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Tour Down Under

10th Tour Down Under - ProT

Australia, January 20-27, 2008

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Stage 1 - Tuesday, January 22: Mawson Lakes - Angaston, 129km

Complete live report

22:59 CST   
Tune in to Cyclingnews.com on Tuesday, January 22 at 10:50 AM (CDT) for the opening stage of the 10th Anniversary Tour Down Under.

09:59 CST   

10:04 CST   
Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the first stage of the 10th Tour Down Under, and the first road stage of any ProTour event for 2008. It's a significant day for the sport and the UCI's ProTour, as it's the first time any event will be held outside of continental Europe.

10:16 CST   
Without seeming too biased, given your commentator's nationality, it could be argued that the UCI could not find a better partner to start its 2008 ProTour outside Europe. The Tour Down Under enjoys the full support of the State Government of South Australia and over its ten years, the event has been praised for its organisation and resources.

Today before the stage started, the riders were treated to a ticker-tape parade in the centre of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia - and that's before a pedal has been turned in anger.

11:10 CST   
In Mawson Lakes, the start of today's 129km stage, the riders have been greeted by a good crowd, warm temperatures and a light breeeze, "perfect", was how CN's Greg Johnson said from the startline.

11:13 CST    6km/123km to go
Today's stage has proved decisive in years gone past, as it features a climb only 11.2km into the stage. With 6km into the stage, the peloton is together and jostling for position ahead of the race's first climb.

11:15 CST    8km/121km to go
So what is going to happen? Will there be a decisive break in today's stage that sets the pattern for the whole race? In previous Tours Down Under, a group has used the 'Black Top Road' King of the Mountain climb as the point to make a selection, and some times the main field has trundled in up to 30 minutes behind.

11:16 CST    9km/120km to go
But not this year. Almost all pre-race comments by riders who've ridden the TDU in previous years say that its new status as a ProTour event means the field will be more competitive and stays together. We'll soon see.

11:18 CST    10km/119km to go
Cyclingnews' Paul Verkuylen is travelling in the Silence-Lotto car, and team manager Henrik Redant is still expecting a break to go clear on the climb, and he thinks it could stay away and perhaps get 10 minutes on the field. He is hoping that Matthew Lloyd and Jacob Pieter will make the break, as they are the two best prospects for the GC in the Belgian team.

11:22 CST    10.5km/118.5km to go
A four-rider break tried to go clear and managed to get 60 metres but with 500 metres to the KoM sprint, they'd been pulled back by the peloton.

11:28 CST    11.2km/117.8km to go
The four riders who tried to go clear included High Road’s Frantisek Rabon (Cze), UniSA’s Simon Clarke (Aus), Saunier Duval-Scott’s Arkaitz Duran Daroca (Spa) and Bouygues Telecom’s Dimitri Champion (Fra). But the peloton reeled them in and crossed the KoM sprint as a group - awaiting confirmattion of the KoM sprint now.

11:33 CST    12km/117km to go
OK - the peloton crossed the KoM sprint at Black Top Road, Gould Creek, and the points were taken out by Francaise Des Jeux's Philippe Gilbert (Bel), followed by Euskaltel-Euskadi's Jon Bru Pascal (Spa), Marcus Burghardt (Ger) from Team High Road, David Moncoutie (Fra) from Cofidis, and Dimitri Champion (Fra) from Bouyges Telecom.

11:37 CST    18km/111km to go
After the climb a group of seven is trying to go clear and is managing to pull something of a gap, as there is about 20km or so of rolling terrain before a descent. Just clarifying those numbers now.

11:42 CST    24km/105km to go
The group of seven has managed to take 30 seconds on the peloton and this group includes Francaise Des Jeux's Tom Stubbe (Bel), Astana's Rene Haselbacher (Aut), Nicolas Portal (Fra) from Caisse D'Epargne, Saunier-Duval - Scott's Josep Jufre Pou (Spa), Amets Txurruka (Spa) from Euskaltel, Jerome Pineau (Fra) from Bouygues Telecom, and Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) from Credit Agricole.

