Simon Gerrans launched a perfectly-timed sprint – nixing Andre Greipel on the line – to claim stage 1 of the 2014 Tour Down Under.
Australian criterium champion Steele von Hoff finished in third place to round out the podium.
"I guess I surprised a few today, myself included," Gerrans, a two-time Tour Down Under champion, said.
"Obviously Andre is one of the fastest guys going around. I’m pretty pleased to be get over him on the line.
"It was a tough finale, everyone was pretty tired coming in to the finish. I thought that might have taken the sting out of Greipel’s legs a little bit. I left my sprint really late, which meant I just had to get around him."
Today’s finale saw Gerrans’s team-mate, Daryl Impey, take control of the peloton as it made it’s way toward the finish in Angaston. Greipel was quick to get onboard with Impey – with Gerrans falling in behind.
At that point, Greipel proceeded to initiated a long sprint, however, Gerrans was able to slip out behind him in the uphill finishing straight to seize the victory over the German rider.
Leading up to the finish, Cadel Evans and Richie Porte were among the lead group with Gerrans and Greipel.
Today’s stage unfolded with team Drapac’s Will Clarke and Neil van der Ploeg attacking as soon as the race began. And, within seven kilometers, the duo had built up a lead of three minutes over the peloton. And, they were able to remain out front until half-way through the stage.
With 50 kilometers remaining, Sky and Luke Durbridge began to reel the leaders – reducing their gap to under three minutes.
By 25 kilometer mark, the peloton was within 90 seconds of Clark and Van der Ploeg. And, at the 19 kilometer mark, Van der Ploeg was caught – leaving Clarke alone out front.
In the four kilometers leading up to the climb of Mengler Hill, Clarke was reeled in.
From there, Team Sky’s Nathan Earle lead the peloton up the 3.3km climb – with a pace that was so fast – it prevented any rider from attacking.
Indeed, half-way up the climb, the fast tempo managed to split the field – with a group of about 50 riders going clear.
In the final 8.5 kilometers, the Japanese rider, Yukiya Arashiro and his teammate Bjorn Thurau, initiated a successful attack that allowed them to ride clear of the main peloton – and create a 10-second gap.
However, their lead was short lived, as they were both reeled in the final kilometers.
At the end of today’s stage, Gerrans gained a five-second lead over Greipel – moving him up into the overall leader’s position.
"I hope its not too early to take the overall lead as I have it now," Gerrans said. "We have a fantastic squad here so I have a lot of faith in the guys.
"Looking forward to the end of the week it would have been better if Andre had the lead going into tomorrow to give us a bit of a hand to defend. But like I said, you have to take every opportunity that comes up and you’ve got to go for these stage wins when you get them."
Stage 1: 135km, Nuriootpa – Angaston 1 Simon Gerrans (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE 3hr 20min 34sec 2 Andre Greipel (GER) Lotto-Belisol 3 Steele von Hoff (AUS) Garmin-Sharp 4 Deigo Ulissi (ITA) Lampre-Merida 5 Maxime Bouet (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale 6 Francescoe Gavazzi (ITA) Astana 7 Simon Geschke (GER) Giant-Shimano 8 Rafael Vallis Ferri (ESP) Lampre-Merida 9 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing 10 Robert Gesink (NED) Belkin
General Classification 1 Simon Gerrans (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE 3hr 20min 34sec 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 Deigo Ulissi (ITA) Lampre-Merida 0:00:11 6 Maxime Bouet (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale 7 Francescoe Gavazzi (ITA) Astana 8 Rafael Vallis Ferri (ESP) Lampre-Merida 9 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing 10 Robert Gesink (NED) Belkin
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