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ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) — Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) grabbed early bragging rights over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) on Sunday, winning the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide.
The 50km criterium is a warm-up for the Santos Tour Down Under, which starts Tuesday.
Kittel was perfectly placed on Greipel’s wheel coming into the final straight before overhauling his fellow German to win by half a wheel. Third place went to 19-year-old Australian Caleb Ewan (UniSA).
Greipel looked to be in perfect position as his Lotto-Belisol team took control with two laps remaining.
But Kittel powered past him on the line with a perfectly timed sprint.
“I’m really impressed by the boys today — they did a great job. A big thank you goes to the team,” Kittel said.
“The first sprint of the season is always complicated so it’s always a bit of a waiting game and you need a bit of luck to be in the perfect position and I was in the perfect spot to start my sprint.
“It’s always a relief to get the first win, now we can take it a little easy.”
Four riders had tried to break away from the peloton early in the race, with Anthony Roux, Nathan Haas, Luca Wackermann and Axel Domont opening up a 67-second gap after nine of 25 laps.
However, the teams with the fancied sprinters never let the breakaway get too far ahead and started to reel them in with 10 laps to go.
Team Sky then took control to try to sprinter Chris Sutton to the front, but with two laps to go Lotto-Belisol took over.
Kittel’s Giant-Shimano team put their sprinter within striking distance of Greipel, and that was all Kittel needed.
Earlier, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) crashed in a corner and was taken to hospital, where he faced surgery for a broken right tibia.