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SHEPPARTON, Australia (CT) – It was a textbook sprint stage. A small breakaway led for most of the day, the teams of the sprinters controlled the pace, the break was caught, and then the sprinters duked it out.
When those sprinters hit the finish line in Shepparton, in northern Victoria, it was Italian neo-pro Alberto Dainese (Sunweb) who had won stage 1 of the 2020 Jayco Herald Sun Tour. The 21-year-old sprinter, in his second month in the WorldTour, edged out fellow neo-pro (and former SEG Racing teammate) Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Moreno Hofland (EF).
A tight sprint finish for @MitcheltonWines Stage 1
— Jayco Herald Sun Tour 🚲 (@HeraldSunTour) February 5, 2020
It was a five-rider breakaway that led proceedings for much of the opening stage. Jesse Coyle (Nero), Conor Murtagh (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Ben Hill (BridgeLane), Ryan Thomas (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) and Charles-Etienne Chretien (Aevolo) got as far as three minutes up the road as the race’s four WorldTour teams — Mitchelton-Scott, EF, Sunweb and Israel Start-Up Nation — controlled the race from the front of the peloton.
The break never really had a chance and sure enough they were all caught inside the final 10 km. Unsurprisingly, it was the ever-aggressive Hill who was last to be caught.
“Ideally, if I’m going to try get on the podium today, it would have been for the stage,” Hill said after being awarded most aggressive rider. “But I’m not going to do it in the sprint so I tried for the breakaway and then that didn’t work so [I went] for the sprints, then that didn’t work. So in the end, I had to hit them at the finish to go for most aggressive.”
In the closing kilometres Sunweb continued to control the pace for Dainese.
“It was a bit messy but Max Kanter put me in the last corner around fifth or sixth position so I could start my sprint,” Dainese said. “It was a tough one because already the first two lead-out guys from EF were a bit in the front so I had to close a little gap.
“It was tight in the end but I’m happy that I got it.”
Today’s victory is Dainese’s second in the pro ranks — after a stage of last year’s Czech Cycling Tour — and comes after a promising start to his WorldTour career. He was fifth and 10th on stages at the Tour Down Under and then third at the inaugural Race Torquay.
“Yeah, in Down Under I sprinted twice and I had two top 10s but it was not easy with the best sprinters in the world,” Dainese said. “So I have to practice a little bit with the fast guys, but then yeah, I’m 21, so I can still improve the next years and see how it goes.”
Dainese will wear the leader’s yellow jersey into tomorrow’s second stage of the five-stage race. He won’t wear it by day’s end though — tomorrow’s stage ends with a 30 km climb up to the Falls Creek alpine resort.
Thankfully for Dainese and his Sunweb team, the German outfit has two strong options for that stage and, consequently, the overall.
“Tomorrow we have two good climbers and they are in really good shape because they’re Australians and this is summer for them,” Dainese said with a smile. “So Jai [Hindley] and Rob [Power] will be the GC guys and we [will] try to win again.”
Hindley was second on the same climb the last time the race visited Falls Creek in 2017. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) won the stage and the race overall that year.
Howson is in attendance again, but it will be his teammate Simon Yates that will start the big favourite.
Follow the link for full results from stage 1 of the 2020 Jayco Herald Sun Tour.