Robbie McEwen predicted mayhem at today's stage of the Santos Tour Down Under and he benefited from the ensuing madness, taking second behind Ben Swift and assuming the overall lead of this year's edition.
Two crashes within the final three kilometres put paid to HTC-Highroad chances of securing back-to-back stage victories, as Mark Cavendish (who required several stitches after falling) and erstwhile leader Matt Goss found themselves on the receiving end of a chaotic finale.
And unlike the Cancer Council Classic on Sunday, Team Sky managed to successfully change tack, despite having one of its fancied riders fall victim to a last-minute mishap as Ben Swift claimed his first ProTour victory.
"I can't believe it. There was just a pile up... it was carnage in the end," said Swift. "The first crash we lost our sprinter, two riders fell in front of him. I jumped with 200m to go. Robbie [McEwen] tried to get the jump on me, I felt brilliant.
"I was on the wheel of Mat Hayman and he knows how to avoid the crashes; I felt so comfortable following him. Unfortunately one of our guys did crash like I said, but I could just pick one of the other guys. Hopefully we can get another win. It is great to get the first win of the year. I will just have to keep the ball rolling."
The Briton moved into third overall with his win, sitting on the same time as overall leader Robbie McEwen, who is getting stronger as the race continues and may have his best shot at the title in what could be his last year as a professional.
The man who finished behind him today, Graeme Brown, managed to take the last podium spot in Mannum despite suffering a slowdown of sorts in the first of the afternoon's crashes. "The one [crash] at the top of the hill, just where we turn left my team mate actually crashed right in front of me, and I was caught up in the mix and I was off the road," said Brown.
"I had to come back through the bunch again and then the one [crash] at the finish I didn't even know about - I just spoke to Geraint Thomas about it and he said he just got hit from behind at 200m to go."
That accident just 200 metres from the line involved Cameron Meyer, who was able to maintain some stoicism after falling heavily whilst helping leadout teammate Tyler Farrar. "Three years I've done this tour and I've come down each year, so I'm starting to get used to it now," he quipped.
"I was in that last crash, at the 150m to go, and there was a pile up and I had nowhere to go. I went straight over the handlebars, ran up the back of some people. I mean I guess that's how it goes. It was always going to be tight with so many sprinters and lead out men and its going to get pretty fast when going into the finishes."
Krivtsov provides the calm before the storm
The day's main break was initiated some 18km into the stage by Ag2R-La Mondiale's Yuriy Krivtsov, who took the most aggressive rider prize for his efforts in a move that gained 4:20 at its zenith.
Joined by Saxo Bank's David Tanner and UniSA rider Mitchell Docker, the trio spent most of the day off the front and contested the KOM and intermediate sprint points ahead of anyone else. Behind them, Luke Roberts secured his position as mountains classification leader - a title he could well claim in Adelaide on Sunday.
"At the start of the stage I wanted to get into the break, but I didn't think it would be possible but there was one guy up the road and I sort have just rolled off the front and next thing I knew the peloton just let me go so I was wrapped," said Docker after the stage.
"It was a pity though, because I did feel it from yesterday and in the sprints I didn't do as well as I hoped. I only got third and second but it's still better than not getting anything at all and it was another tough day so I'm going to be feeling it tomorrow."
Joined by Simon Zahner and Tim Roe of BMC Racing plus Roberts, the late-stage sextet managed a lead of a minute but that soon evaporated; before that point Roe attacked, going on a solo spree that again demonstrated - after his efforts on the first day of last year's Tour Down Under - that he's an immensely talented young rider.
"I was going a bit quicker than I was last year, but I thought we were up the road and the opportunity was there so I might as well have a go; my legs were good, so I thought I might as well give it a crack," said Roe afterwards.
He was caught just eight kilometres from the finish and explained: "I was pretty sure we were going to get caught, but I thought I might as well give it a crack, and on the climb, I just had it in a big gear and just kept it there - I just ended up riding away from everyone."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling||3:27:44|
|2||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Radio Shack||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Allan Davis (Aus) Astana||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Highroad||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) UNI SA - Australia||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) UNI SA - Australia||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Procycling||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Davide Vigano (Ita) Leopard Trek||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Luke Roberts (Aus) UNI SA - Australia||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Ruben Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Ivan Velasco (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Steve Houanard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radio Shack||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Bruno Pires (Por) Leopard Trek||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Matthew Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Miguel Minguez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Robbie Hunter (RSA) Team Radio Shack||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Gregory Rast (Swi) Team Radio Shack||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Kaz) Astana||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Juan Horrach (Spa) Katusha Team||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Mitchell Docker (Aus) UNI SA - Australia||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||David Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Maxim Gourov (Kaz) Astana||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Hayden Roulston (NZl) HTC-Highroad||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Katusha Team||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Julien Loubet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Manuel Cardoso (Por) Team Radio Shack||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Katusha Team||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Mathieu Perget (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Vicente Reynes (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Angel Madrazo (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Daniel Sesma (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Marco Bandiera (Ita) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Alfredo Balloni (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Martin Pedersen (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Lampre - ISD||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Martin Mortensen (Den) Leopard Trek||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Luke Durbridge (Aus) UNI SA - Australia||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Ben Hermans (Bel) Team Radio Shack||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:22|
|90||Matthew Wilson (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Bert Grabsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||William Clarke (Aus) Leopard Trek||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Adam Hansen (Aus) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||David Tanner (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre - ISD||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step Cycling Team||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|99||Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 98 - Cell 2|