HTC-Columbia’s André Greipel, one of the pre-race favourites, won a bunch sprint today to take Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under from Clare to Tanunda.
The German, who won the race in 2008, crossed the line ahead of two Belgians, Gert Steegmans of Team RadioShack and Omega Pharma Lotto’s Jurgen Roelandts, with Team Sky’s Greg Henderson back in fifth.
As happened so often last season, HTC-Columbia had forced the pace at the front of the peloton to chase down an early breakaway, which had featured UniSA's Tim Roe – who joins Lance Armstrong’s Trek Livestrong development squad following the tour – Martin Kohler of BMC Racing outfit, and the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider Biel Kadri.
That break, which at one point had built a lead of 9 minutes 45 seconds as the race passed through the Clare Valley vineyards on a route known as the Reisling Trail, was chased down with 10km left. Garmin-Transitions’ Matt Wilson subsequently went on the attack, but he was caught in the closing stages.
Talking about the way his HTC-Columbia team had chased down those escapes to set up his victory, Greipel said: "We spoke to the other teams but nobody wanted to ride with us. We have a strong team, I am on the podium but the whole team should be."
The ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ struck Cadel Evans within the opening kilometre of the ProTour season when one of the Australian’s shoes, co-ordinated like the rest of his kit to reflect his status as World Road Race Champion, broke. Evans eventually finished in the main bunch, together with the Team Radioshack’s Lance Armstrong.
Meanwhile, defending champion Allan Davies of Astana had an off day, the Australian finishing eight minutes down on the winner to deal a severe blow to his hopes of retaining the ochre jersey.
Greipel, who finished last season strongly with four stage victories and the points jersey in the Vuelta, said: "It was a good final and a good warm up for the team. We took responsibility for the whole stage. The team made the difference, we started as a team and finished as a team."
Tomorrow’s second stage begins in Gawler, the home town of Garmin-Transitions Wourld Under-23 Road Race Champion Jack Bobridge, and covers 133.5km to finish in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.
Santos Tour Down Under Stage 1, Clare to Tanunda (141km)
1.Andre Greipel (GER) Team HTC - Columbia
2.Gert Steegmans (BEL) Team Radio Shack
3.Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) Omega Pharma Lotto
4.Danilo Wyss (SUI) BMC Racing Team
5.Greg Henderson (NZL) Team Sky
6.Baden Cooke (AUS) Team Saxo Bank
7.Graeme Brown (AUS) Rabobank
8.Robbie McEwen (AUS) Team Katusha
9.Jose Rojas (ESP) Caisse D'Epargne
10.Valeriy Dmitriyev (KAZ) Astana
Santos GC Leader. Andre Greipel (GER) Team HTC - Columbia
Jayco Sprint Leader - Martin Kohler (SUI) BMC Racing Team Skoda
KOM Leader - Timothy Roe (SA) Uni SA - Australia
Instead Young Rider U26 Leader - Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) Omega Pharma Lotto
Hindmarsh Most Aggressive for the stage - Timothy Roe (SA) Uni SA - Australia
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.