Despite losing Sam Bennett to a late mechanical and Peter Sagan's third place on stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under, there were no complaints for Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Patxi Vila after the Lyndoch finish. The result matched Bennett's podium placing in the same location in last year's WorldTour opener.
"It was a mess with a pretty hectic sprint. Slightly downhill, almost tailwind so it was fast. It is not the kind of sprint that suits Peter perfect. For Caleb [Ewan] and Greipel it was much better," Vila said at the team bus after Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) won the stage.
On Sunday night, at the People's Choice Classic, in Adelaide's East End, it was Sagan getting the better of Greipel and Ewan while Elia Viviani was fourth. The same four were again leading to the line in Lyndoch with Sagan's third place a pleasing result for Bora.
"It was the real first sprint of the year. The criterium was one-hour racing. It was a warm and pretty hard stage in the end," Vila said of the difference between the two days of racing. "We have to be happy. I would have signed for this first podium before coming here. It is good for him and I look forward to tomorrow. I am happy."
With the first stage wrapped up, attention now turns to the hilly stage 2 finish in Stirling where Bora's GC contender Jay McCarthy took the win in 2015. McCarthy returned to the race last year on Bora's debut and supplanted Nathan Haas for the final podium spot on the last stage. In 2018, another overall podium and a stage win are the aims for the Queenslander.
With bonus seconds crucial in deciding the ochre jersey, Vila is well aware of how picking up the bonuses can quickly change the complexion of the race. Rather than lose sleep over the one-second bonus Haas picked up on stage 1, Vila is hoping McCarthy can replicate his Stirling stage win Wednesday afternoon and pick up the 10-second time bonus.
"He has good legs. Tomorrow Jay, he knows how to win it so hopefully, he can repeat it. It is not easy for sure. It will be hard. If I am right two years ago it was a small group arriving so we will see," he said.
"We saw last year that we stepped onto the podium in the last day with second bonus time with Jay so we know this race goes down to seconds. It is better to have seconds on your side than against you."
Should McCarthy be in difficulty on the circuits, the team can call upon Sagan, who has been tipped by several riders and sports directors as a contender for the win.