Two-time and defending champion Daryl Impey picked up a handy three bonus seconds on the opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.
Whilst the day suited the sprinters, and was eventually won by Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Mitchelton-SCOTT took full advantage of the first opportunity to gain an edge in the general classification battle.
Straight for seconds:
Mitchelton-SCOTT controlled the first 15km of the stage to set up Impey for bonus seconds at the first immediate sprint on offer.
Their efforts were rewarded with the South African taking maximum seconds ahead of Chris Lawless (Team Ineos) and Nathan Haas (Cofidis). With their first job completed, they settled back into the bunch for the remainder of the day.
Standard sprint stage:
As the intensity backed off after the sprint, a move of four riders formed the day’s breakaway.
The peloton controlled the quartet’s advantage at under three minutes before final survivor Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) was caught just ahead of the bell lap and the race headed for a bunch sprint.
Bennett won the stage ahead of Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) and Erik Baska (BORA-Hansgrohe) with Impey the highest finisher for Mitchelton-SCOTT in 13th.
“Obviously we have to try to get as many seconds as possible, so for the first 15km the guys tried to control it. I think most of the peloton expected it because there wasn’t that many attacks.
“The boys nailed the lead out. I probably expected more to contest for the seconds, but I think we made it so hard that a couple of guys knew they couldn’t move up.
“I only went early (in the sprint) because Heppy’s (Michael Hepburn) chain dropped, so I had to go. I didn’t know if I was going to hold onto it, but it was all good.”
Matt White – Sport Director:
“Intermediate sprints are where we have won this bike race in the past and we’re not treating this year any different. They are crucial – the biggest margin we’ve won by is 13seconds and we’ve won two on countback. Every second does count.
“Once we got those bonus seconds it was a case of conserving energy for later in the week.
“Tomorrow is a key day. We’ve had good success in Stirling – we’ve won it a couple of times, Daryl has been very consistent in either trying for himself or leading out Simon Gerrans. It’s a course we know and it’s a crucial day for Daryl’s ambitions overall.”
Tour Down Under – Stage 1 Results:
1. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) 3:28:54
2. Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) ST
3. Erik Baska (BORA-Hansgrohe) ST
13. Daryl impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
Tour Down Under – General Classification after Stage 1:
1. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) 3:28:44
2. Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) +0:04
3. Erik Baska (BORA-Hansgrohe) +0:06
4. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:07