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After IAM had dominated the lead-out, Ewan easily responded to a long sprint from Nizzolo and came around the Italian to win the People’s Choice Classic; Nizzolo was second and Blythe third

Photo: Sirotti

ADAM BLYTHE

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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17.01.2016 @ 11:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) confirmed his status as the emerging sprint star and the dominant sprinter of the Australian summer by taking a dominant sprint victory in the People’s Choice Classic, the criterium that is held two days before the start of the Tour Down Under. In the expected bunch kick, IAM dominated proceedings but as their sprinter Matteo Pelucchi run out of power, it was Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) who launched a long sprint before being passed by the unstoppable Ewan who claimed his fifth win in just seven days of racing.

 

With three wins at the Bay Classics and victory at the Australian Criterium Championships, Caleb Ewan has firmly marked himself out as one of the biggest favourites for the sprints at the Tour Down Under but he still needed to prove that he could beat the European stars that have gathered in his Australian home country for the WorldTour opener. After today’s People’s Choice Classic – the criterium which gathers the same field as the official race and is held two days before the main event – he has firmly underlined his status as the main sprinter for the race.

 

With his many wins and as the local hero, Ewan found himself under a huge pressure to deliver in the first big pro race of the year but he didn’t let it weigh on his shoulders. In the hectic sprint that concluded the short criterium in Adelaide, his Orica-GreenEDGE team found themselves outnumbered by a very strong IAM train for Matteo Pelucchi but Ewan showed maturity beyond his years, negotiated the finale ideally and came away with the victory.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE and IAM had done the main job to neutralize the many attacks in the aggressive race but it was Sky that took control when Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) were brought back as the final escapees on the 24th lap. With 6 laps still to go, the British team stayed in front with Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh setting the pace while the rival sprints trains were fighting for position further back.

 

Trek tried to pass Sky with five laps to go, but the British team remained in control. Florits Gerts (BMC) tried to disrupt things with a solo move five kilometres from the finish and that spelled the end for Kennaugh. However, Thomas easily shut it down before swinging off and leaving it to Ian Stannard to keep up the speed.

 

The Brit led the peloton onto the penultimate lap while Dimension Data, Cannondale and Orica-GreenEDGE loomed just behind the Sky trio of Stannard, Luke Rowe and Ben Swift. He got some welcome help from Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) who took a huge turn with less than 2km to go.

 

Sky run out of power and that allowed Cannondale to briefly take control. However, they were passed by Mathew Hayman who tried to launch the Orica-GreenEDGE train.

 

That’s when IAM proved that they have the strongest train in the race. Aleksejs Saramotins, David Tanner, Roger Kluge, Leigh Howard and Matteo Pelucchi hit the front as they started the final 1.7km lap and strung things completely out while Ewan and his lead-out man Daryl Impey were fighting for Pelucchi’s wheel.

 

The IAM train worked perfectly but when Howard swung off to leave it to Pelucchi to finish things off, the Italian had died. He had drifted backwards and instead it was Impey hitting the front. Giacomo Nizzolo tried to surprise Ewan with a long sprint but the Australian responded quickly, passing the Italian to claim an easy win. Nizzolo had to settle for second while Adam Blythe got his Tinkoff career off to a good start with third place.

 

The riders now get a well-deserved rest day after their fast start to the season. The Tour Down Under starts on Tuesday when the riders face a predominantly flat opening stage.

 

A flat course

As per tradition, the Tour Down Under riders faced a short, flat criterium at the People’s Choice Classic which was held on the traditional non-technical 1.7km circuit in Adelaide. They were greeted by temperatures of more than 30 degrees on a very hot day of racing as they embarked on their 30 laps for an overall distance of just 51km.

 

Astana clearly had big plans and so Lars Boom, Lieuwe Westra and Laurens De Vreese made a triple attack as soon as the flag was dropped. They were closely marked by Impey and Boaro though and as the South African refused to work, the group was caught.

 

Lots of attacks

Westra tried again, followed by Boaro and Danilo Wyss (BMC), but the trio failed to get a gap. Instead, Boaro tried a solo move and after being joined by Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), he got a decent advantage at the end of the third lap.

 

Thomas bridged the gap but that spelled the end for the break and the next move from Chris Hamilton (UniSA) and Gougeard didn’t have much luck either. Hence, things were together as they started the fifth lap where Patrick Lane (UniSA) tried a solo move to pick up the sprint prime. It was impossible though and it was Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) who came away with the money.

 

A quartet is formed

The pace went down and this allowed a Drapac rider to take off, followed by Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) and a UniSA rider. Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Puccio also bridged the gap but IAM and Orica-GreenEDGE were controlling things firmly with Marcel Aregger and Michael Albasini. They neutralized most of the move, with only McCarthy and Puccio insisting.

 

The duo was joined by Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) and later Jesse Sergent (Trek) also bridged the gap to make it a quartet. They got the biggest gap yet but Albasini and Aregger were still working hard in the peloton.

 

Dennis kicks into action

Chris Hamilton (UniSA) bridged the 10-15-second gap in the 9th lap but the break was doomed when Rohan Dennis (BMC) also tried to bridge across. Albasini refused to give the Tour Down Under champion an inch and so his move just spelled the end for the break.

 

Gerts and Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) were next to try but it was back together in time for the second sprint where McCarthy beat van Rensburg and Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep).

 

Hamilton takes off

McCarthy and Bak formed the next move and were quickly joined by Johan Le Bon (FDJ). Westra, Roglic and Adam Phelan (Drapac) joined the group too but Albasini and Aregger kept them under control. When they were brought back, Bak briefly tried a solo flyer before Hamilton went away.

 

The young Australian got the biggest gap yet as the peloton briefly slowed down. De Vreese made a failed attempt to bridge the gap while Hamilton stayed away to win the third sprint. Then he sat up and it was back together just after the halfway point.

 

Boaro in a solo move

Boaro was very active and tried again. This time he was joined by Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r). IAM had stopped their work and it was now Albasini and Michael Hepburn who kept things under control for Orica-GreenEDGE.

 

The gap had gone out to 10 seconds at the end of the 19th lap but Boaro quickly realized that he was the strongest rider in the break. He made a solo move to win the final sprint and kept going while the rest of the break was caught.

 

Sky take control

UniSA had now joined forces with Hepburn and Albasini while the sprint trains started to get organized. Hamilton was doing the work for the national team while Boaro still had a 15-second advantage.

 

Gougeard was the next to attack and after he was joined by Le Bon, the junction was made. That’s when Sky hit the front with six riders, with Thomas and Kennaugh setting the pace. They brought the front trio back on lap 24 and from there all was set for the bunch sprint.

 

Result:

1. Caleb Ewan 1.02.25

2. Giacomo Nizzolo

3. Adam Blythe

4. Ben Swift

5. Marko Kump

6. Reinardt van Rensburg

7. Davide Martinelli

8. Matteo Pelucchi

9. Wouter Wippert

10. Patrick Shaw

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