Sam Welsford will make his Bora-Hansgrohe debut at the Tour Down Under (January 16-21). The Australian signed a two-year deal with Bora over the summer after two successful seasons at Team DSM but will be given a stacked leadout train in 2024 with the likes of Ryan Mullen and Danny Van Poppel set to support the 27-year-old.
Welsford had a solid campaign in 2023, picking up early season wins before taking second at Scheldeprijs. He made his Grand Tour debut at the Tour de France but was unable to take a stage win. Bora-Hansgrohe signed the former track world champion and Olympic bronze medalist to fill the void left by Sam Bennett, who departs the team after a second spell at Ralph Denk’s team.
In an interview with GCN, the team boss stated that Welsford was his ‘dark horse’ for 2024 and that the sprinter had the opportunity and the talent to have a breakthrough season.
“I think Sam Welford, to be honest,” Denk said when asked which of his riders had gone under the radar in the off-season.
“Okay, he joins the team not as a super, super sprint star but he’s a good sprinter. Our strategy is to put him and Danny Van Poppel side by side, the best lead out in the world – the new Michael Mørkøv. Danny is the best and we’re expecting a lot from this tandem, along with Ryan Mullen. I think Sam Welsford could be our dark horse,” he added.
It’s unclear who will join Welsford in Australia for Bora-Hansgrohe’s first WorldTour race of the new season. Jai Hindley will not take part in the race but Denk hinted that a climber could be sent to Adelaide in order to target the Tour Down Under general classification.
While the race contains a number of flat sprint stages the final two days of racing are suited to the climbers with two ascents up Willunga Hill on the penultimate day before a final stage finish on Mount Lofty.
“It’s not really decided who our leader will be but we’ll go with Sam Welsford for the sprints. That makes sense with him in Australia for the winter. Sam will be our guy for the sprints and for the Willunga Hill, we still have to look around in our roster,” Denk said.
Defending champion, Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) will head to the race, after GCN broke the news last week, as will Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) who also confirmed to GCN a return to his home race in 2024.