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Sam Welsford celebrates after the line with Ireland’s Ryan Mullen following a textbook first World Tour win of the 2024 season by Bora-hansgrohe (Photo: Jemma Knight)

Sam Welsford has replaced Sam Bennett as Bora-hansgrohe lead sprinter this season and the Australian has wasted no time in securing his first win of the year, claiming the opener overnight at Santos Tour Down Under.

After a textbook lead-out from his new team, Welsford won very impressively, holding off Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and a fast-finishing Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty). Caleb Ewan (Jayco AlUla) came 4th, after being on the wheel of Welsford but failing to fire in the final kick to the line.

Welsford was full of praise for his lead-out riders, by the far the strongest in this race, saying it was incredible to now have team mates like Ryan Mullen and Danny van Poppel at his disposal.

“I think there were some crashes which were pretty scary but I think we were lucky enough to stay safe and really be patient leading into the final. We knew it was a bit of a headwind so we didn’t want to be on the front too early,” said Welsford.

“Coming into the sprint it was really hard, we were in the wind a little bit and I was like don’t know how my legs feel. But then once you get that redline feel when you can see the finish you just put your head down and give it everything you got.”

Welsford added having trained with his new team mates in the build up to the race, he knew what a strong combination they made.

“I did a training camp in Mallorca with them and then we only did a couple of simulation efforts. You don’t need too much training when you got Danny Van Poppel, Ryan Mullen and all the boys right in front of you. They’re pretty good. They’re pretty special.”

Mullen suffered from the heat a little today, though he and Archie Ryan (EF Education-EasyPost) both finished in the 110-rider bunch at the end of the 144km stage starting and finishing in Tanunda.

Ryan, his EF Education-EasyPost team’s general classification leader at this race on debut, was 43rd on the stage and Mullen placed 105th.

The race continues tomorrow with the 141.6km stage 2 from Norwood to Lobethal; another stage with some modest lumps and bumps but which ultimately suit the sprinters.

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