ADELAIDE, Australia — Sam Bennett timed his sprint perfectly Tuesday to win the 150-kilometre (93-mile) opening stage of the Tour Down Under cycle race, the first event of the UCI World Tour.
The Irish rider took advantage of exceptional lead-out work by his Deceuninck Quick-Step teammates to cross the line half a bike length ahead of Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen. Erik Baska of Slovakia was third and Elia Viviani of Italy fourth.
Germany’s Andre Greipel, who has won more stages on the tour than any other rider, was in fifth place and Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan was seventh.
The stage featured five laps of a 30-kilometre circuit through the picturesque wine-growing region of the Barossa Valley, starting and finishing in Tanunda and passing through the townships of Angaston, Bethany and Nuriootpa.
There was a 2.3-kilometre (1.4 mile) straight dash to the finish which Bennett, a five-time stage-winner on Grand Tours, thought wouldn’t suit his racing style.
But he was brought into the finish just at the right time, edging along the barriers on the left side of the road and breaking clear to hold out Philipsen and to post his first win for his new, Belgium-based team.
“I think it was definitely the job of the team which was the reason why I won today,” Bennett said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t feel the pressure coming (to a new team) to get that first win.
“The guys did an absolutely fantastic job, kept me in great position and they did the lead-out perfectly. Every one of them played a superb role today and I can’t thank them enough.”
Four riders took part in an early breakaway and stayed away from the peloton for much of the stage, accumulating sprint and king of the mountain points, the latter as the race passed five times over Breakneck Hill.
The peloton swallowed the break on the last lap and set up a pure sprint finish which featured the best sprinters in the field.
The second stage Wednesday is 135.8-kilometres (84 miles).