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Santos Tour Down Under 2013: People's Choice Classic

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under. It's a balmy Sunday evening in Adelaide's East End where the tradional warm-up criterium, the People's Choice Classic will begin proceedings.

We are just minutes away from the start of the People's Choice Classic. While not classified as a WorldTour event the 51km criterium will be hotely-contested. Can Lotto Belisol deliver André Greipel to the line again?

 

Greipel is a two-time winner of this race but his Lotto Belisol team will have their work cut out for them this evening.

All the riders are lined-up and ready to go. It's still very warm in Adelaide this evening but the riders will be happy the temperature remained below the 40 degrees mark today.

 

A few names to consider for the win today are Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Andrea Guardini who makes his debut with his new Astana team tonight.

 

 

Unfortunately Garmin Sharp is short one rider as Rohan Dennis has succumbed to a virus.

 

Jens Voigt (RadioShack Leopard) has attacked in the opening lap with UniSA's Zak Dempster. The field have not really reacted to the move.

 

Dempster will ride for the NetApp Endura squad this year but earned his spot with the UniSA Australian National squad for Down Under.

 

Recently crowned Australian road and time trial champion puncture inside the opening lap ad received a wheel change very quickly. He will jump back in the race on the next lap.

 

Dempster and Voigt have been allowed to spread their lead and back in the peloton it is Lotto Belisol and Argos-Shimano who have come to the front the set the pace.

 

The Argos-Shimano team are clearly hoping their fast-man Kittel has the early season speed necessary to beat 'The Gorilla' Greipel.

 

Voigt and Dempster and working well together. They have a long way to go with just under 25 laps remaining - of the 30-lap race.

 

Crowds have lined the entire circuit around Rymill Park as Dempster looks to get himself the first intermediate sprint. Voigt didn't seem interested and allowed Dempster the top prize.

 

Dempster is clearly in good form having come straight from an impressive 8th-place at the Australian Road Race Championships in Ballarat.

 

Lotto Belisol are prepared for the evening criterium, donning the skinsuits and helmet covers for the occasion.

 

Yauheni Hutarovich finished third here last year while riding for FDJ - BigMat but this time around he's in the colours of Ag2r La Mondiale.

 

It seems like Dempster and Voigt will be left out for a little while yet. The peloton is not really pushing hard as Argos-Shimano and Lotto Belisol continue to set tempo.

 

The gap to the two leaders is being stretched out to almost one minute. The sprinter teams will have to up the pace soon in order to catch the two attackers. 

 

The intermediate sprints are being held every five laps and Voigt will no doubt allow Dempster to take the next one.

 

Allowing a small group to go away early is a nice way for many of the European riders to ease into racing. This is the first time many of them would have pinned a number on this year.

 

On the 10th lap Dempster takes the maximum points again. Voigt is more interested in holding off the bunch - which is still plodding along.

 

The bunch has finally picked it up and immediately the gap has dropped to 35 seconds.

 

If you have just joined us Zak Dempster (UniSA) and Jens Voigt (Radioshack Leopard) attacked on the opening lap and have been away for almost half the race. Their time in front however, seems to be coming to an end. Lotto Belisol and Argos-Shimano are working on the front.

 

We haven't seen the Argos-Shimano at this race before but the Lotto Belisol team were unstoppable in 2012. 

 

The Blanco team are congregating toward the front. Graeme Brown will be looking to launch Mark Renshaw to his first victory in the new blue colours of the former Rabobank squad.

 

Hutarovich's former FDJ team could also play a role this evening. They've got Arnaud Demare in the race. The former U23 world road race champion won the Vattenfall Cyclassics last season.

 

Dempster is still looking very strong in the breakaway. He's spinning his legs over at a rapid cadence as they get the bell for the next intermediate sprint. WIll Voigt allow him to take the next one?

 

Dempster put in a little sprint to make sure but Voigt once again allowed him to take the sprint. Dempster has won all three so far.

 

Well the two have made it to the half-way point of the race but with so many sprinters wanting to start the year with a win, they are unlikely to survive.

 

The bunch is starting to get a little more strung out now with the same teams working on the front. 

 

Apologies to Heinrich Haussler. He was in fact the rider who finished in third place last year. Haussler of course isn't here this year after making the move to the new IAM Cycling team for 2013.

 

The Garmin Sharp team are hovering toward the rear of the bunch but expect them to move up with around 10 laps remaining.

 

Garmin Sharp have Tyler Farrar and neo-professional Steele Von Hoff in the race this year while the likes of Robbie Hunter and Jack Bauer bring serious fire power to the lead out.

 

Voigt and Dempster are slowing loosing ground to the peloton but they should make it to the next sprint which comes on lap 20.

 

Saxo Tinkoff are starting to amass just behind Greipel and will be looking after Australia's Jonathan Cantwell for the finish. He rode to 6th in this criterium last year.

 

Dempster and Voigt and only around 10 seconds in front but the two are working hard to get the next sprint. Dempster comes over the top in the final metres to make it number four.

 

Dempster and Voigt are almost back in the bunch after a great ride. The two have enjoyed a solid hit out before the official start to the Tour Down Under on Tuesday.

 

The two have been caught and now the pace has really picked up.

Saxo Tinkoff have come to the front now. Cantwell must be feeling good today.

 

There is a little under 7 laps to go and it's still Argos, Lotto and Saxo at the front. 

 

A few FDJ riders are moving to the front but Team Sky is still a little anonymous. They did a similar thing last year before swarming to the front in the closing laps.

 

There's plenty of interest at the front of the bunch now and the bunch is really starting to get strung out.

 

With so many sprinters in the race it's going to get quicker and quicker in the next five laps.

 

Garmin Sharp have hit the front with Nathan Haas and Bauer but they may have gone a little early.

 

After doing a big turn Haas has dropped back as FDJ now come to set the tempo. They have three riders on the front with Bauer (Garmin Sharp) just behind.

 

With five laps remaining there is still a number of teams trying to take control. The pace is so high they will have to wait until the final 2 laps before giving it everything.

 

Bauer is looking around and wondering where his teammates are. He's surrounded by Lotto Belisol.

 

Team Sky has finally made a move and they seem to be looking after Chris 'CJ' Sutton. He's been training hard during the Australian summer after missing a lot of last year due to injury.

 

Argos-Shimano are doing a great job with 2 laps to go. Kittel is their man today.

 

We haven't spoken about the team yet but Orica GreenEdge have now put four riders on the front. Matt Goss could win this.

 

Lotto Belisol looks too strong today. They have the numbers as they near the final lap.

 

Adam Hansen is doing a huge turn for Lotto Belisol as they hit one lap to go.

 

Lotto Belisol have five rider on the front. Surely Greipel will take this out.

 

The lead-out has really started now as Henderson opens the sprint.

 

Greipel is too good again with Matt Goss a close second place. The two opened up a huge gap by the finish.

 

André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) takes the win over Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge) with Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) in third. Henderson's lead-out was so good that he merely continued his sprint to take the final podium spot.

 

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