Swift boxed in but Thomas and Henao pass first test
Team Sky came into the Tour Down Under with a number of aims. First and foremost the British WorldTour team are looking to place Geraint Thomas and Segio Henao in the race for the overall, while Ben Swift hunts sprint stage wins.
On stage 1 the team saw Thomas and Henao come through a tense day of racing in hot temperatures, with both men finishing safely in the peloton.
Swift finished seventh on the stage and, despite work from his team in the closing stages, found himself boxed in. Caleb Ewan eventually won the stage and pulled on the first leader’s jersey of this year’s race.
"It was hard out there today with the combination of the heat and the wind," said Team Sky’s Kurt Asle Arvesen.
"There was more wind than I think anyone expected but the guys did well. They got through the stage without any problems. They took it on with 10km to go, moved up and then took it over. G and Sergio finished without problems and tried to help out Ben towards the end.
"Swifty was a bit unlucky to get boxed in with Blythey at the end and lost a possible third place.”
Attention turns immediately to stage 2, where Team Sky will need to work even harder to protect their GC aspirations.
“Tomorrow is going to be another tough one. We do five laps around Stirling, which equates to a thousand altitude metres more than the Corkscrew and Willunga stages. Hopefully it won't be as warm, but it will be a reduced peloton for sure."
Renshaw second on Dimension Data WorldTour debut
Dimension Data picked up a second placed finish in their first race as a WorldTour team with Mark Renshaw grabbing second behind Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEdge) on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under.
Renshaw, signed to the team from Etixx-QuickStep, was making his 14th appearance in Australia’s premiere stage race. He was well positioned coming into the sprint, with Dimension Data providing and excellent lead out. Renshaw sat in fourth wheel as the peloton charged into the final kilometer but Ewan’s form, and possibly Renshaw committing too early, saw the chance of victory slip through his fingers.
“The finish was very hard to judge with a head wind finish and slight uphill. I maybe went a little too early once I'd seen the finish banner and that cost me the chance to win. Ewan did a really nice sprint, timing it perfectly behind me, he is in top shape where I have bigger objectives coming soon in the season,” Renshaw said.
“The team rode well today and Tyler did a perfect job of putting me behind the Sky riders to start my sprint in the front of the bunch.”
White praises Orica-GreenEdge for dealing with expectations
In the end they made it look rather simple with Caleb Ewan using his form and confidence to win stage 1 of the Tour Down Under but before the race began the pressure and expectancy was all on the home WorldTour team after Ewan’s excellent start to the campaign so far.
The young sprinter had already won five times this season before the Tour Down Under started on Tuesday but he showed a clear pair of heels to his rivals once more with a well-timed, well-drilled sprint win.
“We obviously have a lot of responsibility with Caleb here and as our home WorldTour race but the boys did a good job controlling the stage and then looking after him in the final,” team director Matt White said after the race.
“He had Luke Durbridge, Mat Hayman and Daryl Impey in the final and the main thing was that he got a clean run to the line and he showed he is the fastest guy here.”
Ewan now leads the race heading into stage 2. You can follow Cyclingnews’ live coverage throughout this year’s race.