Tanunda > Tanunda 150.2km
The first proper stage of the race is a lap circuit around Tanunda, home of the beautiful Barossa Valley wines. Last year it was Sam Bennett who won here, but this stage is harder than that one. The finishing line is in the same position, but they approach it from the opposite direction. It looks like ending in a sprint, but the size of the group is up for debate.
Temperatures are way down on what we normally get in this race, the maximum is a very manageable 20 degrees. The wind will be around 20km/h and coming from the south means there are crosswind sections. Unfortunately for echelon fans, the crosswind sections are well protected by trees.
Known as Menglers Hill, this is a climb I remember from the old days. Way back in 2014 it was used when the stage finished in Angaston. That day many riders were dropped on the single ascent of the climb (from the different side), this year the bunch do it four and a bit times. It might only be 4.8km at 3.8%, but coming so early in the year, it can easily catch out a few of the European sprinters.
With bonus seconds being incredibly important in this race, this is a good chance for Jayco-AlUla to push the pace on the climb and see if they can drop any of the sprinters, increasing Matthews chances of getting 10, 6 or 4 seconds on the line, the same can also be said of Ineos. I don’t think they’ve got a hope of putting Ewan into difficulty, but they would like to drop a few.
The good news for the pure sprinters is the headwind for most of the climb. It still makes sense for Jayco to increase the pace, but it makes it much easier for those hiding in the wheels to survive. I still think a few will end up getting dropped, but it will be a large bunch heading towards the finishing line.
The bunch turn right with 5.7km to go, then it’s a straight road for just over 4km. In this section we’ll see the old washing machine effect, with the inexperienced trains hitting the front too early and then getting swamped.
There’s a double bend in the road and then it’s straight for the final 1.3km. With the wind being a cross/tailwind from the right, it’s time to put it in the left-hand gutter and go full gas. This means being at the head of the bunch for the double bend is essential, you need to be there to secure the left-hand side of the road. Those that arrive late will have to move up in the wind, which can be done, but it’s hard to do.
Caleb Ewan – he won the Schwalbe Classic in comprehensive fashion, so he comes here full of confidence. He’s riding for the Uni-SA team, which means he’s got 5 young lads and Jarrad Drizners to support. That’s not a particularly strong team, so don’t expect them to do that much in the final 50km, but they will help EF to chase the morning break, but once the pace goes up, they’ll stay back until the finale. That’s when Drizners will be tasked with the job of getting Caleb into a decent position, hopefully on the wheel of a sprinter with a couple of riders left for the lead out. If he’s got a decent position, it’s hard to see anyone beating the wee man.
Phil Bauhaus – on paper, he’s got a very strong sprint train for this race. Bahrain will look towards Sütterlin, Arndt and Scott to deliver Bauhaus into the ideal position to launch his sprint. This happened in the Schwalbe Classic, but the German seemed to hesitate, and the chance was gone. As it’s going to be a tailwind sprint, he can afford to go long if required.
Kaden Groves – this is a good stage for the Aussie sprinter, but he doesn’t always find himself in the best position when it kicks off. He ended 2022 by taking a win at the Vuelta, he’ll be hoping to push on this year and hit new heights. He’ll have Plowright to lead him out, so he should be challenging for the podium.
Michael Matthews – doesn’t have a sprint train to speak off, so if Jayco want him in contention they need to drop a few sprinters. We’ll have to wait and see.
Bryan Coquard – solid top 5 option.
Gerben Thijssen – one of my riders to watch in 2023, so I’ve got to back him! He’s got his trusted lead out of Johansen and Boy Van Poppel, the same duo who he formed an excellent relationship with in 2022. Like all the European sprinters, this race is very early in his season, but he’ll still be wanting to challenge for the win.
Jordi Meeus – if the pace is high on the climb, I’m not sure he survives. If he does get over Menglers Hill, he’ll be one of the favourites to take the win. He was 2nd in the Schwalbe Classic, he’ll be hoping to take his first world tour win in this race.
Ethan Hayter – Just like Jayco, Ineos will want a hard stage, which will help Hayter challenge for bonus seconds. He doesn’t contend many bunch sprints, but Hayter has a very fast kick, he’s more than capable of challenging for the win.
Jayco-AlUla will push it on the climb but won’t drop too many riders. Some teams will try to create echelons in the wind but will find too many trees in the way.
When the dust settles, it’ll be a win for Caleb Ewan.