Young Australian sprint sensation Caleb Ewan has taken out the People?s Choice Classic in Adelaide?s East End crossing the line well clear of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff).
The 21 year old pre-race favourite delivered on the work of his Orica GreenEDGE team mates who controlled the majority of the 51km circuit race.
A crowd of 95,000 flocked to Adelaide?s East End to enjoy a hot summer evening as 140 world class cyclists contested 30 laps of the 1.7km circuit, ?the traditional curtain raiser for this week?s Santos Tour Down Under.
Ewan went into the race having claimed five wins in races so far this year including the Australian Criterium crown at the national championships in Ballarat.
?It’s always hard to go to a race as a favourite,? said Ewan after his win. ?I felt more pressure here than at all the races I did so far.
?My team just rode perfectly, we sat back for a lot of the race and cruised around,? said Ewan paying credit to his teammates . ?My confidence is pretty high at the moment (but) I knew there would be some quick guys to beat.
?It’s a good start but it wasn’t an easy one.?
?I?m delighted with this victory but I don’t see a more relaxed approach to the Santos Tour Down Under as we have some high ambitions to win GC (overall) and I have personal ambitions to win stages myself,? said Ewan. ?This is only the start of a long week.?
Astana?s Lars Boom got the action underway launching an early attack with several others joining him in the effort.
There was cash on the line for four intermediate sprints during the race and it was South African Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data) who grabbed the Subaru sprint at the end of lap five. The iiNet sprint after 10 laps was won by Australian Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) with Chris Hamilton (UniSA-Australia) taking the Europcar sprint at the half way mark.
Italian Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) outsprinted a small group in front to win the Alpecin prize at the end of lap 20 but the Classic is always one for the sprinters and his small group was reeled in soon after.
?We’re here with a great team and we want to perform on every occasion,? said Boaro. ?We had Adam (Blythe) for the sprint and today was a good day to test the legs that’s why I went up the road so it was a good test.
?For me coming to Australia is always a pleasure so I looked at coming in the best possible form and I broke away because cycling here is a spectacle and I wanted to give something back to the crowd for their great support.?
Team SKY tried their luck in the closing laps to set up Ben Swift but they went too early as IAM Cycling, Trek-Segafredo, Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale jostled to position their sprinters for the finish.
?I was at the front to help Swifty [Ben Swift] and to be safe,? said SKY?s Geraint Thomas. ?We hit the front early, and we knew we were never going to make it from that far out, but Swifty got an easy ride.
?That first lap was a bit of a shock to the system, but it was a great way to start the season.?
With the finish line in sight Nizzolo was the first to jump with Ewan finding a gap and latching onto his wheel before passing the Italian while?Blythe repaid the work of Tinkoff with his third place.
Tomorrow is a rest day for the teams with the Santos Tour Down Under kicking off with Hostworks Stage 1 on Tuesday 19 January, a 130km ride from Prospect to Lyndoch.