André Greipel used Caleb Ewan as his launchpad to win the opening stage of the 2018 Tour Down Under

André Greipel won stage one of the Tour Down Under, the first WorldTour race of the 2018 campaign.

The Lotto-Soudal sprinter edged out home favourite Caleb Ewan (Michelton-Scott) in Lyndoch, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in third place.

>>> Five things to look out for at the 2018 Tour Down Under

World champion Sagan, who won the People’s Choice Classic just a few days ago, lost his leadout man Sam Bennett in the final kilometres due to a slipped chain, while Elia Viviani, riding for his new team Quick-Step Floors, failed to capitalise on strong positioning.

It is the first time in three years that Ewan hasn’t won the opening stage of Australia’s premier stage race. Greipel’s win is his 17th in the history of the race and is the perfect start to his season after a disappointing 2017 where he only won on five occasions.

>>> Tour Down Under 2018 start list

“It was a nice one, a pretty long sprint. I could wait for as long as possible and I could do a nice sprint,” Greipel said.

How it unfolded

The opening WorldTour race of the season started on the coast in Port Adelaide and worked its way inland towards the finish in Lyndoch, via a series of not-too-signficant undulations, meaning that the stage was expected to eventuate in a sprint.

Three riders formed the day’s break almost instantly. Dimension Data were represented by neo-pro Nicholas Dlamini, EF Education First-Drapac by Will Clarke, and Scott Bowden, riding for a composite University of South Australia team, also worked his way into the escape group. Their lead stretched to almost five minutes after just 10km.

>>> Tour Down Under live TV guide

35km later, however, and Bowden failed to keep pace and retreated back to the peloton, leaving just two riders out in front. The course included three laps of a 26.5km finishing circuit, and after the first lap was completed, the break’s lead had been reduced to two minutes, 30 seconds.

Dlamini, who picked up the King of the Mountains jersey, was absorbed by the peloton with 30km remaining and Clarke holding a lead of 95 seconds. Maciej Bodnar, riding for Sagan, led the peloton in the final chase, with Clarke being swept up at the 10km to go mark.

A gradual descent greeted riders in the last three kilometres before a flat final 200m. Ewan’s Michelson-Scott team packed out the front of the peloton towards the end, but with one kilometre to go Viviani looked to have the best support.

André Greipel wins stage one of the 2018 Tour Down Under. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

As the race rounded the final bend, Viviani launched his sprint first on the left but seemed to go too early. On the opposite side of the road was Ewan in his trademark low sprinting style.

Greipel was wise, however, and used Ewan’s slipstream to conserve energy and then swing left into the middle of the road where he found an abundance of space to open up his sprint.

The German powered towards the line and successfully held off Ewan and the chasing Sagan who emulated Greipel’s line, but required an extra 10 metres if he was to win.

Greipel is the first non-Australian to win a stage of the Tour Down under since Wouter Wippert in 2015, ending the home country’s recent stage dominance.

Results

Tour Down Under 2018, stage one: Port Adelaide to Lyndoch, 145km

1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-50-21
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
5. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE-Team Emirates
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
7. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale)
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Bahrain-Merida)
10. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana, all same time

André Greipel takes overall race lead after stage one. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

General classification after stage one:

1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-50-21
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 4 secs
3. Will Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6 secs
5. Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Dimension Data
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 9 secs
7. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, at 10 secs
9. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE-Team Emirates
10. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb