A decisive early break and a powerful sprint by young Australian Karl Menzies (UniSA) left the favourites out of the reckoning in the Tour Down Under.
Menzies was part of the 18-rider break that formed after just 16km of the first stage through the Barossa Valley vineyards and he survived all the attacks and then out sprinted Switzerland?s Martin Elminger (Ag2r) to win the stage and pull on the orange leader?s jersey.
Lars Bak (CSC) finished third at three seconds and new Australian Predictor rider Matt Lloyd was fourth in the same time after attacking with Menzies in the final kilometres.
Big favourites such as 2006 winner Simon Gerrans (Ag2r), Stuart Grady (CSC) and Robbie McEwen (Predictor) all missed the decisive move and finished 26 minutes down. Fortunately all three had team mates in the move but yet again the Tour Down Under has been shaped on the very first stage.
British riders Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com) and Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) also missed the decisive break and finished in the bunch.
Menzies showed he was on form with third place at last Sunday?s Australian national championships but admitted he may struggle to hold the race for the remaining four stages. He has a narrow one second lead overall from Elminger with Bak a further six seconds off the lead. Lloyd is fourth at nine seconds.
“This is as big as it gets for me, this is the best result by a long way,” Menzies said.
?That was everything I had on Sunday at the Nationals and I was beaten by two stronger guys on the day but you know another day, another race and I had the best legs today.?
“We thought it might go down early, so we all had to be up there. The group went and that was it for the day and then the attacking started with 30km to go and five of us left in the end, we all worked all the way to the line. Now I’ve gotta make it up that Willunga Hill (Saturday’s stage) so a bit of pressure but I’ll have a think about that later. I was just happy to win a stage and I could probably go home now if I wanted to, but I’ll try and get to the end and we’ll just wait to see what happens.?
Thursday?s second stage is from Mannum to Hahndorf over 150km.