Stage 1: Scunthorpe - York
By Richard Anderson, AFP
Saturday, September 12, 2009 5.47pm
Australian leads race; Merlo and Swift follow
Chris Sutton (Garmin-Slipstream - L) swoops to victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Britain. www.splitsecondimages.co.uk
Australia's Chris Sutton sealed the biggest win of his career by claiming the first stage of the Tour of Britain with a sprint finish victory in York on Saturday.
Sutton, the nephew of Great British track cycling coach Shane, held off Barloworld's Michel Merlo and home riders Ben Swift and Russell Downing following a 172km stage from Scunthorpe.
And he paid tribute to Garmin team-mate Bradley Wiggins, fourth in the Tour de France earlier this year, for his stellar lead out efforts.
"This is probably the highlight of my career so far - I came close last year to winning a few stages so to do it this year is fantastic," said Sutton, who was third in last year's second stage in Newbury. "The team is on a bit of a roll at the moment and it's great to be up there and win it for everyone.
"Bradley led for me but it was a real team effort and when it got to the end then it was up to me to finish it off."
While admitting maintaining the leaders' jersey will be tough, the 25-year-old - who celebrated his birthday just two days ago - is already targeting another victory when the Tour concludes in London next Saturday.
Exactly 100 riders rolled off the start line in Scunthorpe and within minutes Denmark's Martin Mortenson and Belgium's Thomas De Gendt took advantage of the flat early profile to go clear.
After just 35km their lead was already clocked at 11 minutes as a sleepy peloton seemed content to let them ease clear.
Garmin's Ricardo Van der Velde and Columbia's Gert Dockx both took a tumble
as the leaders advantage peaked at just shy of 13 minutes, although they lost two minutes and valuable momentum when they got the wrong side of a level-crossing barrier.
But as the terrain got stiffer and steeper, Mortenson and De Gendt soon saw their lead trimmed as the big names of Columbia-HTC, Garmin-Slipstream and Barloworld finally shuffled the chasing pack into order.
For a complete report with results and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.