Tour Down Under

Sutton fifth in opening criterium

Greipel takes victory in chaotic sprint

Last updated: 23rd January 2013

Chris Sutton took fifth place for Team Sky in a fast and furious finish to the People's Choice Classic.

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The Australian was able to latch onto the tail end of a split in peloton heading onto the home straight to secure a top-five finish, mirroring his result at the recent National Road Race Championships.

Team Sky had sat back for much of the one hour show-piece, well aware the race would come down to a battle in the closing laps.

With a host of powerful lead-out trains making the race hard to control, it was left to Lotto-Belisol and Andre Greipel to confirm his sprinting prowess once again.

The German was unstoppable in the final 200 metres, opening up his sprint to hold off Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) to win the race for a second year in succession.

Greipel's lead-out man and former winner of the race with Team Sky Greg Henderson had enough of a margin to hold on for third, while Boy Van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Sutton rounded out the top-five. Edvald Boasson Hagen led the second portion of the sprint home for sixth.

Hectic finale

"When it came down to the last couple of laps it was just a case of no rules and go where you want," admitted Geraint Thomas following a sketchy finale.

"We lost each other a bit. It’s the first race of the season, everyone’s keen and have been training hard. The Tour Down Under is becoming more important every year. There’s big points up for grabs which means a lot to the team. Everyone’s got good form and everyone wants to win.

"The Lotto group have been together for a while now and they are well-drilled. There are a lot of sprinters here as well and this can give us some indications of how everyone is going ahead of the first stage on Tuesday.

"There’s going to be a good week of racing ahead. We want to race hard, get stuck in and try and get a few results along the way. It’s a tough race and the course is getting harder and harder. We’re looking forward to it."

Back at the team’s base Sports Director Kurt-Asle Arvesen also admitted the race hadn’t gone quite to plan.

“It was a bit sketchy there at the end and we’re happy no one crashed,” said the Norwegian. “The guys felt pretty good and I think with more race kilometres in their legs when we get to the longer stages it will be even better.

“It is the first race of the year and everyone is getting back into the rhythm. Greipel is a really strong sprinter and Lotto put two guys up there from kilometre zero. They deserved the win. We tried to get up there in the end but lost each other a bit but in the future they will be in the mix a bit more."

With attention now turning to the race proper Arvesen added: “Tomorrow we will go out for two hours on an easy ride and get ready for the first stage.”

Bragging rights

Despite not being categorised as an official UCI race, the criterium, as in 2012, showed the ominous form of Greipel and his team as the season started with a bang.

30 laps of a 1.7-kilometre course around Rymill Park was the scene for the now-traditional evening criterium, with the Australian fans out in force to witness the action.

Unsurprisingly there were attacks from the gun, veteran Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) joined by Zak Dempster (Uni-SA) as the pair's move stuck immediately.

With the gap creeping out towards a minute it was Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano who seized control, keeping a watching brief on the break on behalf of Greipel and Marcel Kittel respectively.

Team Sky notably kept their powder dry towards the rear of the field for much of the 51km race, while out front Dempster was busy soaking up the sprint primes.

Business began to pick up as more teams barged to the front, Team Sky among them with eight laps to go. Moments later the break found themselves caught after a solid effort.

Lotto-Belisol kept a firm grasp on the front for the final two laps, the pace of the train so decisive that it saw a seven-man group go clear heading into the finish.

Viewers can watch highlights on Sky Sports 4 HD from 1200 to 1330, 1900-1930 (Sky Sports 2 HD), 2200-2230 (SS4).