Photo: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo
German sprint star Andre Greipel has sailed to victory in the Down Under Classic to kick off a week of world class cycling. The Classic is the curtain raiser for the Santos Tour Down Under, which Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) has won twice, in 2008 and 2010. Tonight he crossed the line ahead of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) with Australian Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) third.
“As a team, we didn’t want to race with too much pressure but it worked out well,” said Greipel who arrived in Australia super fit and ready to race. “We practiced a lot of lead out train before this race and it paid off. It’s always good to win and it’s a great way to start a new season.
“It wasn’t very difficult for me actually. I only had to follow Greg Henderson who himself followed Jurgen Roelandts,”said Greipel in praise of his team mates. “I just needed to stay on their wheel and get out with 200 metres to go. The race organisation did a good job in making the final corner a bit wider. It was less dangerous than in the past few years. Today’s win is a good warm up for the Santos Tour Down Under. It puts our team Lotto-Belisol on the right track.”
The pace was on from the gun in the 51 kilometre (30 laps) circuit race with Frenchman Arnaud Courteille, 22, of FDJ-BigMat the first to launch an attack.
“I didn’t intend to attack from the gun but I got thrilled because of the hype,” said Courteille. “This is my first time in Australia and I found the crowd absolutely fabulous, that’s what made me go up the road. It was pure euphoria.
“I knew that my good friend, Mickael Cherel, did the same thing two years together with Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pereiro and Peter Sagan.”
But he wasn’t alone for long as nine riders headed out to join him in front including Spaniard Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar) who won the Skoda sprint on lap five, the first of four intermediate sprints.
“I would have liked to win the first sprint but I got passed by a Movistar rider coming from I don’t where,” said Courteille who then dropped back to the peloton. “Once we got caught, my throat was all fired up because of this violent effort. But it was a great ride. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Garmin-Barracuda’s newest Australian recruit Nathan Haas was in the lead group and he was on a mission to grab the remaining sprints claiming the Hindmarsh sprint at lap ten, the Cycle Instead sprint at lap 15 and the Jayco sprint on lap 20.
But as the race headed into the final ten laps the lead group was in sight and the peloton soon reeled them in to set up a lightning fast final few laps that ended in a bunch sprint.
The riders will have a day off racing tomorrow to prepare for the opening WorldTour race which gets underway on Tuesday with stage one of the Santos Tour Down Under, a 149km stage from Prospect to Clare.
Source: Santos Tour Down Under