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“It’s always hard to go into a race as the favourite, and to be able to actually pull it off is another thing, so I’m really relieved that I won today and it gives me a whole lot of confidence going into the next races as...

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ADAM BLYTHE

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BERT DE BACKER

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DAVIDE MARTINELLI

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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EF PRO CYCLING

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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GREGORY HENDERSON

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JOSE JOAQUIN ROJAS GIL

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JUAN JOSE LOBATO

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KOEN DE KORT

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MANUEL BOARO

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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RICHIE PORTE

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ROHAN DENNIS

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TEAM SKY

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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WOUTER WIPPERT

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17.01.2016 @ 15:04 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.

 
We have gathered some reactions.
 

Caleb Ewan: It is hard to be the favourite

2016 Australian criterium champion Caleb Ewan has claimed the People’s Choice Classic at the Santos Tour Down Under this evening.

 

Ewan launched off the wheel of ORICA-GreenEDGE teammate Daryl Impey and found an opening to burst ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek–Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) for the first honours in Adelaide.

 

The win takes the 2015 Vuelta a Espana stage winner to six victories in 2016 after his success at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and the Australian road championships earlier this month.

 

“I felt really good coming into this race,” the 21-year-old said after the victory. “I’ve had some good races leading up to this and I think I should be peaking pretty well this week.

 

“We said before the race that we would sit back in the bunch a little bit and because there are no really sharp corners it was really easy to sit in. We conserved a lot of energy early in the race and about mid-way through we started making our way up through the bunch and I think what we did worked perfectly.

 

“It’s always hard to go into a race as the favourite, and to be able to actually pull it off is another thing, so I’m really relieved that I won today and it gives me a whole lot of confidence going into the next races as well.

 

“I was probably more nervous for today than I have been for any of the other race so far. My team just rode perfectly. We sat back for a lot of the race and cruised around. And they were awesome. Once you need to go to the front, they kept me up there and led me out perfectly.

 

“You get a bit messy in the end because it is hard for the team to take control of the front the whole time and I think IAM were sitting back a bit and they did it pretty well. We just jumped on them and Daryl did a perfect lead-out in the end.

 

“I did feel pretty confident. I didn’t see Trek come until the last two hundred metres. My biggest concern at the time was Pelucchi because he had a pretty strong lead out in the end but I could see him really dying on the wheel.

 

“So I felt good in the last lap and … yeah, I could sprint really well in the end.”

 

“I don’t think a more relaxed approach. Obviously we have got ambition to win the GC and I have got ambitions to win stages myself. So it’s the start of a long week.”

 

The Santos Tour Down Under officially commences on Tuesday with a 130.8km opening stage from Prospect to Lyndoch.

 

Another second place for Nizzolo

There were no winter cobwebs for Giacomo Nizzolo as he narrowly missed out on claiming the win in the 51-kilometer Peoples Choice Classic criterium Sunday evening, settling for second to the recently crowned Australian criterium champion Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge).

 

"What can I say? We start again with a second place," said Nizzolo, referring to his nemesis of consistently finishing as runner-up. "But, no, actually the feeling is different this time. Ewan has been racing already for a few weeks, and for us it's the first race and looking at it that way I think we have started from a good point."

 

As every year, the fast, sweeping 1.7-kilometer course ended in a bunch kick and with Kiel Reijnen and Boy Van Poppel ushering Nizzolo around the final laps, Nizzolo only had to turn on the jets in the final meters.

 

Nizzolo jumped first and appeared on his way to victory until a crafty Caleb Ewan somehow found room to tag his slipstream in the final meters and slingshot around him to grab the victory. Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) rounded out the podium.

 

"I think in hindsight that my gear was too small," continued Nizzolo. "I tried to anticipate the sprint, thinking that maybe it was the right choice – and maybe it could be – but Ewan went up in just in the last meters. But like I said, this is a good start for us, and now we look forward."

 

Blythe on the podium in first race for Tinkoff

The 2016 season opened on a positive note for Tinkoff as new recruit Adam Blythe took third place in the Tour Down Under prelude in the streets of Adelaide after a hectic finale. Manuele Boaro and Jay McCarthy rode aggressively at the front and claimed an intermediate sprint each.

 

Santos Tour Down Under, and Tinkoff's 2016 season, kicked off on Saturday evening with a fast-paced 51km circuit around Adelaide. The pace was set early on with a move in the first five laps in which Manuele Boaro took part. It was then followed by another one which saw the first ten laps raced with an eye-catching 51km/h average speed.

