Three-time World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) opened his 2018 season Sunday night in Adelaide, Australia with a victory at the People’s Choice Classic. The evening criterium serves as the opener for the WorldTour Santos Tour Down Under which begins on Tuesday. The race does not count toward the overall of the WorldTour race.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) captured second and two-time defending champion Caleb Ewan (Michelton-Scott), who was wearing the green and gold jersey as the national criterium champion of Australia, settled for third after opening his sprint early.
“I am very happy with this win,” Sagan said. “I am very happy in Australia. It’s a nice way to start the season. I hope to have many more victories this season.”
- 1. Peter Sagan, BORA-HANSGROHE
- 2. Andre Greipel, LOTTO SOUDAL
- 3. Caleb Ewan (Aus), MITCHELTON-SCOTT
- 4. Elia Viviani, QUICK-STEP FLOORS
- 5. Simone Consonni, UAE TEAM EMIRATES
- 6. Christopher Lawless, TEAM SKY
- 7. Sam Welsford, UNISA-AUSTRALIA
- 8. Enrico Battaglin, LOTTONL-JUMBO
- 9. Jasha Sütterlin, MOVISTAR
- 10. Mark Renshaw, DIMENSION DATA
The People’s Choice Classic is a stable of the Santos Tour Down Under. The evening criterium serves as an hors-d’oeuvre to the opening WorldTour race of the season. The 133 riders tackled 22 laps of the 2.3-kilometer course for a race of 50.3 kilometers. While a winner would be crowned at the finish, there was also a sprint prize, with sprint points on offer on laps 5, 10, 15, 20, and at the finish.
Five riders escaped the peloton in the opening laps. Manuele Boaro (Bahrain-Merida), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo), Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin), Tom Bohli (BMC Racing), and Zak Dempster (UniSA) formed the lead group.
Boaro took the first intermediate sprint on lap five and three laps later the lead group grew to seven, as Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) and Tim Roe (UniSA) latched on.
Right as Morton and Roe bridged to the leaders, the pace in the peloton began to increase. The gap had grown to near the one-minute mark and Michelton-Scott and Bora-Hansgrohe came to the front to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.
Restrepo, who took home the Best Young Rider prize at the Santos Tour Down Under last year, took maximum sprint points on laps 10 and 15, as former Belgian national road champion Jens Debusschere did the bulk of the pace making at the front of the peloton.
With five laps to go the last remaining survivors of the breakaway Boaro and Bohli were swept-up by the peloton, setting the stage for a dramatic finale.
Ag2r-La Mondiale rider Matteo Montaguti took a flyer with four laps remaining but didn’t get more than 100 meters off the front of the peloton. The speed was simply too high for a solo attack.
Entering the final lap, elbows were out at the front of the peloton, as multiple teams fought to get to the front to set-up their sprinter. Quick-Step Floors were looking to put new signee for 2018, Elia Viviani in prime position.
Into the final straightaway, Greipel was in prime position was sitting second wheel with his final lead-out man at the head of affairs. Ewan opted to go early on the left side of the road, coming from a few wheels back. Going early was a risky endeavor, as the road kicks-up to the finish.
Norwegian Kristoffer Halvorsen (Sky) crashed into the barriers on the right side, sending one of the sponsor banners into the road. Luckily, he was the only one to go down and would get up and ride across the finish line.
After the race, Team Sky confirmed that Halvorsen broke his right hand in the crash and wouldn’t start the Santos Tour Down Under. “Kristoffer was taken to hospital after the stage and, unfortunately, it’s been confirmed that he has fractured a bone in his right hand, so he won’t be able to race in the Tour Down Under,” Team Sky Doctor Richard Usher said. “The next step will be to consult with the specialists and ensure we manage the injury properly.”
Sagan followed Greipel down the center of the road and came around the German to take the victory. The World Champion had said leading up to the race he would be working for Sam Bennett in the sprints, so it was interesting to see him take the victory.
Bora-Hansgrohe Director Sportif Patxi Vila was pleased to see Sagan take the victory, even though the team was working for Bennett. “It’s not the type of sprint for Peter, but everyone knows he is the best in the world for positioning,” Vila said. “We were working for another rider. It shows that Peter is already in good form. It’s a great way to start the season.”
Sagan took a lap of honor around the course before going to the podium, waving and smiling to the many fans that lined the course.
Elia Viviani, who settled for fourth on the day just off the podium, was satisfied with his result. “I was out of position in the final corner. I thought I would’ve been 10th so to come close is OK,” Viviani said. “I lost a wheel but I was able to come back. It is the first race of the season so I know I need to just trust my guys when they lead me out. The goal this week is to win one stage. One would be enough.”
The official start of the Santos Tour Down Under is Tuesday. The opening stage travels 145 kilometers from the Port of Adelaide to Lyndoch. The flat stage is expected to end in a sprint, so the top three from the People’s Choice Classic could go up against each other again.
Full results to come