'You can literally turn your brain off': Sam Welsford benefits from 'dialled' leadout again at Tour Down Under

Bora-Hansgrohe rider wins second stage in three days in Australia

Sam Welsford
(Image credit: Getty Images/Tim de Waele)

It is simple, it turns out, as switching teams. Sam Welsford had the raw power, but not the support to get him to the right place. Move from dsm-firmenich PostNL to Bora-Hansgrohe, give him a leadout train which positions him right, and victory follows. Easy.

Two sprints at the Tour Down Under, and two victories for Welsford and Bora-Hansgrohe. Thursday's stage three win for the Australian followed stage one, but the latest was even more dominant in its manner; the Western Australian even had time to sit up and salute as he crossed the line. Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) and Dan McLay (Arkéa-Samsic) followed in his wake.

"I thought I went a little bit too early, but I could see the finish," he explained post-race. "It was a bit hard to judge, but we were going so fast and I felt good so I committed. I had to make sure I didn't lose it. With those guys leading me out, it's almost hard not to get it right. Those guys are putting it out there on the front, and fully backing me when it's my first month, let alone year on the team. It's so nice to have that gel."

The Tour Down Under is not the Tour de France, but his power and speed are impressive, as is the fact he has already slotted into his new team. Four race days together, two wins. Welsford's results over the last couple of years seemed like someone who was not quite at the top rung of sprinters, but this week has made it seem like he was just waiting for the right leadout train. 

"It's pretty special to come to the race with a team, the first one of the season, and pick up two stages," he said. "It's a product of how committed and motivated we are to make sure we win together in a good way. We have our eyes set on some really big goals this year, so this is a really good stepping stone to getting that right, so when we come to those Grand Tours or big one-day races we have it dialled."

Welsford's train is not huge, but there are three men in front of him at this race - Filip Maciejuk, then Ryan Mullen, and finally Danny van Poppel. Mullen provides the power, Van Poppel the tactical acumen to know where Welsford should be dropped, before the sprint finally opens. It also helps to have the likes of Bernie Eisel and Shane Archbold in the car.

"Everyone is so fast and so well drilled in these leadouts," Welsford explained. "I think that's why we've been able to get two wins here because all of the leadout has been really good, we've really nailed it. Not every day can be perfect, tomorrow maybe we lose a wheel or get chopped out. When we get it right, we've got to capitalise. "

"The good old days with a whole sprint train, you can't afford to do that anymore," Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Archbold added. "You've got to get the points on the GC, you've got to do this and that, and leadout trains are smaller. We have our core group of Sam, Danny, Ryan and Filip working super well together. Filip will come and go at some races when there's space for him, but they're dialled. 

"They're getting it right, and it means bigger race starts for those boys if they keep on winning. As sports directors, deciding who goes to which race, you can't deny that they're winning."

Bora switched out one Sam in Sam Bennett for another in Welsford, and they are reaping the rewards. One race does not make a season, but it seems like a perfect fit, with the squad already on the same wavelength.

"I was giving some calls about when to move and when to not, but with guys like Danny and Ryan in front of you, you can literally turn your brain off and they'll do the whole thing for you," Welsford said. "They're so smart and we're all on the same wavelength with everything we do. Danny knows exactly when to go, he sees things before they happen. It's just having belief in them, and they have the belief in me that wherever they put me I should be OK."

His victorious performances have not surprised the team, but it is a little ahead of schedule, not that that's a bad thing.

"The team signed him for his potential, but he has the power to be the fastest in the world," Archbold said. "He's proving that here, but it's not always on the power profile, you've got to prove it. Coming off the wheel of Danny, makes it a damn sight easier to win bike races, because he know where to be at the right time."

There is one more sprint opportunity at this Tour Down Under, on Friday, and with the team this dialled, it could be a hat-trick for Welsford. All he needs to do is switch his brain off.

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