The Aussie rules trend continued at the 2022 Presidential Tour of Turkey on Thursday with three victories out of five stages, as Sam Welsford (Team DSM) took his first pro win on the road in a bunch sprint finish at Ayvalik, emulating Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) from earlier in the week.
Welsford is a newcomer in the WorldTour following a successful track career with medals at the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games, and is riding his first of two years for Team DSM.
“We’ve been putting a lot of work for this,” Welsford told Cyclingnews. “I think it was just about time on when we would make this happen. We were all really hungry for that first win. We showed a lot of teams and a lot of people out there that this is gonna a year where we’ll get a lot of wins. We can do it. For us it’s a huge confidence booster for sure.
“I’ve had a solid block of one-day classics in Belgium, I had a fourth at Bredene Koksijde Classic, a third at Scheldeprijs, and coming to Turkey, my first win, first win for the team this year. I’m really happy how it’s developing. Me and the team we’ve been striving really hard to look at the top step.”
Welsford is a world champion for Team Pursuit across two years as a junior (2013, 2014) and multiple years as an elite athlete for Australia (2016, 2017, 2019, as well as the scratch race in 2019). He was the designated sprinter for the time since the start in Bodrum after Cees Bol came sixth and fourth in the first two bunch sprints and Alberto Dainese fifth in the third one.
“We came here with three fast guys,” the Western Australian said. “It gave us option on how the stages play out. This was a quite fast finish. I think it worked with a lot of my track speed, the power and the kick in the end. We mixed it up.
"But one of the most important things was keeping the process the same in the lead out and focusing on getting the sprinter into a position so he can actually sprint. The boys did an amazing job for me today and I can’t thank them enough. I think this is just a sign of what’s to come.”
This is the big question. Aged 26, will the neo-pro become a top sprinter, a lead-out man or a strong rider for the Classics?
“I’ve always had aspirations to go on to the road after my track development,” he said. “Obviously I didn’t think I was gonna get a win this soon in my career but the hard work, and I’m really hungry for it as well. As a track rider, coming on the road it’s also a really pathway for sprinters. With a lot of chaos around especially the track racing, I’m really stoked.
“I’m not sure how I’ll develop. When I first came into the World Tour, I thought maybe I’ll just be a sprinter but I’ve I can do a hard day in the crosswinds at Scheldeprijs. It helped my confidence in a hard day. But look, for me I’m still developing as a sprinter and a lead-out guy but to be versatile and able to do a lot of things, it’s good to explore the possibilities.”
The nine Australians and seven New Zealanders taking part in the Presidential Tour of Turkey have bookmarked stage 6 finishing at Eceabat (like stage 2 in 2019 won by Sam Bennett). Stage 6 is set to finish in front of the 57th Infantry Regiment Memorial from the First World War in the Gallipoli peninsula that marked the military history of Australia and New Zealand after crossing the newly-inaugurated bridge over the Dardanelles Strait.
“Tomorrow it’s a very important stage,” Welsford confirmed. “It’d be really cool to get a couple of Aussies, not just one, on the podium I think. We’ll cherish the moment when we’ll be out there. It’s huge for us. ANZAC Day is an important day for myself since I grew up as kid, we always went to memorials and stuff. I hope I can channel some of that energy and hopefully get up there again on the podium.
"We have a lot of Australians here. It’s quite good to come together in the race and have a big Aussie talk. As Aussies we always get along well together. It’s good to kind of share talks but we’re fierce competitors. Seeing the finish line, we’ll all go full gas. It will be a special stage for all Australians and New Zealanders for sure.”
Welsford is on DSM’s long list for making his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d’Italia in Budapest on May 6.
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