Simon Gerrans won the opening stage of the Tour Down Under today and with it the leader’s jersey that he and his Orica-GreenEdge team plans to defend to the end.

Gerrans beat Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) in a small group sprint at the conclusion of the punchy 135km opener from Nuriootpa to Angaston.

Sky hopeful Richie Porte finished the stage in the second group – four seconds adrift – and currently sits 29th overall. Teammate Geraint Thomas is just outside the top 10 of the general classification – 11sec back.

Gerrans entered the race as a hot favourite and dismissed suggestions it was a disadvantage to acquire leadership so early in the six-day race. The Australian national road champion has won the event twice previously and in 2006 maintained leadership throughout the entirety. His second victory in 2012 was awarded on count-back.

“You can’t afford to hold too much back in this race,” he said. “Every second on the road counts and every stage win counts so you’ve got to take these opportunities when they come up and that’s exactly what I did today.”

Sky and Orica-GreenEdge controlled affairs at the front of the peloton for much of the day, not allowing the main break of Will Clarke (Drapac) and Neil van der Ploeg (UniSA-Australia) more than a three minute and 30 second advantage. Bernhard Eisel shared a bottle of coke with Orica-GreenEdge rider Luke Durbridge at one point with the duo doing a fair share of work for their respective leaders. 

“Me and Bernie the last two years have done a fair bit of work at the Tour Down Under so we’ve got a good relationship there – help each other out,” Durbridge said.

“My role in the team this week is to pull back breaks,” he continued. “We’ve got the No.1 target on our back so when you’ve got that everyone looks to you to start working. I worked all day today until the bottom of the last climb, and then salute to the boys and all the best!”

The circuit stage was straight forward until the category one Menglers Hill climb some 11km from the finish. Clarke and van der Ploeg were caught before the ascent as Garmin-Sharp came to the fore and riders started to lose contact. Greipel’s teammate Adam Hansen attacked on the ascent to claim King of the Mountain points and briefly stayed off the front before Europcar duo Yukiya Arashiro and Bjorn Thurau rode away on the descent, only to be later reeled in.

David Tanner (Belkin) was transported to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone sustained in a crash inside the final 5km. Gerrans was unaffected and read the race perfectly, following teammate Daryl Impey’s wheel. 

“He jumped from the corner as planned but I knew under the circumstances everyone was pretty tired coming to there and it was probably a little early to go,” Gerrans said. “I slid on Greipel’s wheel. He hit-out first and I assumed he would.”

Greipel demonstrated his form in what was not a traditional sprint stage, staying sheltered from the headwind on Menglers with the aid of teammates. 

“The finish kicked a little bit at the end – the last 30m – and my gear was a bit too big and Gerrans slipped past me. I was disappointed but that’s racing,” the German national road champion said.

The Tour Down Under continues with a selective second stage to Stirling tomorrow. 

Tour Down Under 2014, stage one: Nuriootpa to Angaston, 135km

1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3-20-34

2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol

3. Steele von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp

4. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida

5. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale

6. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana

7. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano

8. Rafael Valls (Esp) Lampre-Merida

9. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC

10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin 

Overall classifcation after stage one

1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3-20-23

2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol at 5 secs

3 Steele von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp at 7 secs

4. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 10 secs

5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 11 secs

6. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale

7. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana

8. Rafael Valls (Esp) Lampre-Merida

9. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC

10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin

Twitter: @SophieSmith86 





Simon Gerrans takes the bunch sprint





Can Gerrans keep the lead all the way to the race finish?

Related links



Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson



Tour Down Under 2014: Coverage