Marcel Kittel Powers to Victory in 2014 People's Choice Classic
German powerhouse Marcel Kittel (Team Giant-Shimano) tonight sprinted to victory in the 2014 People's Choice Classic in Adelaide - the first event of the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under - ahead of fellow countryman Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Australian Caleb Ewan (UniSA-Australia).
25-year-old Kittel, who won four stages in last year's Tour de France, demonstrated he has brought strong form with him from Europe as he edged out Greipel to cross the line in a time of 01:04:35 at the end of the 50 kilometer race.
"The guys put me in a perfect position to finish off the job. It's a relief to get the first win under my belt and we can build on our confidence from here. The bike felt great today and it's a nice pay back to Giant for their confidence in us," race winner Kittel told RoadCycling.com after being celebrated on the podium.
"In a race of 50 kilometres everyone is fresh at the end so I had to time my sprint just perfectly."
"Always a relief to get the first win, now we can take it a little easy," he said. "I always love starting my season in Australia."
Thousands of loyal fans lined the new People’s Choice Classic route to see the action as 139 of the world's top cyclists representing 23 nations contested 25 laps of the testing circuit.
Under glorious summer evening conditions fans were thrilled as the peloton raced from the start/finish line in Victoria Drive the peloton sped around the scenic parkland circuit past Adelaide Zoo, across the River Torrens and along War Memorial Drive before swinging in front of the revamped Adelaide Oval, up King William Road and back onto Victoria Drive.
Australian teenager Ewan, 19, rode brilliantly in top company to get a place on the podium.
"It was a little disappointing not to win but these two guys (Kittel and Greipel) are among the best sprinters in the world," said Ewan. "It's great experience to be racing here against them.
"The crowds were just great and I am very excited to be here," he said. "This week we'll see what happens. There are a lot of GC guys (contenders for overall honours) so we'll see how hard they make the race.
"It could be a difficult week."
Two laps into the race four riders rode clear to vie for prizemoney in three of the four intermediate sprints contested at the end lap five, ten and 15. Australian Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) claimed all three of the sprints ahead of his breakaway companions Italian Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida) and French pair Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Anthony Roux (FDJ.fr).
A touch of wheels on the corner into the home straight at the end of lap six brought down about 25 riders including Italian Giovanni Viscontini (Movistar) who was taken to Adelaide Hospital with a suspected fractured leg. The remainder of the crashed riders dusted themselves off and managed to rejoin the race.
The chances of the breakaway quartet staying clear were always slim as the teams of the sprinters used the opportunity to test out their lead out trains ahead of this week's Santos Tour Down Under, the first UCI WorldTour race of the season.
Thus it wasn't a surprise when the peloton regrouped ahead of the fourth sprint at five laps to