 

"When we discussed our strategy prior to the race, we wanted to give the riders the freedom to make a move if they felt they had the legs", commented Lars Michaelsen, leading sport director of Tinkoff in Australia. "However, our first priority was to accommodate Adam Blythe in the final part of the sprint. Adam got to the wheel of Nizzolo with two laps to go, kept his calm and followed him. Caleb Ewan proved to be the fastest but I'm happy with what we achieved".


Jay McCarthy won the sprint after 10 laps while Manuele Boaro also took his chances in the second part of the race in a breakaway of three riders and took the fourth intermediate sprint at the 20th lap. The group was caught up by the bigger teams and the race came to an expected hectic bunch sprint.

 

“We're here with a great team and we want to perform on every occasion,” said Boaro. “We had Adam 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.”

 

Racing kicks off in full earnest on Tuesday with the opening stage, a 130.8km ride from Prospect to Lyndoch. Although the People's Choice Classic criterium doesn't count towards the overall standings of the Santos Tour Dwon Under, Michaelsen feels positive about today's result.

 

"Today, we saw a group of Tinkoff riders that were eager to race, eager to come out, take their chances and feel the wind under their wings. This is a positive sign and we will build upon it for next week's racing", commented Michaelsen.

 

Sky dominate final laps, Swift takes fourth

Team Sky got their 2016 campaign off to a strong start as Ben Swift sprinted to fourth place at the People's Choice Classic.

 

The streets of Adelaide played host to the opening race of the season and after 30 laps the event was decided in the now-traditional sprint finish.

 

Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) emerged victorious in Rymill Park, edging out Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) after a frantic finale.

 

Team Sky hit the front with numbers with seven laps to go in a bid to set up Swift. Gradually upping the pace, Geraint Thomas and Pete Kennaugh strung out the field before it was left to Luke Rowe to guide Swift, heading into the final lap.

 

Fourth was the end result for the Yorkshireman, with Team Sky riding well as a unit ahead of Tuesday's Tour Down Under.

 

Salvatore Puccio slipped into an early move as the 51km showpiece began, while Thomas was also attentive during the opening exchanges.

 

Luke Rowe had a front-row seat for the finale as last man in the lead-out for Swift.

 

"We've finally got the season going and the first race day in the bag," said the Welshman after the race. "It was a bit of a shock to the system and a pretty full gas race but I enjoyed it.

 

"We haven't done a lead-out for a while. We hit the front early and it was just a case of staying out of trouble and getting a good sweat on before the race on Tuesday. I've was left out there with Swifty at the end. He lost me with just under a kilometre to go when we were on Caleb's wheel - but we'll aim to improve during the week."

 

Sports Director Kurt Asle Arvesen was happy with what he saw during the hour-long blast, adding: "I was very impressive with the boys. They moved up towards the end of the race and controlled it. Ben was in the perfect position at the end with Luke but he just lost him a little bit. In the end we got beaten by three other riders - which is okay for today.

 

"I was impressed with how they all rode together. Even Sergio (Henao) was up there for a while helping out the boys. Everyone got through without crashes and everyone is feeling good. It was a good start and now we're looking forward to the real racing on Tuesday."

 

Great WorldTour comeback for Kump

The People's Choice Classic, a criterium of 51 km in Adelaide and a foretaste to the Tour Down Under, was the kick-off of the 2016 cycling year for all the WorldTour teams and LAMPRE-MERIDA was in the bunch too.

A rider at his debut in blue-fuchsia-green colors, Marko Kump, was the best rider in the race, having obtained the 5th place in a bunch sprint which was the obvious end of a very fast race. The Slovenian rider from LAMPRE-MERIDA made a fantastic comeback after having approached the final straight far from the front of the bunch.
Despite a good sprint, Kump was beaten Ewan, Nizzolo (2nd), Blythe (3rd) and Swift (4th).

"I really appreciated the team spirit and the work of our group in supporting Kump during this first race which was characterized by a short and fast course which we covered 30 times," sports director Philippe  Mauduit explained. "Marko made an impressive comeback on the final straight, but it was impossible to do better than 5th place."

The People's Choice Classic was the debut race in LAMPRE-MERIDA not only for Kump, but also for the South African talented climber Meintjes and for the Italian young gun Zurlo.

 

Dimension Data start time in WorldTour with sixth place

The People's Choice Classic, which serves as the curtain raiser to the Santos Tour Down Under, saw Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) sprint to victory ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff).   

