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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) kicked to victory in Wednesday’s first stage in a crash-marred bunch sprint at the Santos Tour Down Under.
A few riders went down in a crash in the closing kilometer, including American Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), but Bauhaus came through to pip the favored Australians.
Ineos Grenadiers officials confirmed Sheffield was treated for cuts and abrasions to his knees and elbows at the finish, and returned to the team hotel in the team van. Doctors will monitor his condition overnight.
Caleb Ewan dashed to second, with Michael Matthews kicking to third in the photo finish to the line.
“We were always in the front in the last lap. I knew I just had to go with 3o0 meters to go,” Bauhaus said. “I do not want to celebrate early. I was only sure I won later. I was involved in a crash earlier, it was super-nervous today. A lot of guys went down today.”
The peloton stayed together on a circuit course around South Australia’s wine country, and barreled into the finish on the hunt for the season’s first WorldTour stage win.
Riders crashed earlier in the stage, including Bauhaus, and there was a fall in the middle of the pack inside the red kite.
A big crash with about 50km to go saw a half dozen riders hit the ground as the speed ramped up for the final circuit.
Both Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) and Patrick Bevin (DSM) abandoned, and Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla) fractured his clavicle.
Matthews avoided the traps, and took back some time on mid-race time bonuses as well as at the finish line to claw back some time to narrow the gap on the GC.
“I wouldn’t have minded a bit harder stage today. We nailed the two intermediate sprints. It was a successful day to try to set me up for the overall,” Matthews said. “When you’re that close to a win you’re going to be disappointed. Overall it was a good day for us.”
— Renaud Breban (@RenaudB31) January 18, 2023
Overnight leader Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) avoided the crashes and finished in the pack to retain the GC lead.
Sheffield, who stopped the clock for second in Tuesday’s opener, also went down in the late-stage tumble in the nervous, undulating stage across Adelaide’s wine country.
Matthews bounced into second overall, now six seconds back, with Sheffield slipping to third at eight seconds behind Bettiol and retaining the young rider’s white jersey.
— Santos Tour Down Under 🚴🚴♀️ (@tourdownunder) January 18, 2023
The Italian won the opening prologue, a first in TDU history, thanks in part to a deluge that created tricky racing conditions for much of the field Tuesday.
“It was a really strange day there were a lot of nervous riders, it’s the first race of the season and some crashes can happen,’’ Bettiol said. “We managed pretty well, and all of my teammates are OK, they didn’t crash and I didn’t crash fortunately, and I didn’t sprint because of the crash in the final but I’m still confident. Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Bettiol is hoping to nurse his lead going into more challenging terrain later this week, including the final-day stage up Mount Lofty, but it’s obvious that Matthews is racing for the overall.
The race continues Thursday with the 154.8km second stage from Brighton to Victor Harbor. There are a few interesting lumps along the way, but the stage typically finishes with a reduced bunch kick.
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