As the first race on the calendar, the Tour Down Under breaks cycling’s European fixation for five sun filled days in January. Almost as bright as the antipodean sun, Team Bahrain McLaren’s race colours were christened as the peloton took to the streets of Adelaide for the season’s debut.
Set against the backdrop of Australia’s worst bushfires in a generation, the départ took on a slightly more subdued tone than previous years. The event also represented McLaren’s return to racing in South Australia - the city’s street circuit was once witness to success in the guise of Prost and Senna.
Mixing steady hands with fresh faces, it was the likes of Valls and the team’s own young Colombian, Santiago Buitrago that would race in Oz - a roster well matched to the parcours of the 5 stage race.
With a profile that promised a little more for the climbers than standard, punchy climbers filled out squad, but racing in Australia still comes down to big engines.
Marco Haller was there to go for the sprints, building form for his duties for Cavendish later in the season. Pibernik, Pernsteiner and Novak also made it onto the team sheet to support as all rounders, delivering the climbers to the base of the race’s decisive final climb, Willunga Hill.
Testing the legs and getting up to race pace, the first two stages saw the peloton take on more straightforward racing.
Early season nerves in the peloton led to clashing of wheels late in the stage. Finding himself a passenger in a crash within the 3km mark, Rafael Valls was forced to abandon.
With the lead rider watching from the sidelines, other riders needed to step up for stage 3. Taking on a lumpier parcours, it was a punchy climb in the final that decided the day.
Sticking with the lead group, Hermann Pernsteiner managed to climb to 13th on GC whilst Santiago Buitrago earned himself the accolade of joint first in the Young Rider's Classification.
Stages 4 and 5 were a return to normality following Paracombe's shake up of the overall.
Pernsteiner and Buitrago kept on the wheels with only the final punch up Willonga Hill distancing the latter from taking the Young Rider's Jersey, falling just 15 seconds behind Pavel Sivakov.
Pernsteiner's efforts earned him a place in the General Classifications top 10, getting the team over the line and cementing their first goal of the season.
As one of the handful of top level UCI WorldTour race days on the continent, as ever, the Tour Down Under saw a host of support, and gave cycling fans a taste of Australia’s unique riding culture - Up early, ride hard, and enjoy the social side of it.
Along with Australia’s unique flora and fauna, riding and racing Down Under is like nowhere else in the world.
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Designed to offer breathability and a dialled-in fit, it incorporates tripping panels that help smooth airflow and reduce drag, ensuring Team Bahrain McLaren have an aerodynamic advantage on the road.