 

The 51km criterium race got off to a blistering start with attacks from the gun. Jaco Venter and Songezo Jim were both up there paying attention to the moves for Dimension Data. At such a high pace, nothing was getting away. No breakaway attempts ever got much more than a 15-second lead and so it was always destined to finish in a mass sprint.

 

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg was on the front foot today, winning the opening sprint prime and then taking 2nd in the next prime as well. When it came down to the sprint finish, the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka boys were going head to head with Team Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE, before IAM Cycling swarmed to the front.

 

In the end, it was still the in-form man, Ewan who took the win. Van Rensburg was the highest placed finisher on the day, coming home in a credible 6th place for the African Team.

 

”We were really having some fun out there today. I managed to win the first prime and then 6th to end off the day. It's good to get the season started and it was great that we could do so with such an enjoyable criterium,” he said.

 

Etixx-QuickStep neo-pro surprises in bunch sprint

Etixx – Quick-Step's neo-pro rider Davide Martinelli put on a strong sprint to record a good result in the lead-up to the Tour Down Under.

 

The Adelaide Criterium witnessed a fast pace right from the gun, with an average speed of 51 km/h in the first laps that didn’t leave too much space to attackers. Once things calmed down, Pieter Serry went into a group that stayed at the front for a couple of seconds, which allowed the Belgian to finish third at the second intermediate sprint. A couple of minutes later, Martin Velits tried his luck and managed to infiltrate in a three-men group which took a 50-m advantage on the field. Also this move was neutralized, but not before the Slovak rider came second at the last intermediary sprint of the day.

 

In the final laps, the sprinters’ teams got out in the front, preparing the lead-out for their riders. Thanks to a powerful kick, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) finished first, ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Tinkoff), who rounded out the podium. Neo-pro Davide Martinelli – riding his first race for Etixx – Quick-Step – positioned himself nicely in the last kilometer and sprinted to seventh place at the end of the 51-km long race.

 

“Today we had a hard race, but with a fantastic public lining the route, cheering and supporting us all the time. It gave my goosebumps. To get a top 10 in the criterium is really fantastic, especially as this was my very first race of the season”, said the 22-year-old Italian, whose feelings were echoed by sport director Rik van Sly

 

A rest day is next for the riders, followed by the first stage of the Tour Down Under, on January 19th. The peloton will set off from Prospect for a 130.8-km long stage which will finish in Lyndoch, where the sprinters should take the spoils.


Wippert boxed in in first sprint for Cannondale

Wouter Wippert was gunning for a win today. He finished in ninth place. Here's what he had to say about his day:

 

"The team was sitting the in good position together the entire race. That makes it a lot easier in a course like this.

 

”The last five laps, we did exactly what we said we wanted. We said we would stay in the first 20 guys, and we were and it worked perfectly.

 

“Simon [Clarke] did a really good job to bring us all in position for the sprint, and the guys did a really strong pull in the last two laps. I was sitting really comfortably in the wheel.

 

”Everything went perfect to the last corner. We turned on the finish stretch in sixth and seventh. We started sprinting a little bit early, so I had to wait a little bit. The moment I wanted to go again, I got blocked and had to sit back on my saddle and rode to the finish.

 

“The moment I kicked a second time someone hit me with his hip to my handlebar and I hit another hip. Yeah. You have to be all in, and then it’s over.

 

“I was really happy about that I kept it up. Crashing now would be the worst possible.

 

”My assessment? The result – disappointed. The teamwork – more than happy.

 

”We were sitting four in the wind and going as fast as the other guys. Strong job from the guys. That makes it easy for me to stay in the front and for Patrick[Vein]  to save his power for the last 500 metres. That was perfect. You can get blocked in a sprint. That is possible and that happened today.

 

”It was disappointing because we worked for more than place nine. Feelling how comfortable we both were in the last 500 metres, there was more possible than nine.

 

”I’m looking forward to Tuesday. I still have all the faith that it is possible to win a stage with my teammates here. If they bring you that fresh to the front, that makes the difference between ninth and first."

 

Henderson narrowly misses the top 10

Today Lotto Soudal participated in the People’s Choice Classic, the traditional criterium in Adelaide ahead of the Tour Down Under. The peloton covered thirty laps of 1.7 kilometres at a very high speed. Despite several attacks, with an attempt of Lars Bak, the race still ended with the expected bunch sprint. Caleb Ewan sprinted to victory in his home country, ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo and Adam Blythe. Greg Henderson could be found near the front for a long time, but lost positions in the last two kilometres. The Kiwi finished eleventh.

