The 2024 Santos Tour Down Under Men’s race has kicked off with a bang after Australian Sam Welsford claimed first place at the Ziptrak Men’s Stage 1 from Tanunda to Tanunda.
Welsford won after an emphatic sprint, beating last year’s Tanunda stage winner Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Intermarche-Wanty’s Eritrean star Binian Girway. Stage favourite Caleb Ewan finished fourth, in his first outing back in GreenEdge colours the Aussie pocket rocket looked flat and didn’t show his usual nous.
“My legs felt fine but as the intensity went up I felt it. My heart rate was high, but that’s normal with the heat,” Caleb later said. “As the TDU goes on hopefully I will improve. I was on Sam’s wheel and in perfect position, but just didn’t have the legs to go around him. I knew today could go either way,” he added. “There are a lot of positives in coming days.”
But the day belonged to Sam Welsford, a veteran of the track and now, after his debut WorldTour win for Bora Hansgrohe, a serious road sprinter. Asked what his program looked like for 2024, Welsford said the Tour de France / Olympics double would be a dream.
“Hopefully I can get to a grand tour,” he said. “Before then I would like to do the duo that would be okay. I think that works out really well if I did the Olympics as well on the track. And also I’d love some sprint days there so that would be a big goal of mine. I think there’s a lot of preparation races we have to do, still some of the classics in Belgium and then all eyes maybe on the Olympics.”
Welsford’s victory saw the WA-born road and track star wear the sought-after Santos ochre leader’s jersey for the first time after a brilliant debut for his new team Bora Hansgrohe.
The peloton saw 74 riders make their Santos Tour Down WorldTour debut of the 139 that started in
Tanunda. Australian national team’s Jackson Medway was the youngest debutant at 19 years and 93 days, with Lidl-Trek’s Dutchman Bauke Mollema the oldest at 37 years and 51 days.