Tour Down Under: Martinelli comes 16th in stage 1
The 22-year-old Italian confirmed his good form, two days after nailing a top 10 in the People's Choice Classic criterium.
140 riders were at the start of the Tour Down Under, first World Tour race of the year, for a 130.8 km-long stage between Prospect and Lyndoch. Just 4 kilometers into the stage, three cyclists attacked from the pack and quickly got a gap of 2:20 – Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Sean Lake (UniSA) – the latter crossing first Tee Tree Gully Hill, a 3.5 km climb averaging 6%. Due to the high temperatures, the peloton took it slow, allowing the escapees to stay at the front almost all day long.
Gougeard won both intermediate sprints of the stage, and following the second one remained in the lead only with Lake, Keizer dropping back in the bunch. Not long after, on the final of the three laps of the finishing circuit, also the Frenchman called it a day, leaving the young Australian up on the road, with the sprinters' teams increasing the speed to 43 km/h and making sure the stage will finish with a bunch gallop.
Although he digged deep, Sean Lake was caught inside the final 6 kilometers, with many of the teams dangling at the front in an attempt to control the peloton. In the last kilometer, Caleb Ewan proved to be the fastest, nabbing his second victory in three days, following the People's Choice Classics in Adelaide, on Sunday. The Australian rider of Orica-GreenEdge came ahead of fellow countryman Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale). Best placed rider of Etixx – Quick-Step was neo-pro Davide Martinelli, who finished in 16th place, same time as the winner.
"I'm happy with Davide's performance today. He has done well to become adapted with the team. Getting into a top position for the sprints isn't always easy, but the team did what they could do today. It was a very hectic sprint due to the headwind, and everyone wanted to hide from it. So the speed was not that high until the last 2-3 kilometres, when everyone tried to get into the right position. Getting 16th place today isn't too bad for Davide. Perhaps, as the racing continues, the team will be able to find a good position during the sprint, and his results will only improve, like we saw in the Criterium", said Rik van Slycke, the team's sport director in Australia.
Davide Martinelli is one of the most versatile riders to turn pro in 2016, with results ranging from a podium in the road race at the U23 European Championships last year to a top 10 in Paris-Roubaix and three victories at the Italian Time Trial Championships. Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under was his first World Tour experience and it left him satisfied, especially as the team worked hard to bring him into a good position at the finish in Lyndoch: "It was a hard day in the saddle, and the hot temperatures made the racing conditions difficult. There was a small breakaway consisting of only three riders, and in the last 15 kilometers the team worked really hard for me. But in the last 3 kilometres there was a bit of confusion amongst the peloton, which made the finale difficult. However, the team was incredible, and I'd like to say thanks to all of my teammates for their support during today's stage."
Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under will have one categorized climb (Carey Gully), two intermediate sprints and will go on the tough Stirling circuit, where the GC men could make their first move at this edition.
Photo credit: Tim De Waele