Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Matt de Neef
January 18, 2015
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) has begun his Santos Tour Down Under campaign in convincing fashion, winning the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide’s for the second year in a row.
Kittel went into the curtain-raiser criterium in Adelaide’s East End as the hot favourite and lived up to expectations, crossing the line first ahead of Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Wouter Wippert (Drapac) at the end of the 51km race.
The opening stages of the 30-lap race saw several riders attempt to establish a breakaway but no move of any substance was able to stick. At the end of lap 5 newly crowned Australian national U23 time trial and road race champion Miles Scotson (UniSA-Australia) broke clear of the bunch and took the first intermediate sprint.
After several more unsuccessful attempts to get a group clear off the front it wasn’t until lap 8 of the 1.7km circuit that the race’s only real breakaway was established. Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge), Peter Kennaugh (Sky) and Dario Cataldo (Astana) opened up a small lead and on the following lap they were joined by Calvin Watson (Trek).
Over the next 10 laps the group of four eked out a small lead which peaked at just 32 seconds after 17 of the race’s 30 laps. Along the way Mat Hayman took the second and third intermediate sprints, after 10 and 15 laps of racing respectively.
Back in the main field Giant-Alpecin was lined out on the front of the peloton, chasing back the break for Marcel Kittel. As Kittel noted after the race, his team had little support in the chase.
“We heard from other teams that they would join us to bring the breakaway back but that did not really work out,” Kittel said. “But I see that as a compliment for the success we’ve had in recent years with the sprints.”
Over the following laps the four leaders’ advantage was slowly whittled away. Peter Kennaugh took the fourth sprint prime after 20 laps and a lap later he attacked solo from the lead group of four.
But the Manxman’s escape was short lived. He was caught just as the 22nd lap began, as too were the remaining three riders in the breakaway.
In the following few laps a couple of Astana riders — Lieuwe Westra and Davide Malacarne — both tried their hand at a solo move but neither lasted more than half a lap. Geraint Thomas (Sky) tried his luck as well, but with five laps to go it was clear — if it wasn’t already — that the race was going to end in a bunch sprint.
Tinkoff-Saxo, IAM Cycling and Lampre-Merida were all active on the front of the bunch as the race drew to a close. In the desperate battle for good positioning several riders bumped shoulders, but all were able to stay upright.
No team was able to string a substantial lead-out train together as the sprint approached, and even Marcel Kittel had just one teammate coming into the final dash for the line. But Kittel didn’t need more than one teammate, pulling out of the slipstream with roughly 250m to go and powering to the line, a bike length ahead of the rest of the field.
For Kittel the victory came as somewhat of a relief.
“I’m always nervous before the first race of the year and I also always want to win the first race of the year”, Kittel said. “You’re never sure if you can straight away start with a win but every sprinter is looking for exactly that.
“I’m very happy that it worked out immediately for us this year.”
Marcel Kittel will go into the flatter finishes of this year’s Santos Tour Down Under — stages 1, 4 and 6 — as the sprinter to beat. The race proper begins on Tuesday morning with a 132.6km stage from Tanunda to Campbelltown.