Jan 15, 2012 – Two-time Tour Down Under champion Andre Greipel of Germany signaled his intentions for a third overall win by triumphing at the warm-up Down Under Classic criterium on Sunday.
Held over 30 laps of an inner city Adelaide circuit, the Down Under Classic criterium does not count towards the standings of the Tour Down Under, the first event of cycling’s World Tour held over six stages Tuesday to Sunday.
However, criterium winners have often gone on to finish well in the race itself, and Greipel – the champion in 2008 and 2010 – looked a class act in a hectic finale which saw several rivals fall out of contention.
The German capitalised on the good lead-out work of his Lotto team to dominate Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Australia’s Heinrich Haussler (Garmin), finishing just over the hour mark after 51 km of racing.
“We worked really well out there tonight,” said Greipel, who landed his maiden Tour de France stage win in 2011, paying tribute to the teammates who kept his lead-out train intact as different teams jostled for position.
“It’s always a good warm-up for the race itself,” he added.
Several other contenders were left disappointed they had not given the estimated crowd of 100,000 spectators a local win to celebrate.
Mark Renshaw, now a sprinter in his own right for Rabobank after spending three years helping Briton Mark Cavendish amass 20 stage wins on the Tour de France, showed plenty of promise until disaster struck.
The Australian punctured on the last lap, an incident which ruled him out of even contesting the sprint.
“It’s never happened to me before. It’s not a great way to start off the season but the boys worked great out there and that’s given me confidence for the rest of the race,” said Renshaw.
“I have to try and pay them back on Tuesday.”
While Australia’s first top tier professional team, GreenEdge, made their historic debut on the World Tour, they were also left deflated.
GreenEdge, Team Sky and Lotto were all pushing the pace in the final few laps, but the Aussies top finisher was veteran sprinter Robbie McEwen in 15th, at 02secs off the pace.
“We didn’t really get the sprint train going, and that’s something we want to work on,” said GreenEdge principal sports director Neil Stephens.
“Compared to the days to come, this was the least important (day) for us. We made a couple of mistakes, but we’ll sit down, have a look at what went wrong and try to sort it out for the future.”
The race’s first stage is Tuesday’s 149km ride from Prospect to Clare.
1. Andre Greipel (GER) Lotto 1hr 03min 17sec
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) same time
3. Heinrich Haussler (AUS/GRM) s.t.
4. Jose Joaquin Rosas (ESP/MOV) s.t.
5. Steele Von Hoff (AUS/UNI) s.t.
6. Jonathan Cantwell (AUS/SAX) s.t.
7. Chris Sutton (AUS/SKY) s.t.
8. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (ESP/MOV) s.t.
9. Greg Henderson (NZL/SKY) s.t.
10. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM) s.t.
Note: Classic results do not count towards standings of Tour Down Under