2008 winner Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) has signalled his intention to reclaim his crown after sprinting to victory in the opening stage of the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under.
The German sprinter was a clear winner ahead of RadioShack's Gert Steegmans (BEL) with another Belgian rider, Jurgen Roelandts (Omega-Pharma-Lotto) third in a bunch sprint for first blood in the first UCI ProTour event for the season.
The 141 km stage from Clare to the finish in the Barossa Valley town of Tanunda took the race through some of the world's premium winegrowing regions and fabulous weather saw 92,000 people turn out to cheer on the world class field.
"It was a good final and a good warm up for the team," said Greipel. "We took responsibility for the whole stage, the team made the difference, we started as a team and finished as a team."
Greipel crossed the line in a time of 3hr15min30sec and earned a ten second bonus for the win to put him in the Santos race leader's jersey with Steegmans now four seconds behind in second place overall. Swiss rider, Martin Kohler (BMC) won both Jayco intermediate sprints of the day to knock six seconds off his race time putting him in third place overall, also four seconds behind Greipel.
HTC-Columbia took responsibility for the chase to reel in a trio of leaders who had escaped early in the stage and their work paid dividends at the end.
"We spoke to the other teams but nobody wanted to ride with us," said Greipel. "We have a strong team, I am on the podium but the whole team should be."
The stage began with a crash and a bang before it had even left the town of Clare. More than 30 riders bit the bitumen including Australian rider Cameron Meyer(Garmin-Transitions).
"I went down as part of the crash in the first 50 metres," said the World Champion track rider and newly crowned Australian time trial Champion. "I crashed pretty hard and banged up my knee.
"It was painful for the first hour but gradually got better, our team staff is great and really helping me out," he added. "Tomorrow's a new day."
Euskadel-Euskadi rider Gorka Izagirre (ESP) launched an very early attack but it didn't last and UniSA-Australia rider Timothy Roe then had a go taking with him, Kohler and AG2R la Mondiale rider Biel Kadri (FRA).
"At the start we had everyone represented with every move that went and I was just lucky enough to get away," said Roe who agreed the plan for the day for the team was to get someone in an early break.
The trio managed to gain a lead of almost ten minutes by the 45 kilometre mark and merrily made their way through both intermediate sprints at Riverton (44.6km) and Kapunda (74.5km) but as the race approached the Skoda King of the Mountain at 114km the chasing peloton was hot on their wheels.
Roe wasn't waiting to be caught and launched a solo attack at the foot of Menglers Hill and managed to stay clear to collect the climber's points across the summit cheered all the way by thousands of vocal fans who lined the road. The 20 year old was also awarded the Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider of the Day Jersey for initiating the break and snatching the Skoda jersey.
However after the climb HTC-Columbia began to make inroads in their hunt for the leaders eventually reeling them in to set up a furious, fast paced gallop to the line.
While Greipel was celebrating last year's winner, Allan Davis (Astana) was counting the cost of a communications mix up with his new team.
"I was just sort of riding within myself up the climb and just found myself 50 metres behind my teammates and (they) didn't realise," said Davis who nonetheless was still smiling despite seeing his hopes of defending his title slip away on Menglers Hill. "It was at a moment where we were at the top of the climb where everyone was on the edge of their limits ... because the guys just sort of got in front and dropped the wheel and took me and sort of 40 guys out.
"They didn't realise I wasn't on the back and left me behind." "It's no problem, it's just one of those things, I was having a bit of a bad day as well, that's bike racing,” he added. “It was partly new team teething problems, getting to know each other. "The boys were doing the right thing, it was sort of one of those situations," said Davis who now hopes to claim at least a stage win.
Tomorrow's 133km Stage 2 will take the peloton from Gawler, north of Adelaide and through the Adelaide Hills to Hahndorf.
Official results will be posted on the official website as soon as they are available. Live stage coverage, start lists and race and associated events information will also be available on the official website. www.tourdownunder.com.au