Patrick Bevin has gotten his 2017 season off to a solid start. The Cannondale-Drapac rider finished 9th in the People’s Choice Classic, the precursor to the Santos Tour Down Under. Caleb Ewan took the win for Orica-SCOTT ahead of Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe.
The People’s Choice Classic can fairly be considered to be the most fiercely contested non-World Tour event by an almost totally World Tour field. Over 130 riders took to the start line for 22 laps of the 2.3km circuit in the city of Adelaide. It was always expected to be a pretty aggressive race that would ultimately end in a sprint finish and so it proved to be.
Dimension Data’s Ben O’Connor was able to launch an attack for his new team and go up the road with 3 laps covered alongside Will Clarke of Cannondale-Drapac. After Clarke took the first sprint prime of the day he dropped back to the bunch which was led by Orica-SCOTT. Esteban Chaves and Damien Howson took responsibility for the bulk of the early pace-setting as they kept O’Connor in touch with a maximum lead of 40 seconds being all that he would get.
Primes at laps 10 and 15 went to O’Connor with the Australian managing to stay clear all the way until within five laps of the finish. With O’Connor being reined in it was the turn of Sunweb, Team Sky and Bora-Hansgrohe to set the pace as the final lap commenced. But Orica-SCOTT were trying out a brand new partnership with the signing for Roger Kluge specifically to work alongside Caleb Ewan and it proved to pay off handsomely.
Kluge led out his Australian teammate, the reigning Australian National Criterium Champion, who darted away from the rest of the field to win convincingly. Peter Sagan had positioned teammate Sam Bennett well and the Irishman powered home to take second ahead of the world champion but there was nothing anyone could do to stop Ewan.
Patrick Bevin produced a solid sprint finish to take ninth on the day, while newly crowned national time trial champion Jack Bauer of Quick-Step Floors, was also in action. Bauer was part of a team who were happy to navigate the criterium safely in preparation for the Santos Tour Down Under.