Phil Bauhaus wins first stage in Australia
Team Bahrain Victorious has made the trip to Australia with high ambitions, aiming at success both in stages and in the overall standings at the Tour Down Under. At the end of the first stage, Phil Bauhaus sprinted to victory in the town of Tanunda.
After the Tour Down Under had to be cancelled due to the covid pandemic in both 2021 and 2022, the stage race in Australia is back to mark the beginning of the road season this year - on the highest Worldtour level, that is. When comparing this year's course to earlier editions, the organisers have opted for slightly more demanding stages. Two stages feature an uphill finish and thus are likely to be decisive for the overall standings, while three stages offer chances for the fast sprinters. Team Bahrain Victorious is fielding a line-up with Pello Bilbao as the GC captain and Hermann Pernsteiner in his support on the climbs. As for the likely sprint finishes, the team is counting on Phil Bauhaus. With riders such as Nikias Arndt, Kamil Gradek and Jasha Sütterlin his sprint train is pretty strong. In addition, newly-signed Cameron Scott is riding his first races in the pro peloton on home soil.
As for the first stage, with a start and finish in the town of Tanunda, Mengler's Hill was the main obstacle for the sprinters and had to be climbed five times. This profile and a moderate distance of just under 150 kilometres made for some high-intensity racing and, sadly, also for quite a lot of crashes. Both Phil Bauhaus and Hermann Pernsteiner went down once but managed to go on and get back to the peloton. In the finale, the sprint trains of Team Jayco Al Ula and Soudal Quick Step took charge of things before Nikias Arndt hit the front for another acceleration. Phil Bauhaus opted to mark his strongest rivals, avoiding a crash on the final kilometre that split the peloton and took some of the fast men out of contention. Bauhaus remained unfazed, profited from an acceleration of Michael Matthews and jumped from the latter's slipstream with a well-timed sprint in Tanunda to score a narrow win.
With this victory in the first stage, the season has started as good as it could possibly get for Team Bahrain Victorious. "It's been a very nervous stage today, and sadly this resulted in plenty of crashes. I went down once as well, and it was quite a hard impact. But my teammates piloted me back into the peloton, and throughout the final lap, the team was always in the first positions of the bunch", Phil Bauhaus said on his way to the podium ceremony. "I realised that I had left it a bit late at the Schwalbe Classic, so I decided to time my acceleration differently today, starting my sprint with 300 meters to go. Caleb Ewan came up strong in the end, and things got really close, but my sprint was good enough for the win, so I could hardly be any happier. "As the team's sports director, Neil Stephens emphasised the performance of the entire team: "This was not only a win for Phil Bauhaus but for the entire Team Bahrain Victorious. We have been preparing really hard for this race throughout the winter. "
One day earlier, the prologue of the Tour Down Under held in the streets of Adelaide over a distance of 5.5 kilometres saw some tricky conditions, as rain made for wet roads and bike handling skills came in handy. As the fastest rider of Team Bahrain Victorious, Nikias Arndt finished the prologue in 11th place. Pello Bilbao, as the GC captain, lost 20 seconds to the fastest time posted by Alberto Bettiol. On the same roads in downtown Adelaide, Phil Bauhaus had already given a glimpse of his form at the Schwalbe Classic earlier on, finishing that race in 4th place.
23RD SANTOS TOUR DOWN UNDER, STAGE 1: TANUNDA - TANUNDA, 149.9KM
1. Phil Bauhaus, GER/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 3:37.35 hours
2. Caleb Ewan, AUS, st
3. Michael Matthews, AUS, st
Fotos: Sprint Cycling Agency