Michael Matthews lost the battle at the Tour Down Under on Wednesday, but he increased his odds of winning the overall war in a stage one that brought down several riders.
German sprinter Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) recovered from an earlier fall to pip Caleb Ewan (UniSA-Australia) and Matthews (Jayco Alula) in a bunch sprint in Tanunda, which he timed perfectly, having waited too long in the prelude criterium on the weekend.
Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) retained the ochre leader’s jersey.
“I was a bit unsure because in the start I crashed actually with a big impact, had to change bike, it took a time for me to recover from that, but in the end the team again did really well,” Bauhaus said.
“And also, Nikias [Arndt], in the last kilometres, he was super calm, looking where I am, making space for me and this time I was thinking with 250-300m [remaining], I just go this time.
“The last 50-80m I was just full in pain, I was like don’t sit down, just keep going. I knew they were coming in the last metres but I’m super happy I was still in front then.”
Bauhaus sported a small, light red mark on the side of his forehead from the impact of the crash he was grateful to be wearing a helmet in.
“Jasha [Sutterlin] he waited for me, bring me back,” Bauhaus explained.
“For me it felt like a classic day because it was windy, everyone wanted to be in front, super nervous. It was a tough day.
“For myself I’m super happy I win but in the end the health of everyone is more important than my stage win.”
Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) was involved in a crash with about 26km remaining and abandoned the race. He was set to go to hospital for further assessment.
Briton James Knox (Soudal Quick-Step) appeared frustrated after he lost skin and clothing in a stack, riding to the teams’ paddock alone.
Magnus Sheffield, who is one of three protected young riders at Ineos Grenadiers, also sought medical treatment post-race.
Patrick Bevin (Team DSM) retired citing injuries from the Schwalbe Classic.
Matthews was forced to employ some expert maneuvering during the 149.9km stage but otherwise avoided the crashes some will surely wake up sore from.
The Australian was active all day, contesting intermediate primes with the support of his team to shorten the deficit to Bettiol from 14 to six seconds on general classification. Matthews now sits second overall. Sheffield moved from second to third on general classification, eight seconds adrift of the Italian.
“It’s pretty obvious what our goal was today, was to try and get as many time bonuses as we could, whether it was through the stage or in the final sprint,” Matthews said.
“Last night [in the prologue] we gave away a bit of time, which we could have made a lot in a TT like that.
“I think we made up for yesterday today in one stage, so full credit to the team, they were amazing today.”
Ewan, who is racing for a comparatively inexperienced Australian national composite team after Lotto Dstny decided not to send a squad to Adelaide, also got through the stage unscathed but said he was too far back in the finale.
“I wasn’t in a position to win, and I’m surprised I got so close,” Ewan said.
“It’s disappointing but I can’t ask for too much from the team.
“I was in a good position coming down the descent coming into the crosswind section, but I just got stuck,” he continued.
“When you have no one to sit in the wind for you and you’re fighting for wheels it’s tough. That’s why I ended up where I was, a bit back.”
The tour continues with stage two on Thursday - a 154.8km run from Brighton to Victor Harbor. Matthews is hopeful it'll settle the nerves of the bunch.
"Obviously first race everyone is a bit nervous, no one knew how strong the wind was going to be out there today," Matthews said.
"Because it was also an easy race I think everyone was quite fresh and maybe not paying enough attention sometimes and that’s where you overlap the wheel or something and those things [crashes] can happen.
"Hopefully the next stage is a bit harder, a bit hotter and we can actually race and everyone be maybe a bit more focused."
Tour Down Under stage one results: Tanunda to Tanunda (149.9km)
1. Phil Bauhaus (Deu) Bahrain-Victorious, in 3-37-35
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) UniSA-Australia, at same time
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco AlUla
4. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5. Paul Penhoët (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6. Emīls Liepinš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
7. Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
9. Taj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech
10. Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), in 3-43-53
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Jayco AlUla, at 6s
3. Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8s
4. Julius Johansen (Den) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, at 10s
5. Kaden Groves (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 11s
6. Samuel Gaze (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at same time
7. Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, at 12s
8. Marius Mayrhofer (Deu) DSM, at 13s
9. Corbin Strong (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech
10. Jannik Steimle (Deu) Soudal Quick-Step, both at same time
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