Greipel wins Tour Down Under opener
Tue, 17 Jan 14:10:00 2012
German sprint star Andre Greipel won the opening stage of the Tour Down Under in a sprint finish in Clare, South Australia while three riders and one spectator were taken to hospital following a crash.
Less than 20 riders contested the sprint after a mass pile-up of up to 60 riders one kilometre from the finish of the 149km stage from suburban Prospect to the country town of Clare, north of Adelaide.
Matteo Montaguti (collarbone), Frederic Guesdon (hip) and Greipel's team-mate Juergen Roelandts (neck) were taken to hospital for checks while a 70-year-old female spectator suffered minor injuries after being hit by a rider who skidded off the road.
The 40-year-old Guesdon, who won the Paris-Roubaix race in 1997, fractured his hip and would have to undergo surgery, according to his FDJ-BigMat team.
The injury probably means that the Frenchman will have to bring down the curtain on a 17-year professional career.
One spectator, a 70-year-old woman, suffered minor injuries after being hit by a rider who skidded off the road.
A four-man escape group involving Australia's Rohan Dennis, Martin Kohler (BMC), Marcello Pavarin (Vacansoleil) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) broke away six kilometres into the stage and built up an advantage of 11 minutes and 40 seconds.
Tour Down Under
But they were absorbed 12 kilometres from the finish to set up the bunch gallop to the line where Greipel prevailed.
"I'm lucky I won today," said Greipel.
"There was a massive crash with 800m to go."
A shaken Robbie McEwen of GreenEDGE said: "It was a huge crash. But as far as crashes go I had a good one, I went off on the right, hit the gravel, but thankfully I didn't lose any skin.
"There were blokes down on the road all over the place."
Wednesday's second stage will take the peloton over 148km from Lobethal to Stirling.
The Tour Down Under, the first World Tour race of the season, ends on Sunday.Eurosport / Reuters