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Cadel Evans (BMC) began his season on home roads.
Former world champion concedes eleven seconds to two-time winner Simon Gerrans
Cadel Evans (BMC) has labelled Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) as "the man to beat" after the two-time Tour Down Under champion took stage one of the 2014 race in emphatic fashion with an impressive sprint victory over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and newly-crowned Australian criterium champion Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp).
Evans conceded eleven seconds to Gerrans on the stage thanks to the time bonuses gained by the Orica-GreenEdge man on the 135-kilometre leg from Nuriootpa to Angaston, which featured a taxing 3km climb up Menglers Hill in the finale.
"Looking at the results, Simon Gerrans looks to be the guy to beat," said Evans, who turns 37 in February. "I was there in the final but I was a bit disappointed – I would have liked to have been much closer to the bonus seconds in a finish like that."
This is Evans' first appearance at the Tour Down Under since finishing sixth overall while wearing the rainbow jersey of world champion in 2010. The former Tour de France winner said that it's difficult to assess precisely where both he and his BMC teammates are in terms of form at the moment.
"I found on a couple of occasions it was a bit hard to judge because it's the first race of the year, you don't know the level of everyone else," Evans said. "It's not as good a start as I would have liked, but it's the first day of what's going to be a pretty intense week of racing, I think."
Stage two could provide Evans an opportunity to capture a stage win and claw some time back from Gerrans. Evans finished second on the 150-kilometre Stirling stage in 2010, and according to Orica’s sports director Matt White Evans is still a viable threat to Gerrans' bid to become the Tour Down Under’s first three-time winner.
"I think Cadel will be very good here once the race gets a bit harder tomorrow and on the Corkscrew [stage three]," White told Cyclingnews. "It’s a short, intense tour and anything can happen."