photo credits @ TDU
Australia’s Sam Welsford received another brilliant lead out from his BORA-hansgrohe teammates to claim today’s stage 3 in Tour Down Under.
The lively West Australian thanked his Bora-hansgrohe teammates after a near-perfect lead-out train saw him take Health Partners Stage 3 from Tea Tree Gully to Campbelltown with an incredible finish on Gorge Road at Athelstone.
Welsford, 27, ended the stage ahead of two-time Santos Tour Down Under stage winner Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) and Great Britain’s Daniel McLay (Arkea-B&B) in a bunch sprint finish.
“It’s a bit of a blur, it was superfast,” Welsford said.
“We knew at the top of Gorge Road (in the Adelaide Hills) we had to be in a good position.
“It was a crazy downhill, it was quite technical with lots of corners, the boys did a good job of holding the ride and making sure it wasn’t too early and making sure that we kept out of the wind.
“We knew if we went too early, we would go to the back and the boys at that speed were amazing and did a really good job of leading me out.
“It’s very special to come to the race with the team and the first one together and pick up two stages, it is a product of how committed we are and how motivated we are to make sure we win together in a big way.
“We have our eyes set on some really big goals this year and it is a good stepping stone to make sure when we come to the Grand Tours or one-day races, we have it dialed.”
Welsford’s dash to the finish earned him the right to wear the Ziptrak Sprint Jersey during Friday’s Hahn Stage 4 from Murray Bridge to Port Elliot. He wore the Santos Ochre Leader’s Jersey during efex Stage 2 from Norwood to Lobethal after his debut WorldTour win for Bora-hansgrohe on Tuesday at Tanunda.
Wednesday’s Lobethal stage winner, Mexican rising star Isaac Del Toro, 20, (UAE Emirates) will stay in ochre for Friday’s stage.
The second-youngest rider at this year’s Santos Tour Down Under is two seconds clear overall of New Zealand’s Corbin Strong (Israel Premier Tech).
“It was a great day for us,’’ Del Toro said.
“Everyone has helped me all day and it was crazy, it’s good for us, we’re ok and healthy.”
ARA Australia’s Luke Burns locked in the efex King of the Mountain Jersey while his teammate Tristan Saunders earned the Yahama Most Competitive Rider Jersey after leading the breakaway for most of the stage.
“Two days in a row (with the KOM jersey) that I had plan A and executed it nicely,” Burns said.
“I think we’ll try to hold onto the jersey until the end, but we still have Michael Storer up there and we’ll try to defend his position on the GC.
“He’s going to have a crack for the last two stages.”
A nasty crash involving several members of the Astana Qazaqstan team marred the final stages of the race which started at Tea Tree Gully for the first time.
With 31 nationalities on the 2024 Santos Tour Down Under start list – the highest number in event history – Jayco AlUla and Bora-hansgrohe controlled the breakaway, opening up a 2min 49-sec gap over the main peloton after the first efex King of the Mountain climb at 2.2km from the start line.
Burns kept up his good form by taking out the first prize of the day before SA’s Saunders charged to the front of the peloton to make his mark on the coveted race.
Saunders, 23, opened a 1min 55-sec gap with 77km to go near Springton before the second Ziptrak prime sprint of the day approached at Mt Pleasant.
He earned a one-second bonus at Lyndoch behind Axel Mariault (Cofidis) who claimed the maximum time bonus and South Africa’s Stefan De Bod (EF Education Easypost).
Saunders’ knowledge of the Adelaide Hills roads made it easier for the wise WorldTour heads of Mariault and De Bod to follow the local rider.
Mariault claimed the second Ziptrak prime sprint at Mt Pleasant ahead of De Bod and Saunders before riders entered the fe
2.1km: efex King of the Mountain 1 – Tea Tree Gully Hill (Category 3)
efex King of the Mountain leader Luke Burns claimed the first points of Health Partners Stage 3 by winning the day’s first king of the mountain climb ahead of fellow ARA Australian Cycling Team rider Tristan Saunders and Cofidis’s Axel Mariault. Burns broke away immediately following the race start and charged towards the first climb.
34.6km: efex King of the Mountain 2 – Whispering Wall Climb (Category 4)
Luke Burns took out the second efex King of the Mountain climb. He beat ARA Australian Cycling Team team-mate Tristan Saunders, Axel Mariault of Cofidis and South African rider Stefan De Bod of EF Education-Easy Post, who joined the trio after the first efex King of the Mountain climb.
46.8km: Ziptrak Sprint 1 – Barossa Valley Way, Lyndoch near Sunrise Bakery & Café
Cofidis’s Axel Mariault won the Ziptrak Sprint #1 ahead of Stefan De Bod from EF Education-Easy Post and ARA Australian Cycling Team’s Tristan Saunders. Mariault powered past De Bod and Saunders to take the first sprint points of Health Partners Stage 3.
83.6km: Ziptrak Sprint 2 – Melrose Street, Mt Pleasant at Mt Pleasant Bakery & Café
Alex Mariault made it two Ziptrak sprints from two and claimed very handy bonus seconds, pipping EF Education-Easy Post’s Stefan De Bod on the line. The Cofidis rider claimed the points in a photo finish while ARA Australian Cycling Team’s Tristan Saunders finished behind the pair.
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