Patrick Bevin sprinted to 11th place in the first stage of the Santos Tour Down Under behind the now 18 time Tour Down Under stage winner Andre Greipel of Lotto Soudal. Greipel took the first stage victory of the 2018 World Tour withCaleb Ewan of Mitchelton-Scott and Peter Sagan of BORA-Hansgrohe in tow.
Andre Greipel lined up at the Santos Tour Down Under for the first time since 2014 where he took his 16th – and until today last – stage victory in the race he’s become so well renowned for. In order to take win number 17 he would have to better the likes of Sagan, Ewan, Viviani and more; something he found prodigiously difficult in the 2017 season where he bagged just five wins all year.
Up against the field were 145km between Port Adelaide and Lyndoch. The day began with a flat section that then ramped up to the day’s KOM points up the climb of Humbug Scrub before the race headed through Lyndoch for the first of four times. Three riders attacked the day in the breakaway that formed courtesy of Will Clarke of Team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, Scott Bowden of UniSA-Australia and Dimension Data’s Nicholas Dlamini.
Their move remained until 10km to go. At that point Bowden and Dlamini had been dropped and Clarke was left solo until with 10km to go he was caught. The battle to the line was an aggressive one and saw a couple of riders take a tumble in the final kilometre of the stage.
The lead out saw Elia Viviani’s Quick-Step Floors team charging on the front of the peloton with Mitchelton-Scott close behind them. As they headed into the final turn they were virtually neck and neck and it appeared that Viviani had been led out perfectly. The Italian hugged the left of the road and the tucked figure of Caleb Ewan opted for the right, but straight down the middle and timing his move to perfection was the ‘gorilla’.
Greipel hit the middle and found clear space to work as Ewan maintained his place on the right. Viviani, seeing the charging German, came in towards the centre but he could do nothing to deter Greipel from taking win number 17; with a fast-charging Peter Sagan – who’d come into the stage on the back of his People’s Choice Classic victory – taking third behind Ewan and knocking Viviani down to 4th.
Patrick Bevin was the highest placed of the Kiwis for BMC Racing in his first World Tour start for the team. Bevin sprinted to 11th place, while George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo was close to the front end of the action in 22nd; look out for him when the roads go up tomorrow and in stage 4. Tom Scully in his EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale colours finished safely in the bunch while Alex Frame of Trek-Segafredo and Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott both finished just a few seconds back on the peloton.