This season’s opening salvo of top racing has already reached its conclusion at the Tour Down Under, with race organisers choosing to bring 2017’s edition to a close with a criterium through the streets of Adelaide. It may look simple enough on paper, but after a week’s worth of testing racing so early in the season, these 20 laps of a 4.5km which total 90km are bound to feel like hard work soon enough. The course possesses a few tight bends to negotiate and features a couple of rises during each lap which may be enough to send some riders out the back door towards the end of Stage 6. The day is also expected to be a tactical race, given the time bonuses on offer, which will have the potential to alter the final general classification standings as the Tour Down Under draws to a close for another year.
Caleb Ewan has cemented his intentions for the rest of 2017 with a crushingly dominant performance at the biggest race on offer at home for him, making the majority of the week a battle for the second place for his rivals. His performances speak for themselves and he simply must be assured victory in Adelaide, though bike races are never a simple affair.
Danny van Poppel has not been far off the pace of Ewan and looks to have improved as the race has progressed throughout the week. His leadout train at Sky wields immense firepower in the shape of Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas, who have grown to be the greatest challenges to ORICA-Scott at this race. If he can utilise his brilliant acceleration perfectly to overtake Ewan at the last moment possible, then van Poppel may finally be able to break the Australian’s hold upon this week’s sprints.
Sam Bennett is likely to be afforded the role of leader during this final stage after Bora-Hansgrohe’s attempts to take victory with Peter Sagan have failed to reap a reward. The Irishman is much faster than his World Champion teammate and will be a much more realistic challenge to Ewan on a stage such as this.
Niccolo Bonifazio is still establishing himself at WorldTour level despite his innate talent, but opportunities like today should offer him a chance to chalk up a win if he can take advantage of a tense tactical finale. The Italian copes well with tricky courses and certainly has the speed to cause an upset here by slipping past Ewan when he leasts expects it.
It seems unlikely that the day’s winner will come from outside of the names above, but those who could shock include Nikias Arndt, Peter Sagan and Marko Kump.
1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Danny van Poppel 3rd Sam Bennett