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Tour Down Under 2018: Stage 1

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews Live Report for stage 1 of the WorldTour-opening Santos Tour Down Under.

 

While you're waiting, you can listen to our Cyclingnews crew in Australia as they look back at The People's Choice Classic won on Sunday by Peter Sagan. They'll also preview this year's Tour Down Under course and the favourites. We also hear from Sagan and Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan. There's also a talk with Thomas de Gendt about how to be a breakaway specialist.

Lotto Soudal neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht will not start the Santos Tour Down Under after his team revealed an administrative error meant he had not complied with the UCI anti-doping Whereabouts programme.

Today's race starts with a 2.2km neutral roll out that will give the peloton a chance to spin the legs one last time before the season begins.

Apologies for that earlier broken image of Lambrecht. Let's try that one more time.

You can check out the start list for this week's race right HERE.

World Champion Peter Sagan started his season off right on Sunday with a win in the People's Choice Classic, the criterium that precedes this week's WorldTour opener. Read our report and check out the results and photos HERE.

Amanda Spratt won the Santos Women's Tour on Sunday. Our Zeb Woodpower caught up with the winner about her ambitious 2018 season goals. Read Zeb's report HERE.

Colombian Egan Bernal is in Australia ready to make his debut with Team Sky. The promising 21-year-old won the Tour de l'Avenir last year, but he recently told Cyclingnews he's not thinking about winning with his new team just yet.

Joining Lambrecht on the list of today's non-starters is Team Sky's 21-year-old Kristoffer Halvorsen, who broke his hand in a crash at the finish of the People's Choice Classic.

Caleb Ewan won the last time a stage finished in Lyndoch in 2016. He's up against stiff competition this year, but he's looking forward to going up against riders he'll be facing in July at his Tour de France debut.

The 2.2km neutral is underway. 

Peter Sagan was relaxed at the start. he talked with our Zeb Woodpower at sign on.

Richie Porte is back to defend his 2017 title. He staid today that he's excited to be back.

Andre Greipel is back at the Tour Down Under for the first time in three years. The quick German sprinter is hoping to add to his race record of 16 stage wins. The 35-year-old finished second to Sagan at the People's Choice Classic. We spoke to him at the start line today.

Well that escalated quickly. We're just over 10km into the stage and three riders have a gap of 4:50. Out front are Steel von Hoffe (UniSA), Nicholas Dlamini (Dimension Data) and Will Clarke (EF Education First Drapac)

Correction: The UniSA rider in the break is Scott Bowden.

Mitchelton-Scott and BMC Racing each have a rider swapping pulls on the front at the moment.

The first objective for the escapees will be the Subaru KOM at Humbug Scrub Climb on Kersbrook Road, 38.6km into the race.

Bowden, the non-WorldTour rider in the break, rides for Australian Continental team Bennelong SwissWellness when not at the Tour Down Under. The UniSa-Australia team he's racing with this week is a composite squad that also features Zakkari Dempster and Nathan Earle of Israel Cycling Academy, and Alex Porter, Timothy Roe, Steele von Hoff and Sam Welsford.

Wellsford spoke with Zeb Woodpower at the start.

Katusha-Alpecin's Pavel Kochetkov has punctured. Absent any other issues, he'll be quickly back in the race after a wheel change.

Nicholas Dlamini rode for the Dimension Data development team, Dimension Data for Qhubeka, since 2016. He competed as a stagiaire with the WorldTour team at the end of last season and signed a two-year deal through 2019.

124km remaining from 145km

Simon Gerrans will be competing with his new team BMC after seven years with the Orica teams. His experience at the race will be invaluable as he helps guide Porte in his title defence. He's predicting a day for the sprinters, but he says the team will have to be vigilant throughout nonetheless.

Mitch Docker is another rider experiencing a new team after a long run at Orica. The 31-year-old Australian moved to EF Education First-Drapac in the offseason after seven years with the Australia squad. Despite being Australian himself, Docker's last appearance in the race was 2011 with Skil-Shimano.

The latest gap is 4:10 as Brendan Canty (EF Education First-Drapac) makes his way back to the group after a puncture.

Our intrepid reporters are heading to the finish in Lyndoch and report that there has been a koala citing in a tree at 53km. So the riders have that to look forward to.

Mitchelton-Scott director Matt White says the heat and wind are normally the biggest factors on this stage, but he says we should expect a bunch sprint.

We've got photographic evidence of the 53km koala now.

109km remaining from 145km

With the leaders nearing the KOM, Bowden attacked but was quickly reeled back in by Dlamini and Clarke

The lead trio are playing a lot of cat and mouse ahead of the KOM

Dlamini gets the KOM ahead of Clarke and then Bowden.

Damien Howson gets the 4th-place KOM points from the peloton

Bowden lost contact with Clarke and Dlamini on the descent. He's now 1:40 behind the leaders.

Dlamini winning the KOM ahead of Clarke and Bowden:

There'll be a few more kilometres to go before the first intermediate sprint at 74.3km. The race will be on the finishing circuits for the first sprint.

The gap for Dlamini and Clarke is currently 4:30 with about 20km remaining to sprint 1.

Tom Jelte Slagter, winner of the 2013 Tour Down Under, is one of many riders lining up with a new team this week in Australia. The Dimension Data rider says he feels good and the team morale his high.

