André Greipel has won the opening stage of the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under, the German’s 12th stage victory in the race. That matches Robbie McEwen’s record, though in his current form few would bet against Greipel holding it outright within the coming days. FDJ’s Arnaud Demare finished second, with Mark Renshaw of Blanco Pro Cycling third.
It was a convincing win by Greipel, whose Lotto-Belisol team had ridden hard at the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres of the race, the tempo causing a number of fancied riders to struggle and lose contact with the head of the bunch over the undulating terrain.
Sky, too, had helped force the pace but Edvald Boasson Hagen had been isolated from his team mates by the time the peloton passed under the flame rouge and the Norwegian finished eighth.
After the stage, Greipel said: "We expected more attacks. It was hard to control and keep me up the front but the team did an awesome job."
The day’s main attack was a solo effort by UniSA’s Jordan Kerby, who earlier this month won the under-23 Australian road race championship.
Kerby got away early on in the 135 kilometre stage from Prospect and at one point had a lead of seven minutes, and the youngster ended the day with the mountains jersey and the combativity prize.
The Australian had been caught by the time the day’s third intermediate stage took place, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Jerome Pineau having broken off the front of the peloton and looking set to clinch maximum points there until world champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing shot past him on the line, much to the Frenchman’s astonishment.
Tomorrow’s Stage 2, which covers 116.5 kilometres from Mount Barker to the finish in the suburb Rostrevor, features the climb of Corkscrew Hill, crested 7 kilometres from the finish, which Gilbert believes could be crucial for the overall.
"This climb will decide a lot in this race," he reflecetd. "If it's hot like this, it will be hard. It's the beginning of the season and we will not have the same fitness as in the spring classics. I take more pleasure [racing] like this."
It was a difficult day for RadioShack Leopard Trek’s Andy Schleck, who spent most of last season out through injury.
"I was okay. I just don't know how to ride in the peloton anymore," he admitted. "That was the most difficult part of the day. I lost contact with the bunch on the last downhill. I am not happy.
"The sensations are okay, but the results are not good. Physically, I am okay. I do not feel so safe in the peloton.
“You already saw it was getting nervous in the end. I was not in a good position, in the downhill and the right turn, I had to let go. I hope the next days are getting better and I get back the feeling."
Santos Tour Down Under Stage 1 result 1 GREIPEL, André Lotto Belisol 3:35:24 2 DEMARE, Arnaud FDJ st 3 RENSHAW, Mark Blanco st 4 PONZI, Simone Astana st 5 VON HOFF, Steele Garmin Sharp st 6 FERRARI, Roberto Lampre-Merida st 7 PIETROPOLLI, Daniele Lampre-Merida st 8 BOASSON HAGEN, Edvald Sky Procycling st 9 ROJAS GIL, Jose Joaquin Movistar st 10 DEMPSTER, Zakkari UNI SA - Australia st 11 CANTWELL, Jonathan Saxo-Tinkoff st 12 LOBATO, Juan Jose Euskaltel Euskadi st 13 GIACOPPO, Anthony UNI SA - Australia st 14 IZAGIRRE, Ion Euskaltel Euskadi st 15 SLAGTER, Tom Jelte Blanco st 16 IMPEY, Daryl ORICA GreenEDGE st 17 VALLS FERRI, Rafael Vacansoleil-DCM st 18 VELITS, Peter Omega Pharma-Quick-Step st 19 AGOSTINI, Stefano Cannondale st 20 THOMAS, Geraint 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.