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In pursuit of the ultimate mountain bike
Welcome back to Adelaide, Australia, for coverage of stage one of the Santos Tour Down Under. Today's stage takes riders on a 141km journey from Clare, about 130km north of Adelaide, to Tanunda, in the midst of the beautiful Barossa Valley wine region. Two sprint points and a climb up the gnarly Menglers Hill will help animate the course and the general consensus is that it will end in a bunch sprint.
Stage one of the Tour Down Under is underway... after much anticipation there's a crash and a solo break already! Gorka Izaguirre from Euskaltel Euskadi heads off on his own right from the gun and quickly gets 35 seconds..
Looks like Jonathan Cantwell (UniSA) is havign a few problems with his bike, the race director calling for the team car to provide assistance. Meanwhile, Gerben Lowik (Omeag Pharma-Lotto) has called for the doctor's car. Hope he's well after the long trip from Europe...
David Kemp, the final addition to the UniSA team, has decided to fly the coop, which has instigated some moves from within the pack.
No love for David Kemp. One of the UniSA strongmen has been reeled back in by the bunch, whilst Gorka Izaguirre maintains his lead off the front. We'll have some meteorological info from our man on the ground in just a second but until then, sit back, relax and take a look at our news piece by Greg Johnson on two-time Tour Down Under winner Stuart O'Grady ahead of this year's race.
Another Australian young gun, Rohan Dennis (UniSA) and Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) have tried their luck off the front, quickly accumulating a 40-second lead.
Time on the front has run out for Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), whose lead has been whittled down and has now been caught by the bunch
There's a new attack, this time from another UniSA rider, with local lad Tim Roe getting away with Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) and Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), quickly gaining 300m.
That time check of 10 seconds was more like 35, with official confirmation that the group of three has gained more than half a minute.
Time for that weather update for those outside the lovely confines of Adelaide this morning: A picture perfect day, with little to no wind at all. An expected top temperature in the mid-to-high 20's (Celsius) should await the race later in the day. This morning it was a little chilly although by the sound of it the sun has had the desired effect.
Now for a little introduction to our climb of the day, Menglers Hill. A friend of the Cyclingnews family, local boy Jaed Hopgood, says that today's climb is a bit of a 'wall', with a kilometre of touch, little gear grinding in store for most riders, although we can be sure that the pro guys will be heading up there pretty quickly. It's not far from the town of Tanunda and should provide the spark for some action late in the stage.
As expected, the gap has been extended to 2:45 from the peloton to the leading group of three...
Our man on the ground, Greg Johnson, has spotted a bit of local 'farm art' that's rather fetching - a line of tractors with bikes hanging from them as the race came into Tarlee caught the young man's eye. I prefer a bit of Dali myself, but whatever tickles your fancy, I guess...
Seems like the TDU race radio ain't giving us much love today, so in the meantime I'll do my best to provide a brief, informative gastronomic tourist guide to the region the riders are travelling through today. The Clare Valley produces a great Riesling, which can be sampled along the Riesling Trail, which is actually a cycling trail through the area. There's also some production of red wines, including Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the latter winning international awards in recent years.
Whoa! With five kilometres to go before the first Jayco Sprint point, the leading group of three has gained over three minutes to sit 6:50 in front of the peloton. Feeding has begun so there's a chance to take more time...
Just as we predicted, the gap has grown with the feeding, the advantage growing to 7:21 from the leading group of three to the peloton.
Hay, hay, hay everywhere, folks... there's plenty of it, according to Monsieur Johnson, the region producing some excellent beef to go with those Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines I mentioned earlier. Prime cuts of Angus can be found in most of the restaurants attached to the wineries in the area.
As the peloton passes the five kilometre mark until the first intermediate sprint, the gap to the leading trio has increased to 8:22. Roe, Kohler and Kadri have it wound up and are giving it a red hot go! They've just contested the first sprint point, with Kohler winning it, ahead of Kadri and Roe.
Just confirming the results of the first intermediate sprint: Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) won it, ahead of Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) and Tim Roe (UniSA). Well done Martin.
There's a reaction from the peloton, with HTC-Columbia initiating some action amongst the troops... But the gap remains in excess of eight minutes to the leading trio.
The peloton passes through the intermediate sprint, with the gap extended to 9:45 - with less than 100km to go it's nothing to get worried about yet, but my bet is on the sprinters' teams getting organised fairly soon to control the run up Menglers Hill.
