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.
As always, the 2018 Cyclingnews podcasts are brought to you by brought to you Prendas and Pinarello.
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.
The 20-year-old is in Australia and eager to ride, however, so he's got his bike loaded with spare tubes and a navigation computer to train while his mates are racing.
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.
"I am always late for sign on actually.
"I have had a pretty run here the last few years. Like we saw the other night, the sprint field here is probably better than the last few tear. We have a good team and I am feeling good and confident.
"It is good for me to be going up against the guys who’ll be going up against them in July. Hopefully I can get one up on them now.
"How to beat Sagan? If you are not going to pedal quicker than put on a bigger gear.
"The best thing to do is to follow our guys as it gets difficult when you try and follow other guys."
The 2.2km neutral is underway.
Peter Sagan was relaxed at the start. he talked with our Zeb Woodpower at sign on.
"I am very happy for last night’s win and it is very good for all the team and for motivation. I hope we are also ready for today.
"It is a very nice race with very good organisation and I am very happy to come back again here and do some race kilometres."
Richie Porte is back to defend his 2017 title. He staid today that he's excited to be back.
"It is great to be back. I am a little bit biased but it probably is the best race of the year. It is fantastic to be back.
"On paper it is a different race to what is was last year. I think it is handy to have guys like Simon Gerrans and Rohan Dennis who have both won the race before. We will see what happens out on the road but I am looking forward to Willunga.
"All these guys turn up here in good condition now. It is crucial to get WorldTour points as well. It is not a race just to come and train for now."
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.
"I was happy with my sprint. When you get beaten by the world champion you cannot do something about it, but we'll keep trying to do something in the next few days.
"All the sprint teams are going to take the responsibility in setting up the bunch sprint.
On teammate Thomas De Gent - "He is just happy to ride in front of the peloton and he is begging us, ‘Please let us ride’, he has a lot of opportunity also."
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.
BMC are leading the chase in the peloton
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.
"It is a whole different ball game racing in the WorldTour," he said. "You have Sagan, Greipel, and Caleb... Some of the fastest guys going around. It is awesome to rub shoulders with those guys."
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
The gap is down to 4:20 as the breakaway riders are taking on food ahead of the KOM at 38.6km.
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.
"We have to pay attention early on in this stage to make sure no threatening GC guys go away and the breakaway takes time bonuses. Today is definitely a day for the sprinters."
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.
"It has been a long time since I have been in the race," he told Cyclingnews at the start. "I have been wanting to come back for a few years, so I am bloody wrapped to be back here and starting my season with a new team.
"Not being here with a pure sprinter, we are going to be looking at some opportunities. Later in the race, there could be a bit of a sprint and maybe a miscalculation from the sprint teams, so we will be looking to capitalise on that. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll look to later in the week."
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.
"I was there in 1999 when the Tour Down Under was in Port Adelaide for the first Tour Down Under. There are a lot of open and exposed areas around Port Adelaide and on the roads toward the Barossa, so it will be interesting to see how the wind is blowing and how stressful a day it will be."
Read all of our stage previews with commentary from White on our race hub page HERE.
We've got photographic evidence of the 53km koala now.
109km remaining from 145km
Gap to the three leaders is holding at 4:10 at the moment
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.
"It’s the same as in 2013," he said. "We come here with a very good time, and personally I think I’m in really good shape. The training has been good, it’s happy in the team and we’ll try our best for GC. If there are opportunities for stage wins, we’ll try there as well."
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.
"I hope that this is the start of the defence," he said. "I feel pretty good and we’ve a great team. Everyone is pretty motivated to try and make history and go back-to-back. If not we’ve got Simon Gerrans and Rohan Dennis who are also in top form."
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
The peloton is approaching the finish line for the first time. They'll get several views of the finish before the race is over.
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.
@BORAhansgrohe Tue, 16th Jan 2018 02:55:59
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
The breakaway in action with with 54km to go
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.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Tue, 16th Jan 2018 03:11:01
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 ...
@Lotto_Soudal Tue, 16th Jan 2018 03:15:28
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!
@TrekSegafredo Tue, 16th Jan 2018 03:26:18
41km remaining from 145km
The KOM and sprints are out of the way, only the stage win and race lead remain.
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
Clarke has a 1:15 advantage now.
14km remaining from 145km
Clarke's gap is at one minute. It's not looking good for the EF Education First-Drapac rider. The sprinters and their teams are hungry.
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.
@MelbourneJulie Tue, 16th Jan 2018 03:29:51
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
The teams are spread across the road now as they head toward the finish as 68km/h
7km remaining from 145km
All the big-name sprinters are in position to move forward when things start getting strung out. Lines are forming at the front as the trains start to form and sprinters look for their lead outs.
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:
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 03:50:21
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 03:50:21
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 03:50:21
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 03:50:21
5 Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 03:50:21
6 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb 03:50:21
7 Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin 03:50:21
8 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 03:50:21
9 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Bahrain-Merida 03:50:21
10 Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 03:50:21
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 03:50:11
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 03:50:15
Complete GC Top 10:
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 3:50:11
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:04
3 William Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:06
5 Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Dimension Data
6 Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:09
7 Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin
8 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:10
9 Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
10 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
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