Women’s Tour Down Under, stage 1: Paternoster wins opening sprint

The 19-year-old track star shines in Australia, winning the opening sprint with new team Trek-Segafredo.

The Trek-Segafredo women’s team started its inaugural season on a winning note Thursday as Letizia Paternoster won stage 1 of the Tour Down Under in a sprint.

The 19-year-old Italian is on flying form because she is in the midst of the track World Cup season, where she is the top-ranked rider in the Madison discipline. Although she started her sprint a bit early in the Australian opener, she held off Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) and Arlenis Sierra (Astana), who were second and third, respectively.

“When I went, I thought I was closer to the finish line, and when I saw it was still 250m to go, I wanted to die a little. I am so happy to have pulled it off,” said Paternoster. “This is really an amazing day for me; it’s only my second year as a professional rider. To start out with the new team, and the first race of the team like this, is really, really great!”

The flat, 113-kilometer stage from Hahndorf to Birdwood was expected to be a sprint stage. In fact, there were not any notable breakaway attempts during the race.

Astana sport director Pierangelo Dal Colle says the team might have started leading out Sierra a bit too early.

“Maybe we went for it a bit early, but [Sierra] managed to do a nice sprint with the help of the teammates left around her,” Da Colle said. “These are solid bases for building a very united group that works for a common goal in every race.”

Paternoster’s win was impressive as well given that one of her key teammates, Lotta Lepisto, was sick.

Instead, the young sprinter relied on Lauretta Hanson to bring her to the front of the field to win the sprint and the race’s first leader’s jersey.

The four-day Women’s Tour Down Under continues Friday with a 116.7km stage from Nuriootpa to Angaston, which has a bit of a hill in the end.