Santos Tour Down Under: Alberto Bettiol uses dry roads to surprise favorites in prologue

Magnus Sheffield powers to second after showers impacted the later starters.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Alberto Bettiol surprised the favorites Tuesday on dry roads in the short but intense 5.5km opening prologue at the men’s Santos Tour Down Under.

An evening downpour proved decisive as later starters faced wet conditions while Bettiol raced on dry roads.

Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) was the fourth rider down the ramp, and raced in dry conditions to stop the clock in 6 minutes, 19 seconds to put him into the hot seat.

“I am really happy and I am lucky at the same time,” Bettiol said. “With the same weather, I would have not won. The weather in Australia helped me. I just had to pedal full gas.”

Bettiol raced on dry roads, and showers turned the technical course into a trickier challenge for the later starters.

“I asked the sport directors to start first,” Bettiol said. “Because I could help my teammates with advice. It’s a bit surprising. For the moment I will enjoy the jersey. It’s a long week and the real race starts tomorrow.”

The prologue marked the first time trial in Tour Down Under race history. Riders raced on their road bikes, with disc wheels and aero helmets.

The downpour marked the outcome of the race, with at least a half dozen riders slipping out on slick corners. Conditions improved slightly for the final wave of starters, but Bettiol’s time was untouchable.

Magnus Sheffield rips to second on wet roads

Sheffield powered to second racing in wetter conditions. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Rider after rider could not better the time from the Italian. Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) raced under wetter conditions and couldn’t come close.

Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) came closest among the later starters to finish second in a solid debut to his 2023 season.

“I am really happy with how the off-season went and how I am feeling coming down here,” Sheffield said. “We have everything except the win tonight, and we have a lot of cards to play this week. Some of us were impacted by the rain, but there’s nothing you can do. That’s racing.

“I found the entry [of the corners]to be quite wet but then the exits were still drying up just as I was going out on the course. I knew that I just had to stay upright because it’s a long week, but I also really want to go for the win,” he said. “I saw quite a few guys go down today but luckily I was able to stay upright beside that rear wheel slip off the start ramp.”

Sheffield will be racing for the win, but first he has to take back time to Bettiol, and then fend off the likes of Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and other fast finishers chasing time bonuses.

“The way the race is structured with time bonuses, it will be really tight,” Sheffield said. “There are a lot of fast guys you have to watch out for.”

Light showers recommenced when Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) hit the course and Bettiol’s time stood for the win.

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