Tour Down Under Begins with a Classic
- by Cathy Mehl / photos © Graham Watson

- Official race web site: www.tourdownunder.com.au

Down Under Classic, Glenelg Circuit, 50km

- by Cathy Mehl

Welcome to sunny Adelaide in South Australia and the start of the 2008 Pro Tour Cycling season! Including this race with its early January position on the race calendar brings many untested legs but provides a rare opportunity to participate in an early season, form-testing racing format.

While today's stage was not "officially" part of the Pro Tour (which will begin with Stage One on Tuesday) there were plenty of pro racers anxious to begin their season with a win as 133 riders took to the tight circuit along the beachside route in front of an estimated crowd of 75,000.

Team Rabobank seemed determined to take early control of the race as they sent Bram De Groot off the front on the first of 25 laps. But with speeds averaging 54 kmh / 33.5 mph and taking less than three minutes each to complete, it was a day of catch-and-release as rider after rider was determined to have a go to see how his form was coming along.


The boys show off the new 2008 kits

Thrown into the mix were four intermediate sprints every 10km which ensured that the pace was kept high and the peloton was paying attention to where the top contenders were riding. Coming into the closing circuits Rabobank once again moved forward to control the speed of the race, hoping to set up their Australian fast-man Graeme Brown. Sensing that the team was tiring from their controlling efforts, German rider Andre Greipel (Team High Road) began his sprint at the last corner and rode straight into a head wind. Putting his head down and continuing his drive for the line, Greipel managed to hold on for the win by several bike lengths in front of Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) and Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) for second and third.

A clearly overjoyed Greipel commented after the race, "I am really happy, as the team is too. The sprints are why I am here; I started training early, so I am really happy to win the first race of the season." Greipel is the first non-Australian to win the Classic since 2000.

Team Astana sprint star Rene Haselbacher was right in the thick of the final surge as he mixed it up in the final sprint taking 13th on the stage, with teammates Koen De Kort and 2007 Luxemborg champion Benoit Joachim coming a few seconds behind in the second group of finishers, signaling a good start for the Astana Cycling Team.


Rene Haselbacher

Down Under Classic Results
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Team High Road 1.09.20 (43.269 km/h)
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence-Lotto
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Unisa - Australia
5 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne
6 Davide Vigano (Ita) Quick Step
7 Denis Flahaut (Fra) Saunier Duval-Scott
8 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
9 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre
10 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner

Team Astana Riders
13 Rene Haselbacher (Aut) Astana
27 Koen De Kort (Ned) Astana 0.13
51 Benoit Joachim (Lux) Astana 0.29
63 Julien Mazet (Fra) Astana 0.34
88 Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Astana 0.44
99 Steve Morabito (Swi) Astana 1.01
DNF Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana