Andre Greipel, who claimed four stages and the overall victory in last year?s Tour Down Under, picked up where he left off, with the Team Columbia rider winning the bunch sprint at Mawson Lakes, ahead of Baden Cooke and Stuart O’Grady, at the end of Monday?s first stage.
Robbie McEwen, who won Sunday?s Cancer Council Classic in Adelaide city centre, hit a camera-wielding spectator on the long finishing straight. The sprinter suffered bruising to his arm, but still managed to place fourth on the stage.
Lance Armstrong, in the first road race of his comeback, finished safely in the bunch, crossing the line 120th, in the same time as Greipel.
The 140km stage, starting in the Adelaide suburb of Norwood, was dominated by a two-man breakaway, Olivier Kaisen of Silence-Lotto and Andoni Lafuente of Euskaltel-Euskadi.
The pair built a lead of six-and-a-half minutes by half-distance, but as they were reeled in the promising young Australian, Jack Bobridge, bridged the gap to Kaisen, who had dropped his companion, then attacked alone before being caught in the final kilometre.
Greipel, who appeared to mis-judge Sunday?s finale, was a convincing winner at Mawson, while Armstrong, prominent at the front of the peloton throughout the stage, kept out of harm?s way.
?Today was the easy day?? said Armstrong at the finish. ?It was tough. The course, combined with the heat, made it tough, but I felt pretty strong on the steep little hills.
?It?s nice to get that out the way,? he added. ?I feel quite strong but we?ll see how my recovery is. The dry heat affects performance a lot ? I went through 15-20 bottles.?
At the stage finish Armstrong met the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. ?It?s an honour to meet him, and it?s an honour for the race that he?s hear,? said Armstrong. ?We talked about [President Obama?s] inauguration and about the fight against cancer.?
Stage winner Greipel said: ?I think we were the strongest team today, and I had a really good lead out. Tomorrow is a really hard stage, [but] now we have the leader?s jersey we?ll try to defend it.
?I?m 2kg lighter than last year, and hopefully I can climb better and stay with the best.?
TOUR DOWN UNDER STAGE ONE: RESULTS
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-High Road in 3 hours 45 mins 27 secs
2. Baden Cooke (Aus) UniSA
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Saxo Bank
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Jacopo Guanieri (Ita) Liquigas
6. Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step
7. Willem Stroetinga (Ned) Milram
8. Timothy Gudsell (NZ) Francaise des Jeux
9. Luca Barla (Ita) Milram
10. Andrea Grendene (Ita) Lampre
Astana riders flank Lance Armstrong in the bunch
Defending TDU champion Andre Greipel wins the opening stage
Photos by Graham Watson