Tour Down Under 2017: Caleb Ewan sprints to stage one victory - Road Cycling UK

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Tour Down Under 2017: Caleb Ewan sprints to stage one victory

Australian pulls on ochre jersey after shortened stage due to extreme heat

Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) sprinted to stage one success at the Santos Tour Down Under in stifling heat to pull on the first ochre jersey of this year’s race.

The first UCI WorldTour race of the season got underway in Adelaide, but in the extreme heat of summer – temperatures nudged 40 degrees – the decision was made to shorten the stage to 118km.

It meant one less lap of Lyndoch to negotiate, but Ewan – who also won the opening stage of last year’s race – outsprinted Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) and Danny van Poppel (Team Sky) to claim victory.

Caleb Ewan, right, outsprinted Team Sky’s Danny van Poppel and Bora-hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett to win stage one of the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under (pic – Sirotti)

A bunch sprint was always expected of the first stage, and even more so when only one rider – Astana’s Laurens de Vreese – broke off the front to form the break.

With no support, the peloton was happy to leave the 29-year-old Belgian up the road, slogging away in the hot, sticky conditions.

As there was only one rider in the break, points – and, more significantly, bonus seconds – were up for grabs in the peloton at the first intermediate sprint.

Australian duo Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) outlined their overall ambitions by snaffling one and two seconds respectively.

When De Vreese’s day up the road was finally ended, with less than 20km still to race, Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe) took full advantage at the next intermediate sprint to also outline his overall ambition.

A compact peloton prompted Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) to attack, though they never linked up together, but the sprint teams were alert to the danger and would not be denied.

Ewan will wear the ochre jersey on stage two, after kicking off the UCI WorldTour season with victory for the second consecutive year (pic – Sirotti)

In the final sprint, with a slight headwind to contend with, world champion Peter Sagan led Irishman Bennett out.

But Ewan blasted down the open road on the left-hand-side and timed his kick to perfection, catching Bennett out just as the Bora-hansgrohe man swung off his team-mate’s wheel.

Van Poppel came through to take second place, splitting Ewan and Bennett, but it will be Ewan – for the second consecutive year – who starts stage two with the ochre jersey on his back.

Santos Tour Down Under 2017: stage one – result

1) Caleb Ewan (AUS) – Orica-Scott – 3.24.18hrs
2) Danny van Poppel (NED) – Team Sky – ST
3) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Bora-hansgrohe
4) Marko Kump (SVN) – UAE Abu Dhabi
5) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida
6) Nikias Arndt (GER) – Team Sunweb
7) Baptiste Planckaert (BEL) – Katusha-Alpecin
8) Edward Theuns (BEL) – Trek-Segafredo
9) Miles Scotson (AUS) – BMC Racing
10) Sean de Bie (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal

General classification

1) Caleb Ewan (AUS) – Orica-Scott – 3.24.08hrs
2) Danny van Poppel (NED) – Team Sky +4”
3) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Bora-hansgrohe +6”
4) Jay McCarthy (AUS) – Bora-hansgrohe +7”
5) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Dimension Data +8”
6) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-Scott – ST
7) Jose Goncalves (POR) – Katusha-Alpecin
8) Marko Kump (SVN) – UAE Abu Dhabi +10”
9) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida – ST
10) Nikias Arndt (GER) – Team Sunweb

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