Marcel Kittel loses lead-out to GC ambitions of UniSA-Australia

Jack Bobridge celebrated a narrow victory at the opening stage of the Tour Down Under today with politics spoiling the chances of sprinters including Marcel Kittel.

Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) and his three fellow escapees Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) and Maxim Belkov (Astana) stayed ahead but finished in the same time as the charging bunch, which left its run too late.

The quartet established within the first 20km of the punchy 132.6km stage that began in Tanunda under grey sky and spitting rain. Lawson Craddock from Giant-Alpecin assisted Team Sky at the front of the peloton with the time gap to the break never more than two minutes and forty seconds.

>>> Tour Down Under route: stage-by-stage

Bobridge easily surged ahead on the category two Checker Hill, some 28km from the finish, collecting the prime before the break re-grouped on the decisive descent. The escapees had a mere 40 second advantage inside the last three kilometres but managed to stay clear with stage favourite Kittel not contesting minor placings.

“It was all to do with the politics of the race, not about the breakaway,” UniSA-Australia sports director Dave Sanders said. “The point is once you get on the Gorge, Jack knows that descent better than anyone else in this field. A small group with someone who really knows that road will go down as quick or quicker than a big chase group.”

Former British national road champion Ian Stannard was satisfied with Sky’s start to the tour, with team-mate Richie Porte holding title aspirations.

“I guess with Richie we were expected to do a bit of work and didn’t really want to lose the race on the first day,” Stannard said. “We didn’t necessarily want to catch the break we just wanted to control it, and they were a strong group. If they finished two minutes ahead it would have been a lot of work to try and get that back as the climbs here aren’t massive. It was just about protecting our interest and not losing it on the first day.”

>>> Analysis: Who wants to win the Tour Down Under?

Kittel’s Giant-Alpecin team has a two-prong attack at the tour with the German aiming for sprint stage victories and Simon Geschke and Tom Dumoulin looking to the general classification. In the end, the team had to protect the interests of the latter.

“We had a pretty good tactic and it looked like it was going to work out for us. We weren’t going to take the race under control but a couple of teams wanted to ride and Sky asked if we wanted to put one guy in from the beginning, and we did,” Giant-Alpecin pilot Koen de Kort explained.

“After the climb it was fast for a little while and then all of a sudden no one was riding any more. It just stopped and the break rode back out to 40 seconds. I panicked and started riding because I could only see Tom Dumoulin and Marcel Kittel near me. In the end GC is still really important so maybe we gave up the chance in the sprint to keep GC. At least we came close enough that there is just a really small gap. For GC it’s still looking really good but it’s unfortunate it didn’t work out for the stage.”

>>> Tour Down Under stage one photo gallery

Results
Tour Down Under 2015, stage one: Tanunda to Campbelltown, 132.6km

1. Jack Bobridge (Aus) UniSA-Australia 2-59-44
2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana
3. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha
5. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx-Quick-Step
7. Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Movistar
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM
9. Steele von Hoff (Aus) UniSA-Australia
10. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge

Overall classification after stage one
1. Jack Bobridge (Aus) UniSA-Australia 2-59-31

2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana at 4 secs
3. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 6 secs
4. Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha at 10 secs
5. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 13 secs
6. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx-Quick-Step
7. Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Movistar
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM
9. Steele von Hoff (Aus) UniSA-Australia
10. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge

Jack Bobridge wins stage one of the 2015 Tour Down Under

Jack Bobridge wins stage one of the 2015 Tour Down Under