Victory for Sam Bennett at Towards Zero Race Melbourne
After the Tour Down Under, BORA – hansgrohe turned its attention towards the first of two events at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia. Today saw the curtain raiser kermesse-style Towards Zero Race Melbourne, a fast-paced circuit race in the state capital. After a breakaway of 7 riders led for most of the day, they were caught in the last lap, with Sam Bennett sprinting to victory.
The race took place on the Albert Park Formula One Grand Prix circuit. The event consisted of 22 laps of a 5.3 km circuit, making a total of just over 116 km. The course’s flat profile, which made for very fast-paced racing, was complicated by some tight turns, which became particularly significant going into the finishing stretch. With a sprint classification also being included as part of the race, points were awarded to the three fastest riders at intermediate sprint points on laps 5, 10 and 15. Today’s race therefore required not only power and speed, but also strategy.
The Team Tactics
The course is notoriously fast and flat, with some tricky bends which become particularly significant in the finishing stretch. It was always going to be essential to control the breakaway, and watch out for the crosswinds on this circuit. With several high-quality sprinters in attendance, positioning into the final stretch would be essential to ensuring a good chance for the sprinters to go for the victory.
There was quite a lot of nervous tension in the peloton as the race began, with Maciej Bodnar becoming involved in a crash with one other rider after one lap of the circuit, and having to abandon today’s race, thankfully without serious injuries. It was expected that the day would end in a bunch sprint. However, this did not stop several riders from trying their luck and attempting to escape off the front of the peloton. A very large group initially managed to establish itself at the head of the race, but the number of riders present was reduced to seven by the fourth lap. Two laps later, they had built up an advantage of 48 seconds, and maintained this gap for much of the race, increasing it to a maximum of 1:15 at one point. The break worked well together to attempt to counteract the effects of the crosswinds, and managed to stay out in front for 20 laps. However, with the sprinters’ teams putting down the hammer and driving a hard tempo to pull back their advantage, the escapees were caught on the last lap. The peloton’s chase was timed to perfection, and at the line it was Sam Bennett who took the win at the end of a very fast-paced day of racing.
01 S. Bennett 2h29’08”
02 E. Viviani + 0:00
03 S. Von Hoff + 0:00
04 N. Arndt + 0:00
05 C. Ewan + 0:00
From the Finish Line
“This win is really important for my morale and confidence. I came to the Tour Down Under and unfortunately fell ill there, and didn’t have very good form. Yesterday I even had to turn back from training, because I felt in a bad way. So today’s result is a bit of a surprise. I had good legs and the BORA-hansgrohe guys did an excellent job to put me in a good position into the final stretch. It is very encouraging to get this win, which I think bodes well for the rest of the season. To win twice here is also a great feeling.” – Sam Bennett.
“The plan was to put Sam in a good position in the finishing straight, and deal with the headwind on the finish line. This is a fantastic win for him, and also a very important win. I’m very proud of the team which delivered him to victory today. At the Tour Down Under, he struggled with the heat and illness and so it’s good to see him bounce back and gain confidence for the rest of the reason. Almost half of the WorldTour teams are here, and so to see Sam emerge victorious ahead of sprinters like Ewan and Viviani is very encouraging. These are top-notch sprinters who are not easy to beat. We are confident heading into the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday, and are looking forward to racing there in a few days.” – Steffen Radochla.