The Tour Down Under’s pre-race People's Choice Classic criterium kicked off the 2017 road season today in Adelaide, Australia. The 50-kilometre race, covering 22 city circuits, ended in a typical bunch sprint. Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica) won with team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Wagner in 12th, just outside the top 10.
"Too bad I didn’t sprint top ten, but it was a nice race,” Wagner said. “They raced fast and the sprint was very chaotic. The hectic pace in the final is almost the same as in major European races, everybody wants to win and makes kamikaze-moves in the sprint."
Early in the race, several riders tried to escape. Bert-Jan Lindeman was one of the Team LottoNL-Jumbo riders to try. After the intermediate sprint in the fifth lap, only Australian Ben O'Connor (Dimension Data) remained on the front. The peloton caught the lone escapee with only three laps to go.
In the final, several teams tried to set up a sprint train. Team LottoNL-Jumbo was on the front with a couple of riders despite lacking its true sprinter. World champion Peter Sagan (Bora), his team-mate Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan battled for the sprint win. Ewan took the trophy ahead of Bennett and Sagan.
The riders now wait for the Tour Down Under, which starts in two days. It runs over six days, from Tuesday to next Sunday.
"It's nice to race here. Everything is perfectly organised, with an enthusiastic audience and nice weather. They do everything to make the season of the season as easy as possible,” Wagner explained.
“On Tuesday, we really start. With Robert Gesink, we will do everything to ride a good classification. Gesink has impressed me, and I can’t wait to support him in the race.
“There are not so many flat sprints in the next week, and we also have two riders who can certainly try, Battaglin and Martens. I might have my chance on the final stage. "
Sports Director Addy Engels considers the People’s Choice Classic a good warm up for the Tour Down Under. Wagner tried and Gesink warmed up his jets for the week ahead.
"The only plan we had today was for Robert Wagner in the sprint,” Engels said. “We are not here with the big sprint train and our big sprinter. Bert-Jan Lindeman and Robert Gesink looked after each other, which is exactly the plan in the Tour Down Under. Lindeman is going to support Gesink
"It's nice to start a race with a criterium like the People's Choice Classic. It’s fun for the audience, but also for the riders. It was a little test for their legs before the real race starts on Tuesday.”