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9th Tour Down Under - 2.HC

Australia, January 16-21, 2007

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Stage 1 - Wednesday, January 17: Mawson Lakes - Tanunda , 152km

Complete live report

Live Commentary by Anthony Tan & Ben Abrahams, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski

Live coverage starts: 11:00
Estimated finish: 14:58

10:50 CST   
Goedemorgen - and welcome to another sunny day aboard the Hindenburg V-2 for the opening road stage of the 2007 Tour Down Under.

10:52 CST   
Thankfully, it's much cooler this morning than last night's criterium; temperatures around 27-28 degrees, bright sunshine and large crowds greet the riders as they prepare for the start in Mawson Lakes. It's a still day with virtually no breeze.

10:58 CST   
We're now less than five minutes away from the race start of today's 155,5 kilometre journey to Tanunda, where this time last year, a similar stage and day turned the race on its head, and saw all bar six riders drop out of contention.

Credit Agricole's Mark Renshaw, winner of last night's Down Under Classic, is ready for a big one today. Writing his exclusive Cyclingnews diary last night, Renshaw said:

"I think tomorrow's going to be the GC day. I think it's going to be similar to last year, same kind of stage: dead roads, hot and windy - once 20 guys get up the road, the race is going to shut down and that's going to be the GC. It's just that kind of race: there are a lot of guys who are motivated to win, there are a lot of guys just here for training; once the guys that are motivated get up the road, that's the race."

11:01 CST   
Nicolas Roche (Credit Agricole) was in the break last night, telling our Cyclingnews reeporter in the field, Mark Zalewski, this morning: "Yeah, that was just stretching the legs, putting on a show," he said. "We'll try and get someone in the early breaks today but if not we've got Mark Renshaw in great form for the sprint."

11:04 CST   
Young Victorian Matthew Lloyd, in his neo-pro year with Predictor - Lotto, can be regarded as an interesting outside bet for overall honours this year.

"This race is like a lot of the races at the end of the season, where there are no decisive stages with climbs or time trials," he said, "so everyone's gotta stay on their toes from the start. We're gonna keep an eye on the usual suspects, O'Grady and Gerrans, and keep Robbie in good position."

11:11 CST   
And they're off. Well, sort of. 111 riders made their way out of The Promenade for a 1.8 kilometre neutral section before the official start along Mawson Lakes Boulevard.

11:20 CST    4km/151.5km to go
The peloton is rolling along as one just now. No-one fancies that early move just yet.

11:25 CST    7km/148.5km to go
We've got our first attack of the day. Brett Aitken (Australia - UniSA) is about 100 metres clear of the bunch. Will this be the day's big move?

11:26 CST    9km/146.5km to go
Gordon McCauley (New Zealand National Team) and Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com - AIS) are trying to bridge up to Aitken.

11:29 CST    9km/146.5km to go
The three escapees get down to business. The time gap back to the peloton is now 47 seconds.

11:38 CST    18km/130.5km to go
Matthew Goss (CSC), Nicolas Roche (Credit Agricole), Giovanni Bernaudeau (Bouyges Telecom) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2R) try to join the leaders but they don't get far. It's still the same three up front with the gap down to 15 seconds.

11:39 CST   
A little more about last year, in case you've forgotten. A lead group of 23 riders formed 32 kilometres into the 148 km stage, before it was withered away to a fantastic four 50 kilometres from the finish.

The quartet included 2005 champ Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Liberty Seguros - Wurth), Simon Gerrans (AG2R - Prevoyance), Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and William Walker (United Water - Australia U23), who broke clear at the highest point of the day.

The end result saw fortune favour the brave as the baby-faced Gerrans broke away with five kilometres to go and won the stage, which eventually saw him being crowned overall champion four days later.

11:47 CST    21.5km/134km to go
We're now five clicks away from the first of two intermediate sprints, the first coming after 26,5 km along Black Top Rd at One Tree Hill. Isn't that the name of some girly US TV show?

Race radio has just informed us there's a 10 rider break. We'll have numbers to you shortly.

11:50 CST    24.5km/131km to go
Holy crap! (Can we say that?) Looks like every team is represented; here we go:

Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), Luke Roberts (Team CSC), Lars Bak (Team CSC), Mario Aerts (Predictor - Lotto), Matthew Lloyd (Predictor - Lotto), Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole), Elia Rigotto (Team Milram), Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom), Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom), Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com), Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen), Glen Chadwick (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld), Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel), Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA), Gordon McCauley (New Zealand National Team).

