The People’s Choice Classic Criterium which serves as the prologue to the Santos Tour Down Under, took place this evening in down town Adelaide and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were set on lighting up the 50km circuit race.
Taking in 22 laps of a 2.3km circuit, the race began with a bang, thanks largely to our Nathan Haas who went from the starting blocks like a true race horse. The peloton was intent on keeping Haas under wraps but he kept the pressure on for the first 3 laps until our young Australian, Ben O’Connor saw a gap to get off the front.
O’Connor was followed by Will Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) initially but on lap 6, O’Connor pushed on alone. Behind, there were a few skirmishes coming from the peloton but Haas was ever present and covered each of these counter attacks. O’Connor brought out his time trialing A game and was able to open up a 40 second lead over the peloton, which saw him take the sprint primes on lap 10 and lap 15.
With Orica-Scott and Team Sky controlling affairs it was always going to be a mass sprint and O’Connor was caught with a little more than 2 laps to go. Our African Team then rallied behind Mark Renshaw for the sprint finale. Haas and Tyler Farrar did a great job in position our Australian fast man and Renshaw was able to latch onto the wheel of race favourite, Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott).
As the sprint opened up, teams like Sky, UAE and Bora were all in the mix and so Ewan had to go slightly earlier than expected. The National Criterium Champion was able to hold on to the line though, taking the win ahead of the Bora duo of Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan. A blanket finish behind saw Renshaw finish in 6th place, which capped off a solid showing by Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.
Ben O’Connor – Rider
It was an absolute rapid start and it is such a fast course out there. I was kind of just following the flow of the bunch and then I decided to take this little gap and ended up off the front with Will Clarke. I got pipped at the first sprint prime but then I decided to keep on going because I was feeling good. I was all on my lonesome but it was a good way to open up the legs and also show off the new team colours.