Plan B works in Australia
At its first showing under its new name, the TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN missed out on a top result in the stages of the Tour Down Under. But with its Colombian rider Santiago Buitrago finishing in 2nd in the young riders’ classification, a 5th place in the team classification and Hermann Pernsteiner’s 10th place in the overall standings there still were some reasons to celebrate.
For the season 2020, much more has changed than just the name of the TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN: The jerseys and shorts now feature the well-visible colour combination of Papaya, Red and Black, and no less than 12 riders have joined the team over the winter. Just as in the seasons before, the athletes of the team are riding on MERIDA BIKES, and they are opting for disc brakes this year. As for the Tour Down Under as the first race of the season, the team lined up three of its new signings: Spain’s Rafael Valls was the designated leader for the overall standings while the Colombian neo-pro Santiago Buitrago was free to chase his own ambitions just like Hermann Pernsteiner. Experienced Austrian Marco Haller rode in support of these three riders, as did Yukiya Arashiro, Domen Novak and Luka Pibernik.
While many other teams brought their best sprinters to Australia, TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN opted not do so. Thus the team’s ambitions were moderate for the four flatter stages of the race. The plan was to position Rafael Valls so he could compete with the best climbers at the finishes of Paracombe and Willunga Hill, with the goal of securing a top10 spot in the overall standings. But this plan got thwarted with less than two kilometers to go in the second stage: Rafael Valls could not avoid a high-speed pile-up in the peloton and suffered a non-displaced fracture of the sacrum. Unsurprisingly this painful injury forced the Spaniard to abandon the race. And as a consequence, the team had to reconsider its objectives and promoted Hermann Pernsteiner and Santiago Buitrago to become the new captains.
These two riders did not disappoint the team management: In the steep final ascent to Paracombe, Hermann Pernsteiner only conceded 15 seconds to stage winner Richie Porte while Santiago Buitrago crossed the finish line another 8 seconds back. When the race hit the decisive climb up Willunga Hill, the two riders of TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN again were fully up to their task: By finishing the stage in 15th, Hermann Pernsteiner moved up to 10th in the overall standings. Santiago Buitrago finished the stage 18 seconds further back. Due to this result the 20 year-old Colombian finished his debut race in the Worldtour in 2nd place in the young riders’ classification and in 19th in the overall standings. Thanks to the united effort of all riders the team finished the Tour Down Under in 5th in the team classification.
While Rafael Valls is recovering from his injury, the other six riders of TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN remain in Australia to compete in two one-day races: First it’s the Race Torquay on January 30th and then it’s the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race on February 2nd.
TOUR DOWN UNDER 2020
Young riders’ classification, final standings:
1. Pavel Sivakov, RUS, in 20:38.13 hours
2. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN-MCLAREN, + 0.15
3. Jarrad Drizners, AUS, + 0.31