André Greipel and his HTC-Columbia team hit back at Team Sky today by winning stage one of the Tour Down Under in Tanunda.
The giant German, nicknamed The Gorilla, timed his sprint to perfection on the long, straight run-up to the finish line to take a clear win ahead of Gert Steegmans (RadioShack). Team Sky’s Greg Henderson was fifth.
Sky took on and beat HTC-Columbia two days before in the Cancer Council Helpline Classic, something few other teams have managed in the last two seasons, but Greipel was too strong for anyone else today.
Without a textbook lead-out, the German took the sprint on himself, jumping down the right hand side of the row with a burst of speed two or three kilometres an hour faster than anyone else.
Sky’s Henderson again got a lead-out from team mate Chris Sutton but admitted to not having the speed in his legs today. “When CJ went I just wasn’t sure exactly when to go. I slipped off the wheel, took a run at it, but got caught on the wrong side,” Henderson said afterwards. “I stalled just a little bit and lost momentum, but today Greipel was just too fast for everyone.”
“I remember seeing a 200m to go and think, right-oh, get ready. Then CJ took off, it was perfect, but today I just wasn’t fast enough. [Greipel] had a comfy sit the whole time on my wheel or maybe one behind, but he must have taken a jump and he went down the road. He did well.”
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Starting with a bang
The first ProTour event of 2010 got off to a calamitous start when an Euskaltel-Euskadi rider crashed in to the ‘kilometre 0’ board and brought the bunch to a standstill as others came down around him or stopped and unclipped their shoes.
Thankfully, no one was hurt and the bunch were up and running again in no time. But just a few minutes later the old cliché of the curse of the rainbow jersey raised its head when Cadel Evans had to stop and change a shoe after someone had ridden into him in the aforementioned melee.
Soon things calmed down and it wasn’t long before the tried and tested format of stage races took hold as a group of three escaped the bunch and started to build up a lead. Timothy Roe (UNI SA), Martin Kohler (BMC) and Biel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) were given over nine minutes at their peak, before HTC-Columbia, Team Sky and Katusha started to peg back the time.
For Sky it was Chris Froome who did much of the work over the flat roads that cut perfectly straight lines through the parched farmland of South Australia. “It’s great, I need to learn how to do it,” said Froome. “It’s all part of bike riding. I’ve done my fair share over the last couple of years, but for me this is more preparation to push me in to good form.”
“I can help the guys because I’ve been training in sunny South Africa. I’m used to these conditions, compared to bringing someone over from the snow in Europe who might struggle in the heat.”
The gap slowly came down as the bunch edged up its speed, then a surprise came on Menglers Hill When RadioShack’s Yaroslav Popovych set such a fierce pace the bunch was whittled down to just 90 riders and simultaneously engulfed the break.
All the sprinters made it over the ‘bump’ as it had been referred to, but Ben Swift and Russell Downing, both crucial cogs in Sky’s lead out train, had been caught behind the split. Henderson was left with Mat Hayman, Davide Vigano and Chris ‘CJ’ Sutton for a lead out but with RadioShack, Liquigas and HTC-Columbia all vying for position on the run-in, no one was able to take control.
In the end, it would have taken a Tour de France prepared nine-man lead-out train to beat André Greipel today. The German had two or three kilometres an hour more in his legs than anyone else and timed his sprint perfectly to boot.
Tomorrow’s stage to Hahndorf looks set to be another sprint finish. Let battle commence.
Tour Down Under stage one: Clare – Tanunda, 141km
1. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia 3-15.30
2. Gert Steegmans (Bel) RadioShack
3. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4. Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC
5. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky
6. Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank
7. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
8. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
9. Jose Rojas (Esp)) Caisse d’Epargne
10. Valeriy Dmitriyev (Kaz) Astana all at same time
91. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-58
103. Russell Downing (GBr) Team Sky at 8-22
109. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at same time
Tour Down Under general classification
1. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia
2. Gert Steegmans (Bel) RadioShack at 4secs
3. Martin Kohler (Sui) BMC at same time
4. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 6secs
5. Biel Kadri (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 6secs
6. Timothy Roe (Aus) UNI SA at 8secs
7. Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC at 10secs
8. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky
9. Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank
10. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank at same time
King of the Mountains classification
Timothy Roe (Aus) UNI SA at 8secs
Martin Kohler (Sui) BMC
Ag2r La Mondiale
Young rider classification
Martin Kohler (Sui) BMC
Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack team set the pace on the climb of the day, splitting the peloton
An Australian cycling fan enjoys the peloton passing through his town
Britain’s Chris Froome keeps the pace high as the peloton reels in the break
Tour Down Under 2010: Race reports
Tour Down Under 2010: Related links
Downing adapts to embrace new challenge
Tour Down Under 2010: Photo galleries