Talking Tactics with Robbie McEwen: Hostworks Stage 1 2017
08 Mar 17

During each stage of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under, former pro cyclist Robbie McEwen was on hand to explain the inner workings of the peloton as they raced toward winning crucial UCI WorldTour points. 

Over the next six weeks, we’ll be looking back over those conversations, stage by stage, move by move.

Hostworks Stage 1 of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under was marked by sweltering heat. 

The race was cut short by one lap, or 26.5km, due to the extreme heat and hot winds, with temperatures of 40-plus degrees creating challenging conditions for even the most experienced riders in the peloton. 

On this hot day, an early breakaway saw Laurens De Vreese (Astana Team) stay ahead of the peloton for almost 101 kilometres, a move that commentator and former pro cyclist Robbie McEwen said was reasonably predictable.

“It’s what we often see in these sort of stages, you’ll get a young adventurer, or maybe a slightly older adventurer, go out on the attack and in today’s case, that’s Laurens De Vreese,” he said.

“A run of the mill sort of set up, a guy gets away – most would expect a group. It’s going to be a long, hot, lonely day out there for De Vreese. 

“He’s probably asking himself at the moment, and even asking his team director, ‘is this a good idea, what I’m doing out here?’”

McEwen says, although the extreme heat was exhausting for the lone De Vreese, there is reward for the rider who decides to venture ahead of the pack.

“The incentive for being out there for Laurens De Vreese is the Subaru King of the Mountains,” he told Channel 9’s Tim Gilbert during the Stage.

“So he’s won that, he’s gone through the line, he will be pulling on the leader’s jersey this afternoon on the podium. So that’s his incentive.” 

“Also intermediate sprints, with those time bonuses available, but I’m sure it’ll be going through his mind more than once, ‘what have I done to myself?’.”

As the race rolled on to the finish in Lyndoch, McEwen explained there was no rush for the peloton to chase the breakaway rider down. Instead, the peloton would let De Vreese decide in his own time when to re-join the pack.

“The peloton isn’t letting him get too far in front, and honestly they’ll just hang him out to dry, literally,” he said.

“They’ll let him just find his own way back to the peloton.”

The extreme heat seen on Hostworks Stage 1 is a far cry from the extreme cold or rain that riders could experience in European races. McEwen explained that a crucial thing for teams to consider in their strategy planning is the weather.

“A lot of the guys are thinking about this heat, and keeping hydrated,” he said.

“A lot of riders were on the start line with a stocking full of ice cubes down the back of their shirt on the back of their necks to try to keep the body temperatures low. 

“That’s what they’ll be concentrating on all day: staying hydrated, keeping the body temperature as low as possible. 

“Thinking about the rest of this race, because it’s going to be a very long week especially with a 41-degree day in the saddle, it really takes it out of you.”

The next move in the peloton ahead of the last sprint of the day was ORICA-SCOTT setting their pocket rocket Caleb Ewan up for the final rush to the finish line. McEwen explained that precision and timing is key.

“ORICA-SCOTT, they’ll take control,” he said.

“They’re just going to ride on the front of the peloton all day, but a steady tempo to try and just make that catch late in the race to then start setting up the sprint. 

“And that’s when you see the lead-out trains come into action. 

“The teams trying to bring in their sprinters, getting in a line. 

“It’s about being organised and then strong enough at the right moment.”

Winner of the day Caleb Ewan of ORICA-SCOTT spoke after the race about the final sprint, and said that riding carefully and tactically was the key to winning the stage.

“A lot of riders ran out of gas in the lead out in that last straight because there was a lot of head wind there,” Caleb explained. 

“Many riders misjudged it and it was a super messy sprint.”

“We have two ambitions in this Tour and we really have to use our guys conservatively and take the best out of them.”

Talking Tactics - Hostworks Stage 1
Talking Tactics - Hostworks Stage 1
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