Reports are saying the gap is down to 3:10. Damien Howson is on the front for Mitchelton-Scott, trailed by a mass of Bahrain-Merida riders.

Mitchelton-Scott are riding for Caleb Ewan, obviously, but the young Australian has no shortage of competition for the sprints this week with Sagan, Greipel et al lining up in Australia.

Race radio says the gap has now dipped below three minutes. Howson is still getting the work done on the front.

Richie Porte told us this morning at the start that he and his team are ready to defend his 2017 title.

Clarke and Dlamini are reaching into their pockets for food now. With Bowden jettisoned from the lead, they've got a long day ahead.

Clarke is in his second season with the EF Education First-Drapac program run by Slipstream sports. The 32-year-old Australian won a stage at the Tour Down Under in 2012, soloing in for the win one minute ahead of the field sprint won by Michael Matthews.

The leaders are on a straight, flat road now, cycling through a region of orchards and vineyards. Race radio says the gap is down to just 2:25.

It's currently 27 degrees on the race, relatively comfortable but sure to get hotter as the day wears on

Cyclingnews reporter in the field Josh Evans says the thermometer has reached 31 degrees on the course.

80km remaining from 145km

Clarke and Dlamini had added to their gap, which is back to 3:15 as they near the first sprint.

The leaders pass 3km to go for the first sprint at 74.3km in Cockatoo Valley.

Bonuses of three, two and one second go to the first three across the line at the intermediate sprint. There's a little extra incentive.

The race is reporting that the average speed for the first two hours is 35.5km/h

Trek-Segafredo's Laurent Didier has jumped away from the bunch in hopes of collecting the single bonus second for the third man across the line. He's got a Katusha rider chasing.

Clarke and Dlamini cruise across the sprint line, with Clarke collecting the maximum bonus. Now we wait for the field

Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) has joined Didier and Jhonatan Restrepo of Katusha are rider off the front of the peloton.

Restrepo takes third and the one-second bonus, much to Costa's chagrin.

The three riders off the front of the peloton have faded back into the bunch, leaving Clarke and Dlamini up the road.

Damien Howson continues his impressive ride on the front for Mitchelton-Scott. The sprinters' teams will be throwing some weight into the chase soon. Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe have already put a rider up there behind Howson.

Bora's Maciej Bodnar is now on the front. The team have a plethora of sprint options, with Sagan being the number one, of course.

54km remaining from 145km

Andre Greipel is riding comfortably in the bunch, looking very relaxed. His work day won't really start in earnest for a bit.

The gap is below two minutes for the first time in quite awhile. Race radio says the leaders now have a gap of 1:55. It's still Bodnar and Howson swapping turns on the front.

Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) is one of the sprinters not at the Tour Down Under. The Colombian will start his season at the Vuelta a San Juan next week.

The two leaders are now on their second of three 26.5 laps

The locals on the bike path adjacent to the course are having good time "racing" the pros, although their effort will be quite a bit shorter.

Bodnar and Howson continue the chase ...

Howson's ride on the front of the peloton has been impressive. He's got a big motor and it's usually well-tuned this time of year. The 25-year-old, who has ridden for the team since 2014, won the overall at the Herald and Sun Tour last year.

Bodnar is an experienced hand who won a stage of the Tour de France this year. The 32-year-old is a longtime teammate of Sagan.

The leaders went through the second sprint point, with Clarke winning again. He's gained six bonus seconds now. The rest of the GC hopeful tried to hoover up the remaining bonus second for third. Katusha's Nathan Haas gets it!

41km remaining from 145km

The gap is down to 1:45 now as the leaders will soon be taking the bell for the final 26.5km lap

Dlamini's team car has pulled alongside the rider. What are they saying to the 22-year-old? Whatever it was, Clarke took advantage to open a gap and go up the road. Dlamini will need to chase now.

Clarke shows no signs of waiting for his former breakaway partner. Dlamini continues to chase.

Clarke passed through the finish with 26.5km to go and a 1:35 gap. Dlamini is back in the bunch.

Can Clarke hold off the sprinters' teams and replicate his 2012 solo win? It's a big challenge but he's fully committed. Howson and Bodnar are still doing the work on the front.

16km remaining from 145km

14km remaining from 145km

A Quick-Step rider is taking turns on the front now as the pulls get shorter and harder. Clarke's gap is just 45 seconds.

Clarke is on a slight downhill, getting into an aero tuck on the top tube. Oh no, he's pedaling from that position. 

The corresponding uphill section has Clarke showing the day's effort. The gap is down to 30 seconds  as the peloton pulls within sight.

The peloton has swelled across the road with Clarke in sight. The catch is imminent shortly.

And here comes the catch of Clarke. He's back in the bunch after a long day out front.

And it's straight to the back for Clarke as the bunch passes by. Quick-Step are massed on the front for sprinter Elia Viviani. Mitchelton-Scott have tarn position in the front.

9km remaining from 145km

7km remaining from 145km

Sky, Katusha, Sunweb, Bora, Astana, Katusha are all at the front.

Bora have lost Sam Bennett to a mechanical. Bad news for Bora

One K to go and it's a mad scramble. Quick-Step at Mitchelton!

Greipel gets it ahead of Ewan and Sagan!

Greipel gets it ahead of Ewan and Sagan!

Stage Top 10:

Complete GC Top 10:

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