McEwen upstages nervy O'Grady

Home riders dominated the opening stage of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, where Robbie McEwen outf

Home riders dominated the opening stage of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, where Robbie McEwen outf
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM As far as score-settling goes, Stuart O'Grady will have to keep his cool perhaps a little longer if he is to get the better of the man who is undoubtedly the man to beat at the Tour Down Under, writes Justin Davis. Robbie McEwen, fresh from winning his second national road title after two months of riding and winning criteriums in his native Australia, showed that early season work pays off by cruising past the apparently jumpy Cofidis sprinter to claim the first stage of the race here on Tuesday. O'Grady, already upstaged by McEwen in the nationals on Saturday, had to settle for third place behind Liberty sprinter Allan Davis. Having started the race with a firm intention of going for an overall win, the 31-year-old Adelaider - who did not work as hard as his victors in the off-season - will by now have realised he's got work to do. Amid the free-flowing beer, around 65,000 thousand locals gave plenty of support to the 95-strong field as it hit speeds of 50kph over the 25 laps of a two-kilometre inner city circuit in Adelaide. Some occasionally cringing race commentary, which included superlatives that will give those in the know reason to smile - 'gee whizz', 'speed spasms' and 'whipper snipper' are a few that come to mind - did not seem to put the locals off as they watched Australia's best, and some of Europe's top riders, some of whom are obviously still looking for form, whizz round the course. There was little to speak about during the race in the way of successful attacks, although Aussie Gene Bates of the UNISA team did well to claim the points jersey having won both intermediate sprints at the 20km and 40km marks. Despite a crash on the final lap which brought down around a dozen riders, there was no lasting damage, although Lampre-Caffita rider Dario Pieri, who came second in the Paris-Roubaix in 2003, was the only exception. After struggling with the pace halfway through, the beefy-looking 29-year-old Italian rode by himself for the remainder of the race, and finished nearly six minutes behind everybody else. In the end, O'Grady's aim of pleasing his home fans perhaps proved his downfall. He took a big risk by attacking Brett Lancaster of the Panaria team coming out of the final bend in the last lap. Davis, who has been competing with McEwen for much of the winter, soon closed the gap on O'Grady, and that gave McEwen, sitting on Davis's wheel, the impetus to fire up the right hand side to victory. McEwen admitted in the end it came down to teamwork, and some bad judgement on O'Grady's part. "We honestly didn't expect to do much here tonight because I'm still feeling the effects of the national championships a few days ago," said McEwen, who won the opening stage here last year and has now stretched his record on the race to nine stage wins. "At the end my teammates did a heap of work, they were in breakaways, and led the race in the last couple of laps. Henk Vogels did the last bit of work, then I could just position myself on the others, particularly Lancaster who was pulling the sprint. Then it got a bit tactical because a gap formed and Stuey (O'Grady) went early and we had to run him down, but it worked out very well. "Allan's been riding well pretty much since we got back on the bike in pre-season. We've raced against each other in the criteriums through December and I've seen how well he's going. He closed the gap down to Stuey, and I was on Allan's wheel but he kind of jumped me just before the final bend. I'm glad to get away with the win. The only shame is I've only had the national jersey for a day, but at least I get to swap it for the leader's jersey." Wednesday's second stage, a mildly undulating 150km ride from Salisbury to Tanunda, will give the teams, including Cofidis and O'Grady, a chance to get their tactics right. Stage 1, Adelaide criterium 1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 50km in 1.00.45 (49.38kph) 2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 4 Baden Cooke (Aus) La Francaise des Jeux 5 Ruben Bongiorno (Arg) Panaria 6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r 7 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros 8 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 9 Dimitri de Fauw (Bel) Quick Step 10 Gene Bates (Aus) UNISA
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