11:47 CST    27km/102km to go
There was a massive crowd waiting for the peloton in the township of One Tree Hill, reports Paul V from the Silence-Lotto car. He said that Nick Gates had to come back for a quick saddle adjustment, and interestingly, Redant said his riders did not have their intercom radios switched on for today. "They are briefed and know what to do, and there's less pressure on them this early in the season. Also, with four guys in the team who've been here regularly, they know the race well". Meanwhile, Team High Road controls the front of the peloton.

11:50 CST    28km/101km to go
It seems like high road is doing a good job - the gap is now down to less than 20 seconds. The motorbikes are being pulled out of the gap between the chasing peloton and the leading break.

11:52 CST    32km/97km to go
The gap is now down to only 10 seconds. Earlier the peloton took in the some of the local scenery, such a female spectator with a stuffed chicken on her hat. Interesting. They're passing alpaca farm country now.

11:54 CST    36km/93km to go
The gap is now down to 4 seconds and likely to be brought back in the main street of Gawler. Paul V reports the speeed of the peloton is very high, as there are just too many teams without riders in the break.

11:58 CST    38km/91km to go
Just the break was being brought back, Le Mevel from Credit Agricole decided to have another dig. But it didn't last long and the peloton is now all together. So, the ProTour status has already changed the nature of this race, and not just in the signage.

12:01 CST    40km/89km to go
Police are reporting the crowds this year are back to levels not seen since the turn-out the race witnessed in the first-ever event, when there was a great deal of curiosity surrounding this big bike race. This year, there are picnic tables under trees and the wine is already opened - in farm country. Not surprising, given the peloton is in very good wine country.

12:04 CST    41km/88km to go
Just as we were settling into our deck chairs, another group of three has pulled 300 metres on the peloton. We have UniSA's Richie Porte (Aus), Mickael Buffaz (Fra) from Cofidis and - again - Dimitri Champion from Bouygues Telecom.

12:07 CST    44km/85km to go
The gap has grown to 1.05 and the peloton is already ahead of the time schedule. The pace is on and coming up in Lyndoch is the first intermediate sprint at 50.6km. It would seem that these threee will take the points - and whatever other goodies are on offer as sprint primes.

12:11 CST    46km/83km to go
Whoops - the peloton is nodding off a bit as the gap has grown to 2.05. Perhaps there is some discussion going on among the sprinters' teams - such as who will chase.

12:17 CST   
The time gap has really blown out - it's now 3.20 and a quick back-of-the-envelope estimation of the average speed is classified as 'very fast'. They have been flying so far. One reader asked if he'll hope to see some unfit, overweight yob turning up - as some European riders have done so in the past - so he can do a bit of harmless sledging from the side of the road. Very unlikely this year - no Darios.

12:21 CST    50.6km/78.4km to go
The riders have rolled through the first intermediate sprint and first across the line was Mickael Buffaz (Fra) from Cofidis, then Dimitri Champion from Bouygues Telecom and the up-and-coming Tasmanian on UniSA, Richie Porte, who's just ordered a chilled spring water, per favore.

12:27 CST    52km/77km to go
As the leaders roll through the vineyards of the Barossa Valley, readers have asked the question: who is Uni Sa's Richie Porte? Good question. He's a very promising young rider from Tasmania who came fourth in the Australian Open Road Championships the weekend before last in Ballarat (1.19 behind the leading trio), and he also bagged fifth in the elite men's time trial. And now he's in the lead group of a ProTour event, in a 'composite' team.

12:31 CST    53km/76km to go
Now their gap has grown to six minutes - it's that large I can write words. The two French riders with Porte are swapping turns and if they can maintain or build on this lead over the next 20km, then the peloton will have to really motor to bring them back for a bunch sprint. This is slightly larger than a comfortable gap.

12:38 CST    58km/71km to go
And now they have a break of 6.50, so it's looking like these three riders are going all the way. They're working well together, riding through the vineyards of the Barossa Valley. The vines are heavy with fruit at this time of year, as picking season is just around the corner. The sun and crowds are out, the breeze is still light - it's a great day for racing.

