With defending champion Simon Gerrans forced to watch the Tour Down Under from the sidelines due to a broken collarbone, Orica-GreenEdge's approach to the the race shifted from GC to stage wins. Aggressive racing by Mat Hayman at the pre-race criterium, the People's Choice Classic, won by Marcel Kittel, looks to be sign of the team's new approach.
"Matt [White] didn't put any pressure on us but somebody had to do something to show the jersey," Hayman said after the race.
On the eighth of the 30 laps that made the race, Hayman jumped clear from the peloton and was the first rider to do so after numerous others had tried and failed. Hayman was quickly joined by Team Sky's British national champion Peter Kennaugh with Dario Cataldo (Astana) in hot pursuit. The trio, who all rode for Sky would be joined by Calvin Watson (Trek) on the next lap.
With the sprint point on lap ten, Watson and Hayman tangled elbows as they sprinted for the €500 prize which Hayman won in a photo finish.
"Once in the break I went for the intermediate sprints," Hayman said. "I'm not too slow. I've taken part in lead outs and I had some speed as an amateur. It wasn't easy at all today."
The four leaders on the road steadily built a gap over the peloton which reached a maximum of 30 seconds but as the race approached its finale, it became clear the break was doomed as Giant-Alpecin upped the pace to ensure a sprint finish for Kittel.
With the break caught on lap 22, it was an easy finish for Hayman but the 36-year-old gave an indication of GreenEdge's intent for the Tour Down Under to race aggressively and animate the stages. A new approach for the team which has won the overall two out of the last three years.
"It wasn't easy at all today. But the real work starts on Tuesday. Now without [defending champion Simon] Gerrans we're going to ride a little bit more aggressive."