Sagan triumphs as sprinters come out to play
Reigning and three time world champion Peter Sagan has kicked off his 2018 season in style sprinting home to claim honours in the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide.
Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) comfortably held off three-time Classic winner, Germany’s Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) with Australian Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton Scott), missing out on a Classic three-peat to cross in third place.
“I’m very happy for my team,” said Sagan. “It’s a very good start of the season.”
One-hundred and three thousand fans flocked to the Adelaide street circuit for the 22 lap, 50.6km curtain raiser for the 20th edition of the Santos Tour Down Under.
“I thank all the people who turned up today,” said Sagan whose team mates worked hard on the front of the peloton to control the pace in the final laps of the race to set up their sprint ace.
“I was well positioned ahead of the sprint but some guys came from behind and closed me in a little bit,” Sagan explained. “I didn’t expect I could win today but at the end it went very well. My condition is good.”
Ewan agrees the world champion looks hard to beat but the young Australian who last year won a record four stages and the Classic won’t let that dampen his ambition.
“It was a pretty tough one (tonight),” said Ewan who lost team mate Alex Edmondson early in the race cutting the team’s firepower. “I started my sprint a bit too early and there was more of a head wind than I thought it was going to be.
“We always knew he’d (Sagan) be the one to watch for,” said Ewan. “They have two cards to play (Jay McArthy) so it’s hard to know who they’re racing for. But I’m really confident for the week ahead.”
2016 Olympic Games omnium gold medallist, Elia Viviani, signalled he’ll also be one to watch in the sprints with the QuickStep Floors recovering from bad position in the final corner to come through the traffic for fourth place.
“I thought I would’ve been 10th so to come close is OK,” said Viviani. “I lost a wheel but I was able to come back. It is the first race of the season so I know I need to just trust my guys when they lead me out.”
“The goal this week is to win one stage. One would be enough.”
The Classic started at pace with a small breakaway group forming off the front early in the race in a bid to claim the intermediate sprints at the end of laps five, ten, 15 and 20.
Zakkari Dempster (UniSA-Australia), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek Segafredo) and Tom Bohli (BMC Racing) kicked off the attack with Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), Timothy Roe ((UniSA-Australia), Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin) and Manuele Boara (Bahrain-Merida) joining them soon after. The leaders rode out to a lead of more than 40 seconds by the halfway mark.
Italian Boaro claimed the first prime and was excited to be back racing after a winter in Europe.
“It’s always exciting to race here because the crowd is so great,” said Boaro. “I’m glad the team gave me a free role. I worked well during the winter. It feels good to see the effects during the race today.”
The escapees held on for 15 laps but as has always been the case with the Classic is a sprinter’s playground and the breakaway was caught with set up the frantic, final sprint.
Team Sky rider Kristoffer Halvorsen came unstuck in the final 200 metres clipping the barrier and crashing heavily onto his right side. He was due to have precautionary x-rays on his hand and wrist overnight.
The peloton will enjoy a rest day tomorrow to prepare for the opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under which on Tuesday heads back to Port Adelaide for the first time since the 1999 inaugural event. The riders will contest a 145 kilometre stage through the Barossa Valley wine growing region to the finish in Lyndoch.