We're just heading towards the first sprint now...

11:53 CST    25.5km/130km to go
One kilometre to the first sprint at the hill with one tree, appropriately named One Tree Hill.

Correction: the break is 18 men strong. They enjoy a lead of 1'37 over le peloton.

11:58 CST    27km/128.5km to go
The 18-man break has just passed the first sprint of the day, where Luke Roberts of (Team CSC) led the group over the line, followed by Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) and Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel). At this point, their lead was 1'56.

12:01 CST    31km/124.5km to go
The time gap back to the peloton is now two minutes. This is looking like a serious move...

12:04 CST    33km/122.5km to go
Lars Bak (Team CSC) has a rear wheel puncture. He rejoins the break with some crafty drafting behind the team car.

12:08 CST    36km/119.5km to go
It appears the elastic has well and truly snapped... the peloton are sitting up and the break has over three minutes. 4km to the day's only KOM at Humbug Scrub.

12:14 CST    39.4km/116.1km to go
1km to the top of Humbug Scrub. Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen) has a dig with three riders in pursuit.

12:18 CST    40.4km/115.1km to go
A small crowd greets the escapees as they crest the KOM. Pauwels takes the points from Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com), Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) and Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom)

12:19 CST    42km/113.5km to go
Those four now have 15 seconds with the peloton back at 5'42.

12:27 CST    48km/107.5km to go
The leaders re-group on the descent of Humbug Scrub. Lastest time check from race radio is 6'20 back to the peloton.

12:37 CST    53km/102.5km to go
The leaders pass through some picturesque rolling hills. They're working pretty well for a large group, it's now 8'25 back to the bunch. Plenty of time for a chase just yet but each team has a rider up there.

12:42 CST    60km/95.5km to go
Approaching the second sprint at Williamstown. Seven riders are sprinting for the points...

12:44 CST    61km/94.5km to go
Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) takes maximum points in Williamstown from Luke Roberts (Team CSC) and Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance)

12:48 CST   
Clinton Avery (New Zealand National Team) clearly doesn't want an easy day in the bunch. He's trying to bridge across solo to the leaders. It's a big ask; 6'14 is the gap just now as he rides tempo on the hoods.

12:52 CST   
With all teams represented up front it's surely going to be a mammoth gap between the leaders and the peloton once we cross the line in Tanunda. Any guesses on what that gap will be? Send us your predictions; closest wins a Cyclingnews T-shirt. Come on, that's gotta be worth an email!

12:56 CST   
The peloton crosses the sprint line in Williamstown. They're 6.20 behind a hard working Clinton Avery and 11'20 behind the leaders. Chocolade Jacques are riding tempo on the front.

13:05 CST    70km/85.5km to go
We're into wine country now, perhaps the peloton will stop for a quick tipple - they don't seem to be in any rush. If anyone was wondering why Clinton Avery is attempting this crazy solo move; there are no under 23 riders up front so he's going for the white jersey of best young rider.

13:15 CST    77km/78.5km to go
13 minutes and 28 seconds to the peloton. And 6 minutes 15 seconds to the Kiwi piggy in the middle, Clinton Avery. Well, at least it's not like last year, where it was race over for all bar five teams after Day 1.

13:20 CST   
We're now in the finish town of Tanunda, the northernmost finish town of the 2007 TDU, where riders will complete a number of circuits before finishing the day after 155.5 kilometres' racing.

13:31 CST   
New Zealand National Team member Clinton Avery is still going strong. This 19 year-old (!) kid from Rotorua is a national and Oceania champion in mountain biking, and a junior national TT champ. In other words, a big star in the making.

But his palmares notwithstanding, can he bridge a gap to a classy group of 18?

Correction: Breakaway member Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) is also an U-23 rider, so if (and it's a big if) Avery bridges, he may not necessarily be in the young riders' jersey at the end of the day.

13:35 CST    92.5km/63km to go
13'46 is the gap to the peloton, as the leading group of 18 go through the feed zone at Seppeltfield. Riders appear to be munching on beer-battered John Dory & hand-cut potato chips.

That was a joke.

13:37 CST   
The Cyclingnews mailbox has been flooded with time gap predictions, mostly from readers who seem to be at work. Just make sure the boss doesn't catch you! Guesses ranged from almost half an hour to a last-minute catch in the final kilometre. We'll keep you posted...

