André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) has won the opening stage of the 2013 Tour Down Under.
The giant German, affectionately known as ‘the gorilla’, powered ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Mark Renshaw (Blanco Pro Cycling), to claim his second win of the season, having triumphed in the People’s Choice Classic criterium race last Sunday (20).
The Lotto-Belisol sprint train functioned with its trademark efficiency, propelling Greipel to the stage victory and the leader’s ochre jersey. This latest victory is his twelfth in the Tour Down Under, a race he has previously won twice.
Greipel compared his sprint train to motorcycle outriders in a tweet after his earlier victory, and did so again after his first win of the WorldTour season.
“Thanks to the @Lotto_Belisol motobikes. Awesome job to control it in that hard final. We did it again and I appreciate the work,” he said.
When the Lotto-Belisol team hit the front in the closing kilometres of the 135km stage from Prospect to Lobethal, Greipel’s victory assumed the status of inevitability, but until then, it had seemed an open stage.
Jordan Kerby (UniSA-Australia), perhaps attempting to replicate Will Clarke’s heroics from the second stage of last year’s race, launched an early attack, and had gained a seven-minute lead within 40km. His unchallenged run at the King of the Mountains kite at Checker Hill gave him the first polka dot jersey of the race.
Intermediate sprints drew an unexpected flurry of activity from those expected to contend for overall victory, defending champion, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), and Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), among them; even world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), threw himself into the mix.
Kerby’s lead was terminated after 100km when he was passed by Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Jérôme Pineau, who launched his own solo effort shortly after the second intermediate sprint.
But with just 35km remaining until the finish, the peloton refused to show him the largesse afforded Kerby, and he was passed by Gilbert as the Belgian launched a move for the bonus seconds of the second intermediate sprint.
The Team Sky sprint train formed in the closing kilometres in a bid to launch Edvald Boasson Hagen into contention for the stage victory, but the Norwegian champion had to settle for eighth place.
His teammate, Geraint Thomas, speaking after the stage to Sky Sports said that the squad had been ‘a bit swamped’ in the race for the line – one dominated by Lotto-Belisol.
Greipel wrapped up a comfortable victory, but is unlikely to repeat his victory on today’s 116.5km stage from Mt Barker to Rostrevor, unless he can stay with the leaders over the stage’s only king of the mountains climb, which appears just 3km from a downhill finish.
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, said he expected Boasson Hagen and Thomas to feature at the denouement.
“We need to make sure that we have Edvald and G ready to go on that climb and hopefully they will end up in the front group. I think it could be a small group at the finish.”
With previous editions of the Tour Down Under decided by a handful of seconds, and Gerrans claiming victory on countback in last year’s race, none of the contenders is taking chances. The defending champion, Gilbert,
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Santos Tour Down Under 2013 – stage one – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 3.35.24
2) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – ST
3) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Blanco Pro Cycling – ST
4) Simone Ponzi (ITA) – Astana – ST
5) Steele Van Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
6) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
7) Daniele Pietropolli (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
8) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky – ST
9) JJ Rojas (SPA) – Movistar – ST
10) Zak Dempster (AUS) – UniSA – ST
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 3.35.14
2) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ +4”
3) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Blanco Pro Cycling +6”
4) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica GreenEDGE +7”
5) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – ST
6) Jérôme Pineau (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +8”
7) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM – ST
8) Simone Ponzi (ITA) – Astana +9”
9) JJ Rojas (SPA) – Movistar – ST
10) Steele Van Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +10”