12:50 CST    64km/65km to go
Their lead has reduced slightly to 6.35 as they continue to work well together, but on the front of the peloton, two riders from Rabobank are on the front, seemingly working to keep the gap within 'range' of a sprint finish.

12:53 CST    69km/60km to go
So the gap is back to 6.50. So how did other riders expect this stage would pan out? CN's Greg Johnson reports that Greg Henderson from Team High Road said, "probably one of two things will happen. Either a two man break or one big one with all the teams represented. Im a bit let lagged. I only just arrived from the track World Cup in Los Angeles. We have a really strong sprinting team here." Indeed, High Road has had a tremendous start to the season, especially coming after all the sponsorship dramas.

12:56 CST    74.4km/54.6km to go
The leaders have just rolled through the feed zone, working well to preserve their break. At the start, Rabobank's sprinter Graeme Brown said, "I feel pretty good. I made a few mistakes on Sunday but it's better to make them then than today. It's a really big deal," he said of the ProTour race being held Down Under. "It's a great thrill Australia has the first ProTour event outside Europe."

13:02 CST   
As the main field just rolled through the feed zone at 74 km, still 6.40 behind our leeading trio, two riders from Credit Agricole had attacked, Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) and Christophe Kern (Fra) and opened up a 300 metre gap on the peloton.

13:09 CST    80km/49km to go
The two chasers from Credit Aggricole have now put 50 seconds into the main field and trail the the three leaders by 5.10. The peloton is six minutes behind the leaders and holding steady, but this atttack by the CA riders is certain to cause a reaction.

13:12 CST    85km/44km to go
The lead group is only 1km from the next intermediate sprint in Nuriootpa and holding steady, while behind them the Credit Agricole riders give chase.

13:15 CST   
And indeed there has been a reaction. The duo from Credit Agricole were caught 3km from the next intermediate sprint. The main field has Team CSC on the front putting in some big turns, and whitttling down the leaders' advantage to less than five minutes. Up the front, Champion has called for neutral service.

13:17 CST    86.4km/42.6km to go
Results of the second intermediate sprint saw Mickael Buffaz (Fra) of Cofidis take the points, followed by Dimitri Champion (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom and then Richie Porte of UniSa. Behind them, the field is really starting to chase and their lead is falling.

13:26 CST    92km/37km to go
Riders from CA and CSC are on the front of the main field and chasing hard. Richie Porte has a triathlon background and held a scholarship with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport but has made the jump to road cycling. Andrew Christie-Johnson from the Praties squad in Tasmania has selected him for the local team, and last year Porte spent three months in Italy racing for an amateur team and won an U23 race in Italy. "Andrew's done a great job with him," said Paul Brosnan, head cycling coach at the TIS. Porte also won the Victoria Tour of Bright just before Christmas, too. His time in the sun may be limited, though, as the break is now down to 2.20.

13:32 CST    95km/34km to go
The leaders have now only 1.50 to the main field, which is hammering along. With about 35km to race, it looks like their escape won't succeed, especially if the field keeps up this cracking pace.

13:36 CST    98km/31km to go
The time gap has recently stabilised to 1.50; it would seem that the sprinters' teams may have stepped off the gas, or the leaders are putting in one last good dig at staying away. Based on the old rule-of-thumb of one minute for every 10km, the race is still open, but a hungry field is very likely to consume this gap.

13:40 CST    101km/28km to go
The lead bunch Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger 
image)
The main field is belting along at 65km, reports Paul Verkuylen inside the Silence-Lotto team car. The leaders still have 1.35 to the main field and are making them work for it.

13:44 CST    104km/25km to go
They're fighting for it - the leaders are holding the main field to 1.30 and behind in the main field, the Silience-Lotto riders will soon be double-checking with robbie McEwen to ask if he's up for the sprint today. If it's a "yes", then they'll do their best to ensure the leaders are caught and they organise themselves for the sprint.

13:52 CST    112km/17km to go
The time gap remains at one minute; this could be the comfort zone for the sprinters' teams who believe they could reel in this break in under 10km. So they may hold this and leave our leaders - Mickael Buffaz (Fra) of Cofidis, Dimitri Champion (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom and Richie Porte of UniSa - banging away out in front.