 

”Had great fun tonight @ people's choice crit here in Adelaide. Got bumped off prime position with 2 to go,” he tweeted after the race.

 

De Kort gets rare chance to sprint for himself

TEAM GIANT-ALPECIN HAS KICKED OFF THE 2016 ROAD SEASON WITH A 12TH PLACE FOR KOEN DE KORT AT THE ADELAIDE OPENER AND TOUR DOWN UNDER PREVIEW, PEOPLE’S CHOICE CLASSIC.

 

Following 30 laps at the 1.7km circuit, the race came down to a bunch sprint finish. Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) claimed the victory as De Kort  crossed the line in 12th place.

 

“I was happy with the chance to be the sprinter today,” said De Kort. “It’s valuable to experience the sprint preparation through the eyes of the last man, the sprinter, in order to develop my role in this process, too.

 

“I hesitated a little too long during the sprint, but I will take this experience with me towards the next sprint chances.”

 

Road captain Bert De Backer added: “I am happy that the season has started. The team was very motivated and eager to race and we are looking forward to the Tour Down Under and the next sprint stages.”

 

The six-stage Santos Tour Down Under starts Tuesday.

 

No glory for Movistar sprinters

As usual for the Movistar Team, the 2016 season for the Blues started at Adelaide's Rymill Park, where the 51-kilometer People's Choice Classic, pre-face to the big week of Aussie cycling, saw Caleb Ewan (OGE) outsprinting the field as the telephone squad unsuccessfully tried to take a place at the front.

 

A move by Jasha Sütterlin in the first third of the 30-lap course preceded positioning from the German plus local Rory Sutherland and debutant Nelson Oliveira, looking to put Juanjo Lobato and José Joaquín Rojas into good place. However, the usual chaos at the front of the field took them out of the front, crossing the line in 14th and 16th, respectively.

 

Better suited stages should come for the Blues from Tuesday, as the 2016 UCI WorldTour officially starts with stage one of the Tour Down Under covering 131km, between Prospect and Lyndoch on rolling roads.

 

Dennis and Porte find their racing legs

BMC Racing Team took to the streets of Adelaide’s East End tonight for the People’s Choice Classic criterium, won by Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEDGE).

 

Santos Tour Down Under defending champion Rohan Dennis was the best placed of BMC Racing Team’s riders, finishing the 51 kilometre circuit in 37th place.

 

Dennis said tonight’s criterium was a good start to the week’s racing.

 

“The legs feel good. I started towards the back but over 10 or 15 laps I moved forward and used that as an effort. I’m just looking forward to the next week of racing.”

 

The criterium was the first race for Richie Porte alongside his BMC Racing Team teammates, following last week’s Australian Road National Championships.

 

“It was a hard and fast race but that’s what we expected. All of the guys got through unscathed so now the real race starts on Tuesday. Tonight’s race is a hard race for my style of rider so it’s nice to have it finished.”

 

The riders enjoy a rest day tomorrow before the Santos Tour Down Under officially kicks off on Tuesday with Hostworks Stage 1, a 130.8 kilometre stage from Prospect to Lyndoch.

 

Difficult race for LottoNL-Jumbo

The Team LottoNL-Jumbo seven-man line-up for the Tour Down Under, the first WorldTour race of the 2016 season, began the year with the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide, Australia. Primoz Roglic escaped in the fast criterium, but could not prevent the eventual a bunch sprint won by Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE).

“We’re apparently not the only team who worked hard during the winter!” the team’s captain, Maarten Tjallingii joked after the race. “It was a very fast race. Primoz Roglic tried to escape immediately at the start and showed that he is ready for the season. Because the high pace in the peloton, it wasn’t possible to stay out of the clutches of the pack.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo didn't fly to Australia with a sprinter so it became difficult to collect in a top result. “Primoz and Maarten Tjallingii tried to out-run the bunch, but Orica-GreenEDGE was in control,” sports director Frans Maassen said. “We weren’t able to play a role in that final kick.”

Tjallingii looked at the race positively, though, in the run up to the WorldTour-ranked Tour Down Under.

"We gained a lot of speed in this race and we’re looking forward to the Tour Down Under." The stage race ranks high on team LottoNL-Jumbo’s list with all 18 WorldTour teams racing. “We’re going to take a training ride with people from Bianchi on Monday and afterwards, we’re ready for the big work.”

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