prologue on Tuesday.
Bettiol was modest after what was his first victory in almost two years, having avoided rain that later caused many riders to crash or exercise caution on the 5.5km circuit alongside the River Torrens.
The Italian was the fourth rider to power down the start ramp – out of 139 starters – and avoided the wet conditions and slippery roads, besting Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) by eight seconds and Julius Johansen (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) by 10 seconds.
“There are plenty of better riders especially in such a short prologue like this,” Bettiol said post-race.
“But the weather of Australia helped me. So, in the end, I really appreciate the effort that all my team put in to give me the best product, material and support. I just have to pedal full gas for six-and-a-half-minutes.
“You have to learn the corners and sometimes you need to be lucky.”
Bettiol powered through the course in 6:19.73. His eight second advantage on his rivals is a decent margin considering out of the 22 editions of the race eight have been decided by three seconds or less However, he was measured in his estimation of the week ahead.
“For the moment I enjoy this jersey because I like this race. I’ll be really proud to wear the jersey tomorrow morning and then we will see. It’s a long week and we just started,” he said.
“It’s a prologue, the real race starts tomorrow.”
Earlier, Grace Brown beat Amanda Spratt in a two-up sprint to claim stage three of the women’s tour and with it the race title in much hotter temperatures.
Australian national champion Brodie Chapman set the pace at the front of the reduced peloton on the feature Corkscrew climb, with Trek-Segafredo teammate Spratt on her wheel.
Brown and overnight leader Alex Manly (Jayco Alula) were part of the front group, which began to split after Spratt attacked off the front inside the final 9km of the 93.2km trek from Adelaide to Campbelltown.
Spratt distanced Brown (FDJ-Suez) on the ascent but the time trial world silver medallist made up ground on the descent and the flat run to the finish line.
“At first, I couldn’t see her because of all the corners but then I could see a moto, I was like, she must be ahead of that. In the last 3km I saw Spratty and I thought I can catch her now,” Brown said post-race.
“I was thinking maybe I should back off a little bit so I can catch her by surprise at the finish but in the end, I caught her in the last k, sat on and trusted I could outsprint her.”
Brown credited lessons she learned at last year’s Women’s Tour, where she finished second to Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) by one second, partly to her success in Australia.
“I was really disappointed in the Women’s Tour of Britain, especially losing by one second there, but I learnt lessons from that tour and those lessons helped me win this week by going on the first stage for sprint bonuses and everything like that,” Brown said.
“I could put myself a bit forward because we don’t know what’s going to happen on the last stage and I think that was wise.”
Brown finished 10 seconds clear of Spratt on general classification. Georgie Howe (Jayco Alula) was third on the stage, 13 seconds in arrears of the pair, and third on the overall standings, 19 seconds in arrears of Brown.
For Spratt, who transferred to Trek-Segafredo this season following an 11-year stint with incarnations of Jayco Alula, the minor place was as good as a win after a couple of lean years.
“The whole of last season felt like I was rebuilding; I never really got my form back,” said Spratt.
“I had a few obstacles with COVID and crashing out of the Tour.
“Signing with Trek-Segafredo was a huge boost in motivation that I’m joining one of the best teams in the world. It’s been nice to be home for a long period of time and get a long, solid preparation in.”
The Trek-Segafredo team appeared to be a unified unit on and off the road at the race, frequently chatting and laughing at the team vans.
Brown hopes that her win and the elevation of the women’s Tour Down Under to the WorldTour will act as inspiration to girls coming through the ranks.
“This is amping up the level of cycling in Australia and I hope it has an impact on the development for young female cyclists in Australia as well, that they can see how cool it is to race at this level and aspire to do it themselves. It’s all about gathering momentum,” Brown said.
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