Speaking of the sprinters' teams, HTC-Columbia's leader, André Greipel, said at the start this morning that "Winning in 2008 was a great warmup for his career." He added that, "This year's a new year however, and hopefully the luck is with me."
So after an hour and a quarter of racing, the stage is getting closer to its halfway mark and as anticipated, a break has been let go. It's too soon to provide a prognosis on its chances of survival, but should the leading three get more time in the next 20km, Kohler, Kadri and local boy Roe might get a sniff of an upset.
The work of HTC-Columbia has been effective, with the gap from the leading trio to the peloton decreasing to 8:55. If I was a betting man, I would have made a few dollars on my prediction that the sprinters' teams would start organising themselves. Mamma told me not to gamble, however, although that never stopped my great uncle!
As Menglers Hill approaches, let's take an opportunity to reflect on the wise words of Team Milram's Luke Roberts, who spoke to Cyclingnews about today's stage:
We head south for most of the stage and there's one point where we turn and head in an easterly direction. If the wind is strong enough then there's going to be a section of crosswind before the climb. If the hammer really goes down there then the field is going to be broken up coming into the climb.
If there are good climbers in the first group, the guys in the second or third group are never going to see them again. It's going to be pretty important to watch the wind through the whole stage.
I don't think many riders know the terrain out there [Clare] and it's a long way out of Adelaide - there aren't many guys who go out there for a training ride, not even the Adelaide boys! It's going to be a bit of an unknown quantity for the riders out beyond Tanunda. It's going to be interesting - on the profile it looks like it goes all downhill, but it has something there for a big day.
I'm expecting the worst before the hill and hope it's not as bad as I'm expecting. We'll be on the alert from the word go and make sure we'll have something in store for the hill.
Sensing danger on the horizon, the peloton has reduced the gap to the leading group of three to 8:05 as Tarlee gets a taste of the tour. That's 50 seconds in five kilometres. Not bad, lads...
Hard Yakka for HTC-Columbia as the gap to the three leaders, who are approaching the second intermediate sprint, is down to 7:15.
Whilst HTC-Columbia continues to chase the break, Matt Lloyd told Greg Johnson this morning that he believes "everyone will be eager to keep the sprint ball rolling but there are a few places where a break could get away". He did note, however, that, "With so many teams [in contention for the sprint] it will be pretty controlled". Perfectly said, Matthew! Pretty much how today is panning out...
Now a drumroll for our next announcement please folks... This morning RadioShacker Lance Armstrong said that, "The only tricky thing [about today's stage] is the hill on the finishing circuit. That could be complicated but other than that we're expecting a fairly straightforward sprint." The big Texan will surely be keeping out of trouble, with the team's sprinters Tomas Vaitkus or Daryl Impey possibly having a crack at the sprint in Tanunda.
That time check arrived as soon as I told you the gap would be less than seven minutes and we were on the money, with the break holding a 6:40 advantage.
As the peloton passes the second intermediate sprint, the time gap to the three leaders has decreased to 6.04. Whilst race radio wasn't overly forthcoming with the results of that second sprint in Kapunda, we can confirm that Martin Kohler took the points. A new jersey for the BMC rider to wear tomorrow, methinks!
While we still haven't got full details of that second sprint, we can tell you that the time gap has decreased further, with Tim Roe (UniSA), Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) and Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale) 5:44 from the peloton. With a shade over half distance remaining, the three boys' time out the front is limited.
Apparently our man has spotted some alpacas grazing in the field. No cows - they're soooo 30 kilometres ago. It's all about teh long necks in this part of the stage. Seems like local producers make some fantastic jumpers from the wool, which are then sold in the town of Kapunda, nestled in the heart of the Barossa Valley.
The peloton has clawed back another 44 seconds, as the gap to the three leaders now stands at an even five minutes. The break is passing the feed zone, which comes a further six kilometres down the road.
So as we head towards the town of Tanunda, let's get a rundown of what to expect in today's finish town. It's the home of Jacob's Creek, which formerly sponsored the race. The town is the heart of the Barossa Valley wine region, with Chateua Tanunda one of the best-known wineries. It hosts a 'Annual Masters Cricket Match' every year.