13:55 CST    113km/16km to go
The gap is down to 50 seconds - isn't this cruel? All this work and it's likely they'll be caught. That's bike racing. But at least our first road stage of the ProTour for 2008 has a good dose of drama and tension.

13:57 CST    115km/14km to go
Little-by-little the gap comes down - with 115km covered, our Franco-Australian alliance still holds a 45 second lead, but there's another 14km to race. The final 3km run into the finish in Angaston could be described as 'dead flat'.

14:00 CST    117km/12km to go
The peloton just rolled through the 117km mark and they trailed the leaders by only 25 seconds. Still, one observer on the side of the road suggests they are "going for it".

14:04 CST    120km/9km to go
Their gap remains at 25 seconds - good to see they haven't yet sat up. Buffaz, Champion and Porte are pounding away.

14:06 CST    121km/8km to go
The main field just rolled through the 121km mark only 20 second behind our leaders, who are not giving up - great to see.

14:08 CST    123km/6km to go
With only 6km to go, the leaders are still holding off the peloton by 20 seconds. The main field has Lampre and Quick Step on the front.

14:08 CST    125km/4km to go
It's now a lead of only 15 seconds. Only four km to go boys ...

14:10 CST    126km/3km to go
They're caught - ah - well, the peloton had to work for it and it's been a great day's riding by our leading trio. Now, the sprinters' teams really take over.

14:11 CST    127km/2km to go
Back in the Silence-Lotto car, manager Henrik Redant predicted the leaders would be caught "with 3km to go". Just once, wouldn't it be good if they were wrong?

14:13 CST    128km/1km to go
It's on for the sprinters with 1km to go, with High Road on the front.

14:15 CST    129km/0km to go
And the peloton barrels down the mains treet of Angaston, and emerging from the madness is the red face and green jersey of Credit Agricole's sprinter, Mark Renshaw! That's unofficial for now but it looks like the Aussie sprinter got it.

14:18 CST    129km/0km to go
We're just waiting for official placings from the commissaires but it looked Renshaw took the win, in a really good day out for the French ProTour teams. Kudos also to the breakaway group for creating some great racing and making the sprinters' team chase so hard.

14:24 CST    129km/0km to go
What we can tell you is that Philippe Gilbert (Bel) from Francaise Des Jeux will grace the podium this afternoon, courtesy of his winning sprint in the KoM competition, so he'll have a jersey tomorrow, while Mickael Buffaz (Fra) of Cofidis will wear both the points jersey and the most aggressive rider jersey, two good prizes for a good day's work. Presumably, organisers may allow the latter to be worn by another of his breakaway companions.

14:26 CST    129km/0km to go
After the finish, stage winner Mark Renshaw from Credit Agricole told Cyclingnews that it was "really special" to win his first stage of a ProTour event on home soil. "I've been waiting four years," said the classy sprinter who hails from Bathurst, NSW. "This year was the time to step up, and I did it."

14:29 CST    129km/0km to go
And with the time bonus sprints, Renshaw also is not only the first stage winner of the first ProTour event to be held outside of Europe, he's also the first leader on GC, too.

15:00 CST    129km/0km to go
So that's about it for today, that is until our reporters and photographers are all back and file their work. We hope you've enjoyed the day of firsts for cycling, and it was a good day, too, that could perhaps only have been bettered had our trio really dug super-deep and held on to the very end. One this is for sure is that the race is by no means over; indeed, it's like the closest TDU in years and with that subtle hint, one suggests lobbing back tomorrow at 11.CDT tomorrow, which is the same time as today's start. Tomorrow's stage from Echunga to Hahndorf covers 148km and features lots of small climbs that could also assist a breakaway group. Until then, thanks for joining us. The season's away for another year.

Provisional results of stage 1, Tour Down Under, January 22, 2008

1 Mark Renshaw (Aus)(Credit Agricole)
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caise D'Epargne
3 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
4 Allan Davis (Aus) UniSA -  Australia 
5 Jan Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
6 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
8 Andre Greipel (Ger) Team High Road
9 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2R-La Mondiale
10 Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Liquigas

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