January 19, 2016 (Adelaide, Australia) – Young Australian sprint sensation Caleb Ewan has taken out the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide’s East End crossing the line well clear of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff).
The 21 year old pre-race favourite delivered on the work of his Orica GreenEDGE team mates who controlled the majority of the 51km circuit race.
A crowd of 95,000 flocked to Adelaide’s East End to enjoy a hot summer evening as 140 world class cyclists contested 30 laps of the 1.7km circuit, the traditional curtain raiser for this week’s Santos Tour Down Under.
Ewan went into the race having claimed five wins in races so far this year including the Australian Criterium crown at the national championships in Ballarat.
“It’s always hard to go to a race as a favourite,” said Ewan after his win. “I felt more pressure here than at all the races I did so far.
“My team just rode perfectly, we sat back for a lot of the race and cruised around,” said Ewan paying credit to his teammates . “My confidence is pretty high at the moment (but) I knew there would be some quick guys to beat.
“It’s a good start but it wasn’t an easy one.”
“I’m delighted with this victory but I don’t see a more relaxed approach to the Santos Tour Down Under as we have some high ambitions to win GC (overall) and I have personal ambitions to win stages myself,” said Ewan. “This is only the start of a long week.”
Astana’s Lars Boom got the action underway launching an early attack with several others joining him in the effort.
There was cash on the line for four intermediate sprints during the race and it was South African Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data) who grabbed the Subaru sprint at the end of lap five. The iiNet sprint after 10 laps was won by Australian Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) with Chris Hamilton (UniSA-Australia) taking the Europcar sprint at the half way mark.
Italian Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) outsprinted a small group in front to win the Alpecin prize at the end of lap 20 but the Classic is always one for the sprinters and his small group was reeled in soon after.
“We’re here with a great team and we want to perform on every occasion,” said Boaro. “We had Adam (Blythe) for the sprint and today was a good day to test the legs that’s why I went up the road so it was a good test.
“For me coming to Australia is always a pleasure so I looked at coming in the best possible form and I broke away because cycling here is a spectacle and I wanted to give something back to the crowd for their great support.”
Team SKY tried their luck in the closing laps to set up Ben Swift but they went too early as IAM Cycling, Trek-Segafredo, Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale jostled to position their sprinters for the finish.
“I was at the front to help Swifty [Ben Swift] and to be safe,” said SKY’s Geraint Thomas. “We hit the front early, and we knew we were never going to make it from that far out, but Swifty got an easy ride.
“That first lap was a bit of a shock to the system, but it was a great way to start the season.”
With the finish line in sight Nizzolo was the first to jump with Ewan finding a gap and latching onto his wheel before passing the Italian while Blythe repaid the work of Tinkoff with his third place.
Tomorrow is a rest day for the teams with the Santos Tour Down Under kicking off with Hostworks Stage 1 on Tuesday 19 January, a 130km ride from Prospect to Lyndoch.
Ewan Grabs Opening Glory on Stage 1 of Santos Tour Down Under
Ewan, who won Sunday’s People’s Choice Classic, again proved he is the form sprinter in the 140 strong bunch overhauling compatriot Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) with Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Cannondale Pro) crossing in third place.
“I felt good all day and they (Orica-GreenEdge team) backed me right from the start,” said Ewan as he headed to the podium to claim the Santos Ochre Leader’s Jersey. “To win a road race you have to be very conservative during the day, the victory usually goes to the one who’s got the freshest legs and the best team in the end.
“I need to thank Simon Gerrans for sharing the team with me (because) if he’d asked for the whole team to ride for him we’d do so,” said Ewan of his team leader who has three times won overall honours in the Santos Tour Down Under. “For a guy like that to tell me you can have your go I’m really grateful.
“It’ll be a really proud moment for me to race in the ochre jersey tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve never led a World Tour race before and to do it in my own country means a lot to me.”
For his part, Renshaw was pleased to get a placing.
“I haven’t raced as much as the other Aussie guys, and Caleb is hard to beat when he’s going like he is right now,” said Renshaw. “The team did a great job today for me, but my goals come later in the season with Mark Cavendish (for whom he will be a key lead out rider).
“We will keep working for a stage win this week but it was a great start for the team, because this is the first time I’ve really raced with these guys since coming to the team.”
Cannondale’s Wippert was also happy to be in the mix at the finish conceding that Ewan’s top speed is hard to counter.
“The guys did an awesome job to keep me perfectly in front,” said Wippert. “The last five kilometres, it was almost a crash, and sometimes you would lose ten places in 100 metres, and you had to fight back.
“With one kilometre to go, I was pretty far back, and I made the call to go,” he explained.
