• Niccolo Bonifazio. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) was left in the wake of another superb Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) sprint at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
20 Jan 2017 - 9:37 AM  UPDATED 20 Jan 2017 - 11:48 AM

The young Australian surged from well back in the sprint but his speed proved too much for the third-placed Bonifazio and Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe) who finished second.

After the stage both were complimentary of Ewan’s sprinting but believe they will have the edge on the Australian once racing reaches Europe later in the season. 

Sagan pointed out the advantages that the Orica-Scott sprinter currently has on his sprint rivals.

“You’re riding at home, he was all winter here in Australia and training in good weather. I just finished the season in October, I did one month without the bike, relax, holiday. Then I started to train in December and I am really happy with how I’m riding now.”

“For sure he’s really motivated for this kind of race, it’s your first race, he’s racing at home and he’s a good sprinter," Sagan said. "Not here, Kittel, Greipel, the best sprinters in the world, still he’s winning a lot because he’s the best here.”

“He’s a really fast guy, he’s 22, he’s still young, he can learn a lot and take a lot of experience but still he has to start riding big races.”

Ewan battles Sagan for TDU stage win
The Santos Tour Down Under returned to flatter terrain on Stage 3 with Caleb Ewan capitalising on the change in profile to take his second win.

The big races and more kilometres being equalisers were points reinforced by Bonifazio after Stage 3. The Italian carries a reputation as a fiery character within the peloton but was prepared to play the waiting game when it came to beating Ewan.

“It was a nice parcours,” Bonifazio said, “but the race was hard because there were two little climbs on the final circuit and with the wind and the speed, by the end, it made the sprint harder. 

"The race was short and it is in Caleb Ewan’s favour because he is very explosive, but he doesn’t have super endurance. When we get to Europe with longer races it will probably change things.”

Bonifazio, 23, has made a habit of starting his racing season in Australia, spending the last three seasons racing in races like the Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour.

“Australia is a very good place for cycling and better for the dry conditions than the races in Europe now," he said. "My goal is to finish the preparation here with a good race at the Tour Down Under. This race will bring me to the top level to get a top result for the classics in March and April.”

"This race will bring me to the top level to get a top result for the classics in March and April.”

Out of all the races on the Australian calendar, the Cadel Evan’s Road Race suits the combative Bonifazio best, a natural fit for the young rider who was fifth in the 2015 Milan-San Remo. 

He was third last year, finishing second in the bunch sprint behind solo winner Peter Kennaugh (Sky). Unfortunately, the team schedule dictates that he will not be back to try and go a couple of places better this year.

“Yes, it’s a good parcours for me but last year Kennaugh broke away and made it to the finish. This year we are not going but in future years I hope the team will go back to the race so I can win it.”