German holds off Petacchi in sprint but drama behind with big crash

André Greipel of Lotto-Belisol, seeking to win the Santos Tour Down Under for a record third time, has got his 2012 race off to a perfect start today by winning Stage 1 from Prospect to Clare from Lampre-ISD’s Alessandro Petacchi in a photo finish. The finale, into a headwind, was marked by a big crash that brought a number of riders down, injuring several.

One of those was Greipel’s own team mate Jurgen Roelandts, taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone, while Frederic Guesdon of FDJ-Big Mat is thought to have suffered a broken hip, potentially ending the career of the 40-year-old, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1997.

The incident followed a tough day in the saddle on which the temperature hit 40 degrees and the peloton was buffeted by high winds, with last year’s overall winner Cameron Meyer attributing the crash, which happened about 800 metres out, to riders being exhausted, although it has been reported that a spectator somehow got tangled up with the passing peloton.

The crash also meant that riders who had been expected to contest the sprint for the line, including Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, were held up as a result of the crash, although given it happened inside the closing three kilometres, they were given the same time as the winner.

Greipel, awarded today’s stage after a photofinish, had looked good when winning Sunday’s Down Under Classic criterium in Adelaide, and proved to be strongest after a sapping day on the bike.

But there was further controversy at the finish with Petacchi, who went early as the chaos unfolded behind him, was accused of moving across Greipel’s line, although the race jury let the Italian keep his second place.

A quartet of escapees had formed early on in the race, and at one point had a lead of nearly 12 minutes over the peloton.

Due to bonus seconds, those riders, comprising Kohler,  Rohan Dennis (UniSA), Marcello Pavarin (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), all now feature in the top seven places overall.

Tomorrow’s Stage 2, which covers 148km from Lobethal to Stirling, should prove cooler for the riders as the race heads into the Adelaide Hills.

2012 Santos Tour Down Under Stage 1 result

1.  GREIPEL, A             Lotto-Belisol        4:33:40
2.  PETACCHI, A            Lampre-ISD       All at same time
3.  HUTAROVICH, Y          FDJ-BigMat
4.  SABATINI, F            Liquigas-Cannondale
5.  BENNATI, D             RadioShack-Nissan
6.  SUTTON, C              Sky Procycling
7.  CANTWELL, J            Team Saxo Bank
8.  FLORENCIO CABRE, X     Katusha
9.  RENSHAW, M             Rabobank
10. BELLETTI, M            AG2R La Mondiale
11. PALMER, T*             UNI SA-Australia
12. MATTHEWS, M*           Rabobank
13. BONNET, W              FDJ-BigMat
14. LEMARCHAND, R*         AG2R La Mondiale
15. THOMAS, G              Sky Procycling
16. SMUKULIS, G*           Katusha
17. KLIER, A               Garmin-Barracuda
18. HAYMAN, M              Sky Procycling
19. SICARD, R*             Euskaltel-Euskadi
20. IZAGIRRE INAUSTI, G*   Euskaltel-Euskadi
General Classification after Stage 1

1.  GREIPEL, A             Lotto-Belisol       4:33:30
2.  PETACCHI, A            Lampre-ISD             0:04
3.  KOHLER, M              BMC                      st
4.  HUTAROVICH, Y          FDJ-BigMat             0:06
5.  DENNIS, R              UNI SA-Australia       0:07
6.  VORGANOV, E            Katusha                0:08
7.  PAVARIN, M             Vacansoleil-DCM        0:09
8.  SABATINI, F            Liquigas-Cannondale    0:10
9.  BENNATI, D             RadioShack-Nissan        st
10. SUTTON, CJ             Sky Procycling           st

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.