While Jack Bobridge was the chief beneficiary of the opening stage of the Tour Down Under as he took out the win from the four-man breakaway, Lieuwe Westra's (Astana) second place was his best ever start to a season in his ten years as a professional.
Westra was one of four riders in the breakaway that included Bobridge, Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) which formed inside the first five kilometres of the 133km stage from Tanunda to Campbelltown and held off the peloton which was given the same time as Bobridge.
Bonus seconds earned from the intermediate sprint points though sees Westra second on GC, four seconds off Bobridge but importantly nine seconds ahead of the overall favourites.
"It was a good group, good riders; the peloton never gave us much room. When we had a good gap over the climb, we knew that we might have a chance," Westra said of the stage.
With Checker Hill the only featured climb of the stage and coming with 30km left in the day, it was always going to be decisive to the outcome although it wasn't so much the ascent that played into the hands of the break but rather, the descent. The four riders hit speeds of 100km/h in the fast run in to the finish while back in the peloton, getting a chase organised at high speeds was harder said than done.
While the peloton had the break within their sights on the run in to the finish, the power of two world championships on the track in Bobridge and Durbridge, and two-time national Dutch time trial champion in Westra proved too strong but it was the hour record challenger who was the strongest in the sprint for line honours and Westra was content with his first showing of the season.
"When its downhill like that, it is not so easy to chase back," he said. "In the sprint for the stage, Bobridge was too strong. Second for me was the best I could do in a stage like today. Second in the season's first WorldTour race isn't so bad. It was my own plan to attack today."
To subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, click here
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.