“Ewan is too good these days to go that far out. Timing is everything with wind like this and I am happy we didn’t crash,” said Wippert who was nonetheless happy to finish in the placings on his first day racing with his new team.
Ewan picked up a time bonus for his win today to give him a four second lead over Renshaw and Gougeard on the overall rankings.
Overcast skies provided some welcome relief from the predicted scorching temperatures as did the occasional smattering of rain drops but it was still a hot, dusty, gusty day in the saddle for the 140 strong peloton who set off from the Adelaide suburb of Prospect to ride the 131 kilometre stage, including four laps through the Barossa towns of Lyndoch, Cockatoo Valley and Williamstown.
Seventy seven thousand came out to support the race and Australian Sean Lake (UniSA-Australia), Frenchman Alexis Gougeard (AG21R-La Mondial) and Dutchman Martijn Keizer (Lotto Jumbo – NL) gave them something to cheer as the trio escaped off the front early in the stage riding clear of the peloton.
As the trio crested the category two climb at Tea Tree Gully 12.8km into the stage it was former rower, Lake, who grabbed the Subaru King of the Mountain points ahead of Keizer with Gougeard third. Forty seconds later Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) led the main bunch over for fourth place climber’s points.
“A long ride up the road suits me more than the other guys so it was my job to break away for UniSA,” said Lake who two years ago swapped a career as a lightweight rower to pursue cycling.
He placed third in the time trial at the recent Australian Championships in Ballarat which was enough to earn him selection in the UniSA – Australia team for the opening UCI WorldTour race of the season.
Lake’s effort to be first over the climb gives him the lead in the Subaru King of the Mountain competition.
“I’m absolutely stoked to get the King of of the Mountains jersey,” said Lake. “I gave it all in the climb.”
The breakaway trio also shared the spoils of the two intermediate iiNet Sprints of the day in Cockatoo Valley. The first, at the 60 kilometre mark, went to 22 year old Gougeard ahead of Keizer and Lake. Gougeard took the points again at the 86 kilometre second iiNet sprint, this time ahead of Lake with Keizer third.
The gap to the lead three stretched out to more than two minutes at one stage before the work began in the bunch to reel them in. But Lake wasn’t done yet with the debutant trying his luck again.
“I saw the two Europeans were sort of struggling with the heat so I went for a solo time trial,” said Lake who stayed clear on his own until five kilometres from home. “It’s always possible to get a stage win like this but not today.”
Back in the bunch Hepburn rode off the front giving Orica-GreenEdge a tactical advantage and forcing the teams of the other sprinters to commit to the chase.
Gougeard was named the Alpecin Most Competitive Rider of the Day for his role in the breakaway.
“I was briefed for breaking away in case there would be more riders up the road,” said the Frenchman. “It was a good test. I don’t have great feelings yet but I had good legs today, certainly better than one year ago in this same race.
“Physically I feel good, mentally too and we’ll try to do a good job for (teammate Domenico) Pozzovivo on GC (overall).”
Tomorrow’s Staging Connections Stage 2 sets off from cosmopolitan Unley for a 132 kilometre stage through the picturesque Adelaide Hills which includes five passes through the eventual finish line in Stirling.
People’s Choice Classic – Jan. 16
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica–GreenEdge 1:02:25
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek–Segafredo
3. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Tinkoff
4. Ben Swift (Gbr) Team Sky
5. Marko Kump (Slo) Lampre–Merida
6. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Rsa) ReinardtTeam Dimension Data
7. Davide Martinelli (Ita) Etixx–Quick-Step
8. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) IAM Cycling
9. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale
10. Patrick Shaw (Aus) UniSA-Australia
77. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Trek–Segafredo 0:30
133. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale 1:46
Tour Down Under Stage 1
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3:24:13
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Dimension Data
3. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale
4. Marko Kump (Slo) Lampre-Merida
5. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Tinkoff
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7. Ben Swift (Gbr) Team Sky
8. Steele von Hoff (Aus) UniSA-Australia
9. José Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Team Movistar
10. Greg Henderson (Nzl) Lotto Soudal
93. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale
116. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Trek-Segafredo
GC after Stage 1
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3:24:13
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Dimension Data 0:04
3. Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale 0:06
5. Sean Lake (Aus) UniSA-Australia 0:07
6. Marko Kump (Slo) Lampre-Merida 0:10
7. Adam Blythe (Gbr) Tinkoff
8. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
9. Ben Swift (Gbr) Team Sky
10. Steele von Hoff (Aus) UniSA-Australia
94. Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale
116. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Trek-Segafredo