13:59 CST   
New Zealand National Team guy Gordon McCauley is requesting more water. It's warm, but nothing like yesterday. Luckily, the blimp was fitted with reverse cycle air-con over the break. Wouldn't mind a plunge pool as well though.

15'35 to the peloton. The bunch have totally resigned themselves, and are probably eating black forest cake for afternoon tea.

14:14 CST    113km/42.5km to go
Eight minutes to rider #137, Clinton Avery. He's not gonna get on now.

Riders in the break are starting to attack each other. Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom) gets 100 metres... now 300 metres, followed by Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld).

14:18 CST    125.5km/30km to go
Allez, allez, allez! Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom) is in the drops, hammering on his own with a tentative 15 second advantage. Borghini (Barloworld) didn't make it across, and is part of the next group of 17 riders.

14:22 CST   
Our reporter in the field today, Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski, spoke with New Zealand team manager Jacques Landry a short while ago, who is in fact a Canadian. Asked if it was he or Clinton Avery who initiated the chase to the lead group, Landry replied: "It must've`been his`idea, because it wasn't mine. He is a mountain biker after all - not too bright, you know. We were hoping a few more would come across [to chase], but obviously that didn't happen."

14:23 CST   
With the final 3km being totally pan-flat, it's surely suited to someone with a fast finish. AIS rider Simon Clarke has some track speed and could get up there. But don't discount 'Killer' Karl Menzies or Frenchman Andy Flickinger, winner of the GP Plouay in 2003.

14:27 CST   
Nicolas Crosbie (Bouygues Telecom) was recaught by his breakaway companions, but the recapture led to the front group splitting again, as Lars Bak of Team CSC puts down the hammer.

14:29 CST   
10 riders have broken clear of the original 18-man lead group: Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), Lars Bak (Team CSC), Matthew Lloyd (Predictor - Lotto), Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole), Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom), Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com), Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld), Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel), Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), and Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA), with an 18 second lead.

14:31 CST   
Now Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) attacks the group that attacked the lead group that attacked the peloton. There's a lot of attacking going on.

14:35 CST   
Alright, time for some predictions. Thanks to all the readers for your helpful advice, now it's time to stick our necks out! For me (Ben) it's gotta be CSC's Lars Bak while Anthony has gone for Karl Menzies. Just enough time to run for the nearest TAB and place some bets...

14:45 CST   
We've now got a group of five together in front with a 10 second lead. They are: Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), Lars Bak (Team CSC), Matthew Lloyd (Predictor - Lotto), Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com) and Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA)

14:47 CST   
Three more are in hot pursuit, a further 10 seconds back: Luke Roberts (Team CSC), Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) and Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) hammer across to the leaders. It's all kicking off now.

14:51 CST    6km to go
6km to go now, CSC have the numbers advantage upfront with Bak and Roberts

14:54 CST    153.5km/2km to go
2 km to go. The front five have a 28 second lead on the other three.

14:55 CST    154km/1.5km to go
One of these five will win the day.

14:55 CST    154.5km/1km to go
Final k - those 5 again: Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance), Lars Bak (Team CSC), Matthew Lloyd (Predictor - Lotto), Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com) and Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA).

14:56 CST   
600 metres...

14:56 CST   
Menzies has a gap!

14:57 CST    155.5km/0km to go
Killer Karl Menzies wins comfortably!!!! Drinks on me tonight!!!!

15:00 CST   
AG2r Prévoyance's Martin Elmiger wins the sprint home for second, followed by CSC's Lars Bak. A tough-as-nails Tasmanian in the race leader's jersey tonight - what more could you want?!

15:16 CST   
Well, once again, Stage 1 of the TDU turns decisive. While we wait for the peloton to roll across the finish line here in Tanunda, who are currently more than 10 minutes in arrears, it's obvious that one of 18 riders is set to win the race overall.

From the events of yesterday and today, it's clear that there's a large group of Aussies in form, a handful of Euro-dogs and a Kiwi or two. From today's successful breakaway group, one third are Australian, with three Frenchmen, two Italians, a Dane, a Belgian, a Dutchman, a Spaniard, a Swede, a Swiss and a Kiwi apiece.

15:23 CST   
Thanks for tuning in to CN FM at the 2007 Tour Down Under. We hope to see you again tomorrow at 11am, when Stage 2 kicks off from Mannum, a 150 kilometre journey that ends in the German-influenced town of Hahndorf.

Auf Wiedersehen und danke!

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