The match attracts stars of the past such as Englishman Ian Botham, West Indian Kenny Benjamin and Australian fast bowler Bruce Reid and offers a little bit of glamour to the town, as does the Tour Down Under. Apologies to those fans who aren't fans of the game...
With the feed zone in sight for the peloton, the gap between it and the leaders has decreased to 4:53. Seppeltsfield beckons for the riders, which is actually a settlement built by and for the Seppelt family, a large wine-producing family.
With two-and-a-quarter hours gone in today's stage, let's recap what has happened: Euskaltel Euskadi's Gorka Izaguirre tried his luck from the gun today, gaining a maximum advantage of 2:20 before he was reeled in by the peloton. During the Spaniard's break, Rohan Dennis (UniSA) and Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) rode off the front of the peloton, but their time was limited too. Kohler managed to find the right combination of escape partners, forming a three-man group with Tim Roe (UniSA), and Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale) that has been away since kilometre 20 and remain four-and-a-half minutes in front of a charging peloton, lead for a long time by HTC-Columbia.
With the climb of Menglers Hill approaching, the gap between the three leaders and the peloton is 3:55 as those riders at the front pass under the finishing banner for the first time.
Could this trio be today's band of silent assasins? Stay tuned to find out as the day's Skoda KOM approaches...
Now it's time for the peloton to pass under the finishing banner for the first time in Tanunda, with the gap to the leaders staying above three minutes, although at 3:23, the peloton has wiped off over 30 seconds in five kilometres. Get ready for some fireworks, folks!
As the leading trio approaches five kilometres to the KOM point, we've heard that Martin Kohler won that second sprint in Kapunda, followed by Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Tim Roe (UniSA), a repeat of the first sprint.
One rider who will be looking to get into the mix at the finish in Tanunda will be Graeme Brown. The Rabobank rider was picking that, "a few riders might try to break it up a bit today, although there's a fair chance that it will end in a sprint."
Of course you hope it ends in a sprint, Brownie! You're a good chance of winning it...
With three kilometres before the peloton passes the KOM, the gap has fallen to 2:33 as Tim Roe goes on the attack at the front of the race and takes 11 seconds on his break companions. The local boy has decided it's time to fly in a bid for the mountains jersey today. It's a case of, 'Alright boys, you've taken the sprint points, it's time to throw me some love as we head up the climb!'
It's turbo time for Tim Roe as the peloton approaches the KOM...
The peloton passes the KOM and trails the leaders by 1:48. The big teams are cutting it fine as Tim Roe maintains his time in the sun off the front of the race. We are assuming he won the KOM points, with Martin Kohler and Biel Kadri fighting for the scraps behind.
The peloton has caught Kohler and Kadri as Roe is in its sights - don't give up now, Tim! The downhill run into Tanunda doesn't favour his chances of staying away although the race is now breaking up into several groups, with a bunch of 30 or 40 taking off the front of the peloton.
UniSA rider Tim Roe has a 25-second lead over a large chase group that is in front of the second chase by 40 seconds and the third chase group by 1:03. The gauntlet has been thrown down and the rider with the best team support is going to stand the best chance as everyone goes for broke. Only 20km to go...
Thomas Rohregger (Milram) has taken off from the first chase group to join Tim Roe and lead the race heading into Angaston
Rohregger has forged ahead as Roe struggles and is absorbed by the chase group... a valiant effort, young Tim!
There's 24 seconds for Rohregger ehad of the first chase group
The second chase group has been attacked by three riders but this trio is shut down as Rohregger remains alone in front
Thomas Rohregger is also caught by the bunch as the race at the front comes together with 60-70 riders, with a chase group still sitting about 40-50 seconds behind
The front group is 10km from the finish... as eight riders from six teams get 100m up the road
Liquigas-Doimo leads the front group within the final 10km as Matt Wilson (Garmin-Transitions) attacks the chase group and gains seven seconds.
Matt Wilson (Garmin Transitions) aborts his attack as HTC-Columbia controls the front of the leading bunch. Jack Bobridge from Garmin-Transitions also attacks but is reined in by the group
As we head into the final kilometre, HTC-Columbia leads the front group, in complete control
HTC-Columbia gets it with Greipel!
Well done Allan Peiper and his riders from HTC-Columbia. We'll endeavour to bring you today's podium placings in just a second..
1. André Greipel (HTC-Columbia)