Danny van Poppel believes Sam Welsford can reach the same giddy heights as some of cycling’s greatest sprinters after stage one of the Tour Down Under.
Welsford – in his first WorldTour race with new team Bora-Hansgrohe – took line honours on the back of a perfectly timed lead-out, beating Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) by a wheel length plus Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) and Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula) by more.
Van Poppel appeared as excited, if not more, by the result as the Australian sprinter, who joins the squad after two seasons with dsm-firmenich PostNL and with an eye to the track at the Olympic Games in Paris this year.
With all the attention around Primož Roglič’s transfer to Jumbo-Visma the movement of sprinters at the team, including Irish champion Sam Bennett’s departure at the end of last season and Welsford’s introduction, was largely overlooked. But not by Van Poppel, who relished in the infectious feeling that is winning in South Australia on Tuesday, with the Dutchman and Ryan Mullen, who have both refined their crafts working for Bennett, combining successfully once more in delivering a different Sam to the line.
“We did [the lead-out] often last year but it was with Bennett. It turned out not really well, but the new Sam, he’s a powerhouse, and we knew if we can do the perfect lead-out he can hold the power because he pushed a lot of power,” Van Poppel said post-race, after placing seventh following the lead out.
Bora-Hansgrohe assembled at the front of the bunch inside the last two kilometres, with three riders, including Welsford, on the front with just over a kilometre remaining.
“He has so much power from the track. I think if you do a lead-out like, these guys, like [Marcel] Kittel, [Andre] Greipel, Welsford, they can do it, and that’s exactly what we need. I was waiting for a, for a, it’s hard to say, a fast sprinter – even Sam Bennett is a good friend of mine, in the end, it’s business and we want to win.
“He’s [Welsford] a relaxed guy and to be honest he’s just riding two years in the WorldTour, so everything is new for him and he’s super hungry still. He can be the new sprinter. With us it’s a perfect combination, I think.”
Welsford was equally complimentary of his new teammates. The 27-year-old, who completed his first Tour de France last year, says he has spent some time with his new team training over the pre-season.
“I did a training camp in Mallorca with…