André Greipel won a photo-finish sprint over Alessandro Petacchi to win the opening leg of the Tour Down Under in Clare, Australia. After a review, the jury ruled the German of Lotto-Belisol had edged ahead of Petacchi.
“I’m lucky that I won today,” Greipel said due to a crash. “Two of my team-mates crashed, that’s all I care about after winning this stage.”
Greipel also won the pre-tour Down Under Classic criterium two days ago in Adelaide’s centre, just south of Clare. Today’s win, was marked with a crash with 800 metres from finish line the after a hot day of temperatures at 39°C.
Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ-BigMat) and Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) are worst off according to early reports. The 40-year-old Paris-Roubaix winner, Guesdon said his career may now be over. Around 15 riders were involved.
Greipel said he slipped back from fifth to 20th position. He also complained of Petacchi’s sprint, “Petacchi went all the way from the left to the right. He’s a big star, but he shouldn’t do this.”
“Ah, I moved over slightly, but I gave him all the space he needed. In fact, he passed me,” Petacchi explained. He moved to the right, but he added that “you do that to avoid losing momentum and enable yourself to win.”
Petacchi was concerned the slightly downhill sprint would act against him. He worked off the wheels of team-mates Davide Viganò and Danilo Hondo, and then followed Rabobank’s Graeme Brown.
Sky’s Mathew Hayman and Geraint Thomas led Chris Sutton to the line. Thomas said that the team had worked well despite the crash and the headwind. He added, “I just didn’t really happen in the last bit, but we keep putting ourselves in the right place.”
“I just avoided a guy’s tyre and was grateful I didn’t come down,” Sutton said of the crash. “G [Thomas] waited for me, but I probably came off of G’s wheel too early.”
The sprint came after the riders crossed the windy wine valleys from Adelaide’s Prospect suburb to the finish in Clare. Four riders rode free in the first 10 kilometres – Eduard Vorganov, Martin Kohler, Marcello Pavarin and Dennis Rohan – and gained up to 11 minutes mid-way into the stage. Rohan attacked solo with 40 kilometres remaining, but he and the others were all together for the final 10 kilometres.
Tomorrow’s stage to Sterling will suit attackers like Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans.
Tour Down Under 2012, stage one: Prospect to Clare, 149km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat
4. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
6. Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky
7. Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Saxo Bank
8. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Katusha
9. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
10. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Ag2r all same time
15. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at same time
25. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky at same time
117. Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-27
121. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at same time *
* Riders caught in crash near finish line were given same time as peloton
Overall classification after stage one
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 4 secs
3. Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC at 4 secs
4. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat at 6 secs
5. Dennis Rohan (Aus) UniSA-Australia at 7 secs
6. Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha at 8 secs
7. Marcello Pavarin (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM at 9 secs
8. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 10 secs
9. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan at 10 secs
10. Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky at 10 secs
19. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 10 secs
29. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky at 10 secs
114. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 10 secs
130. Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-37
Martin Kohler heads the escape
Garmin’s Heinrich Haussler was one of those caught in the crash
Andre Greipel takes the win
Andre Greipel takes the early race lead