Tour Down Under 2014 Stage 1
Nuriootpa to Angaston 135 km

The professional cycling season kicked off in Australia with stage one of the Santos Tour Down Under. When this race debuted, it was a pleasant training race for top pros that wanted to escape the chill of the European winter. This stage, 135km from Nuriootpa to Angaston shows how things have changed. Rather than a flat procession to the finish line, this circuit race featured a stiff 2.5km hill with fifteen kilometers remaining.

Cannondale Pro Cycling came to the race primed for stage wins with sprinter Elia Viviani, opportunist Cameron Wurf and climber George Bennett. The roster includes young Italian Alberto Bettiol, and lead out men Guillaume Boivin, Matthias Krizek, and making his debut on the world stage, U23 World Champion Matej Mohoric.

Viviani, a sprinter in good form who is strong enough to hang onto the climbers for several kilometers, looked like a prime candidate for the victory, so long as the pace up Menglers Hill was ferocious enough to drop the biggest of the big men.

Before the stage played out, there is always the under card in the Tour Down Under, the attack from the gun. Just about every early attack features a young rider from the Uni SA team. And for this stage it was Neil Van Der Ploeg, who shot out of the pack at kilometer zero with Will Clarke of Drapac. The two knew their roles, knock out a fierce pace and hope that the field gives them a long leash, but their enthusiasm got the better of them and they battled it out for both intermediate sprints, with each winning one.

The bigger news was that Giant-Shimano's Simon Geschke took third place in the first intermediate sprint, and Orica-Greenedge's Simon Gerrans got third in the second. Third place is a one-second bonus, so with this race typically decided by a handful of seconds, these placings could matter at the end of the week.

On the run-in to Menglers Hill, Van Der Ploeg was absorbed by the fast-moving peloton. And then Team Sky, setting the pace for Richie Porte, swept up Clarke just after the climb began.

But over the top, it was Lotto-Belisol's iron man, Australian Adam Hansen, who jumped out of the strung-out lead group to win the King of the Mountains points and take the lead in that competition.

He was absorbed on the downhill, and Europcar's Bjorn Thurau and Yukiya Arashiro leapt out. Arashiro then blew up within sight of the 1km to go sign. As the road tilted uphill, Thurau's pedaling slowed as the field closed in. Lotto-Belisol was riding at the front to deliver Andrei Greipel to the victory. Tinkoff-Saxo's Rory Sutherland tried to go long, but Lotto didn't break formation.  Going into the final left-hander, Orica's Daryl Impey revved it up with Greipel on his wheel. Into the final 100 meters, Gerrans shot by and took the stage, the time bonus, and the Ochre jersey as the first leader of the race.

Viviani, who believed his form was good and had confidence that he'd be fighting for the stage win today, was philosophical about not being able to hold the pace over Menglers Hill. "We knew how hard the competition would be here and today we had a lot to prove. The rhythm on the last climb was too hard for my legs at the moment, and to catch the leading group with such great riders in it was a task we weren't ready for. I decided the best course of action was not to waste energy and think about tomorrow."

The next leg of the Tour Down Under, 150km from Prospect to Stirling, offers a more challenging ride, but with shorter, punchier  hills. The stage rolls up and down most of the day before encountering two finishing circuits and a rising finishing hill where legs will pop and the lead could easily change shoulders. As the finish is on a circuit, Viviani and his Cannondale Pro Cycling Team will have taken a measure of the finish and will come into the finale with a good sense of what they can do.


Tour Down Under 2014
Stage 1 Nuriootpa to Angaston 135 km

Stage Results

1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge                 3:20:24             
2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol                         same time
3. Steele von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp                      same time
4. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida                           same time
5. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale                 same time


Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling

21. George Bennett (NZl)                                           0:00:04
34. Cameron Wurf (Aus)                                            same time
72. Matejv Mohoric (Slo)                                            0:02:21
84. Elia Viviani (Ita)                                                    same time
87. Guillaume Boivin (Can)                                        same time
107. Matthias Krizek (Aut)                                         0:03:57           
127. Alberto Bettiol (Ita)                                             0:08:08           


General Classification

1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge                 3:20:23             
2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol                          0:00:05             
3. Steele von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp                      0:00:07             
4. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano                    0:00:10             
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida                           0:00:11           


General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling

21. George Bennett (NZl)                                           0:00:15
34. Cameron Wurf (Aus)                                            same time
72. Matejv Mohoric (Slo)                                            0:02:32           
84. Elia Viviani (Ita)                                                    same time
87. Guillaume Boivin (Can)                                        same time
107. Matthias Krizek (Aut)                                         0:4:08 
127. Alberto Bettiol (Ita)                                             0:08:19