Down Under Classic: Jhonatan Narváez wins as break narrowly survives in curtain-raiser crit

Peloton’s disorganised chase falls short and sprinters denied in pre-Tour Down Under test

Clock10:28, Saturday 13th January 2024
Jhonatan Narváez celebrates winning the Down Under Classic in Adelaide

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Jhonatan Narváez celebrates winning the Down Under Classic in Adelaide

The criterium script was ripped up in Saturday evening’s Down Under Classic, as the break outfoxed the chasing sprint back to survive to the line, with Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) winning on the line.

Natnael Tetsfazion (Lidl-Trek) took second just behind the Ecuadorian with Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates) in third, as the peloton almost but just failed to catch the six-strong breakaway in the finishing straight.

Caleb Ewan (Jayco AlUla), who has dominated this event in recent years, skipped the race, leaving Bora-Hansgrohe as the main sprint squad in support of Sam Welsford, but with little cooperation from other teams, they weren’t able to reel in the break that went in the second half of the race.

Canny break and depleted chase produces surprise result

The race kicked off from a standing start, and it was Tour Down Under debutant Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek) who put in the first tentative dig straight off the line, but he was predictably brought back as the peloton wound up over the first lap.

The first few laps saw plenty of rotation and action on the front, but no break really going away, despite riders’ best efforts. Ahead of the first prime lap, UAE Team Emirates’ Isaac del Toro clipped off the front of the race to claim the prize, but was soon also reeled back in by the fast-rolling bunch.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step) took the chance to ride a lap on the front, showing himself ahead of the Tour Down Under where he is expected to be targeting the overall, but the wily Frenchman wasn’t capable of getting away.

Bora-Hansgrohe, riding in support of new signing and sprinter Sam Welsford, began to take control on the front of the peloton as the race headed into its middle part, taking up the responsibility that may have fallen to Jayco AlUla, had Ewan been in action. Ineos Grenadiers’ Filippo Ganna and Elia Viviani were sitting conspicuously at the very back of the bunch, staying out of the action.

With around 30 minutes of the one-hour race completed, a break eventually got a recognisable gap, with Del Toro once again on the offensive, this time taking Jhonatan Narváez with him.

The pair worked well together but had competition from interested chasers behind, and they were soon joined by Jack Rootkin-Gray (EF Education-EasyPost), Gil Gelders (Soudal Quick-Step) and Oscar Onley (dsm-firmenich PostNL), and later Natnael Tetsfazion and Harry Sweeny (EF Education-EasyPost).

The break only ever had a gap of around 16 seconds, and with Bora working with all seven of their riders on the front of the peloton, it seemed they would inevitably bring the escapees back, but this never quite materialised, with the bunch losing momentum at key moments and giving the break the advantage.

Heading into the final three laps, the fast peloton finally started to close in on the break, but it was too little, too late and the leaders - minus Rootkin-Gray - entered the final lap still ahead. A final burst of speed saw the bunch very nearly make the catch in the finishing straight, but it wasn’t enough to shut down the leaders, and it was a strong Narváez who sprinted to victory, just edging out Tetsfazion.

It was Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) who was the best from the bunch, taking seventh behind the surviving break, whilst Welsford could only manage 15th after all his team’s work, putting in a fairly unconvincing sprint once they knew it wasn’t for the win.

Down Under Classic results

  1. Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) 1:01:33
  2. Natnael Tetsfazion (Lidl-Trek) s.t.
  3. Isaac del Toro (UAE Team Emirates) s.t.
  4. Harry Sweeny (EF Education-EasyPost) s.t.
  5. Gil Gelders (Soudal Quick-Step) s.t.
  6. Oscar Onley (dsm-firmenich PostNL) s.t.
  7. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) s.t.
  8. Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) s.t.
  9. Dan McLay (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) s.t.
  10. Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) s.t.

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