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Benefiting from a perfect lead-out from De Kort, Kittel easily beat Lobato and Wippert to win the People’s Choice Classic for the second year in a row

Photo: Sirotti

JUAN JOSE LOBATO

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MARCEL KITTEL

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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WOUTER WIPPERT

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18.01.2015 @ 11:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

For the second year in a row, Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) has kicked off the cycling season with an impressive sprint win after he defended his victory in the People’s Choice Classic, the warm-up criterium for the Tour Down Under. Having been given the perfect lead-out by Koen De Kort, he easily held off Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Wouter Wippert (Drapac) to defend his title in the fast, flat race in Adelaide.

 

In 2014, Marcel Kittel confirmed his position as the fastest rider in the world right from the beginning of the year when he won the People’s Choice Classic, the first race for the WorldTour riders. He went on to dominate the sprints for the rest of the year and nothing suggests it will be any different in 2015.

 

Today Kittel again got his season off to the best possible start when he took a hugely convincing victory in the fast criterium which is the warm-up event for the Tour Down Under, the first WorldTour race of the year. After another splendid performance of the entire Giant-Alpecin team, Kittel finished it off in the perfect fashion when he held off Juan Jose Lobato and Wouter Wippert to take a comfortable victory.

 

The race was dominated by a breakaway of Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE), Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Calvin Watson (Trek) but the German team always had things under control. Simon Geschke, Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga made sure that the gap never reached more than 35 seconds and even though they didn’t get any assistance from the other teams, the race was back together with 15km to go.

 

From there, it was chaos as the lead-out trains battled for position, with Sky, Etixx-QuickStep, Tinkoff-Saxo and IAM all spending time on the front. Meanwhile, Giant-Alpecin were hiding a few positions further back, waiting for the right moment to strike.

 

Koen De Kort had Kittel on his wheel and they got into the perfect position when Roger Kluge hit the front inside the final kilometre, with the Giant pair sitting on the wheel of the German. As usual, De Kort did a perfect lead-out and it always looked likely that Kittel would take a comfortable victory.

 

Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) and Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) were on Kittel’s wheel and they tried to anticipate the fast German. However, they had no response to the Giant captain who powered away from everyone else who had to battle it out for second. Renshaw and Henderson both faded back and instead Lobato did a very good sprint to claim second, with Wippert narrowly edging out Chris Sutton (Sky) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM) in the battle for the final spot on the podium.

 

The riders will get a small rest tomorrow before the Tour Down Under kicks off with its first stage on Tuesday. As the race is expected to be decided in a sprint, Kittel could very well make it two in a row and take the first leader’s jersey of the first WorldTour race of the year.

 

A fast criterium

The People’s Choice Classic was held on a flat 1.7km circuit in Adelaide that featured very few technical challenges. With 30 laps on the menu, all was set for a fast 51km race that was likely to suit the sprinters.

 

The best Australian riders were lined up in the front row when the shot was fired to start the race and ti was Richie Porte (Sky) who led the peloton through the first turns. Moments later, the action started when a Cannondale-Garmin rider launched the first attack.

 

Early attacks

A Drapac rider was the next to give it a go but the first rider to get a bigger gap was Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE). He was soon brought back and instead Luke Rowe (Sky), Rohan Dennis (BMC) and a UniSA rider got clear.

 

Lasse Norman (Cannondale-Garmin) and Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEDGE) tried to bridge the gap but as they had the rest of the peloton in tow, it all came back together. Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Watson, Manule Mori (Lampre-Merida) and Davide Malacarne (Astana) had a brief stint off the front and a move by a UniSA and a Drapac rider didn’t have much luck either.

 

The break is formed

At the start the fifth lap, Miles Scotson (UniSA) and Lars Boom (Astana) took off and they sprinted it out in the first intermediate sprint, with the Australian taking the win. As they stopped their effort, they were brought back and instead the Lotto Soudal pair Thomas De Gendt and Lars Bak both tried solo moves.

 

When the Lotto riders were back in the fold, Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) gave it a go but it was the subsequent move by Hayman that laid the foundations for the early break. He was first joined by Kennaugh and Cataldo and moments later, Watson also bridged the gap.

 

Giant-Alpecin take control

At the end of the ninth lap, the peloton slowed down a bit as Giant-Alpecin hit the front with Geschke and Haga. Craddock soon joined the chase work while Hayman narrowly edged out Watson in the second intermediate sprint.

 

When Hayman beat Catalso and Kennaugh in the sprint at the halfway point, they gap had been extended to 35 seconds and Giant-Alpecin briefly seemed to be in some kind of trouble. When Kennaugh passed Cataldo to win the final sprint with 17km to go, however, the cooperation disappeared and the break split in two, with Watson and Cataldo getting tailed off.

 

More attacks

The break came back together but the escapees were no longer working together. Watson briefly tried to attack but as Lotto Soudal had now started to chase, the break was just a few metres ahead of the peloton.

 

Lieuwe Westra (Astana) flew past the four escapees and he was soon joined by Sam Bewley (Orica-GreenEDGE), Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quick Step) and a Katusha rider. However, Thomas De Gendt brought everything back together for Lotto Soudal and instead Malacarne gave it a go.

 

Fight for position

IAM and Etixx-QuickStep were now setting the pace and they brought Malacarne back into the fold. Thomas enjoyed a small stint off the front but with 5km to go, he was also back in the peloton.

 

Ian Stannard and Salvatore Puccio were now riding tempo for Sky as the battle for position had really started. They were passed by Tinkoff-Saxo, with Michael Rogers taking a huge turn on the front before IAM took over.

 

IAM in control

With two laps to go, the Swiss team had five riders on the front and they won the battle with Giant-Alpecin and Drapac to remain in the lead. However, things got confusing at the start of the final lap and it was a lone FDJ rider who led the peloton when the bell rang.

 

Lampre-Merida hit the front but as sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio was already in second position, they had to slow down. This allowed Roger Kluge to come through but he had lost his captain Haussler. Instead, he had De Kort and Kittel on his wheel and when the former made his lead-out, the outcome was never in doubt.

 

Result:

1. Marcel Kittel 1.02.41

2. Juan Jose Lobato

3. Wouter Wippert

4. Chris Sutton

5. Heinrich Haussler

6. Gianni Meersman

7. Rüdiger Selig

8. Samuel Dumoulin

9. Mark Renshaw

10. Greg Henderson

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