The first stage of the Tour Down Under is always vital for the overall GC, and today in Tanunda, itPIC BY TOURDOWNUNDER Australian Karl Menzies scored his biggest career result so far when he powered home at the end of the 155.5km stage one from Mawson Lakes to Tanunda to claim the early lead in the 2007 Tour Down Under. "This is the biggest win of my career, so I apologise for being a bit overexcited as I crossed the line [he threw his arms about in a victory salute]," Menzies told Procycling after the finish. "It wasn't really a sprint - I just saw that no-one had got my wheel, and knew no-one could." Menzies was part of an 18 strong group that formed 16 kilometres into the stage but played his tactical cards to perfection in the final 30 kilometres to put himself with the leaders approaching the final sprint. The powerfully built 183cm Tasmanian, riding with the UniSA-Australia team, reacted quickly to counter an attack from Predictor-Lotto debutant, Australia's Matt Lloyd, 800 metres from the finish. Menzies blew past Lloyd and hit the front with 300 metres remaining. He won in a time of 3h50m51s ahead of fast finishing Swiss rider Martin Elmiger (AG2R-Prevoyance). Denmark's Lars Bak (Team CSC) crossed three seconds later to claim third. Menzies' win comes hot on the heels of his third place finish in the men's road race at the Australian Championships last Sunday. "This is as big as it gets for me - this is the best result by a long way," said Menzies. "That was everything I had on Sunday at the Nationals and I was beaten by two stronger guys on the day but you know another day, another race and I had the best legs today. "We thought it might go down early, so we all had to be up there," he said of the early breakaway. "The group went and that was it for the day and then the attacking started with 30km to go and five of us left in the end, we all worked all the way to the line." Menzies now holds a narrow one second lead overall from Elmiger with Bak a further six seconds off the lead. Lloyd is sitting in fourth at nine seconds. Now we've got the big time gap over the others, and it's going to be between 18 guys, but we'll talk about it tonight and see how it goes for the rest of the week. I don't know if a big bloke like me can hang on with the big hills we've got coming up, though." In the 'SA Lotteries' Sprint Classification Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) is tied on six points with Luke Roberts (CSC) but crossed the line ahead of his rival at the finish to lead that classification. Belgian Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques) leads the 'A Brilliant Blend' King of the Mountain rankings. SouthAustralia.com-AIS rider Simon Clarke has an almost unassailable lead in the 'Share the Road' Best Young Rider as the only U23 rider in the lead break and Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) was named the 'Century 21' Most Aggressive Rider of the day. The CSC team holds the lead in the Bartercard Teams Classification. Stage description 72,000 fans lined the race route through South Australia's picturesque Barossa Valley wine growing region to witness the action and support the international field of 111 riders. Stage 1 started under sunny skies with the promise of as steamy day in the saddle for the stellar field of riders who wasted no time getting the racing underway. South Australian, Brett Aitken (UniSA-Australia) launched an early attack at the six kilometre mark and he was joined soon after by fellow South Australian, Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) and New Zealand's Gordon McCauley but the break failed to stick. However at the 16 kilometre mark an attack was launched that proved to be the decisive one and by the first SA Lotteries intermediate sprint of the day at One Tree Hill (26.5km) 18 riders had established a lead of more than two minutes. South Australian Luke Roberts (CSC) claimed the sprint points ahead of Bates and Spaniard Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel). With a lead group containing a rider from each team of the race, (CSC, SouthAustralia.com-AIS, Predictor-Lotto and Bouygues Telecom had two representatives each in the group), there was no incentive for the rest of the field to chase it down and by the time the leaders reached the 'A Brilliant Blend' King of the Mountain at Humbug Scrub the gap had increased to more than five minutes with only New Zealand's Clinton Avery giving chase. The second intermediate sprint at Williamstown (59.9km) saw Bates first across the line ahead of Roberts with Elmiger third. Avery remained a lone figure 6m14s behind the leaders with the gap to the main field at almost 12 minutes. The leaders passed through Tanunda intact to begin the first loop through the Barossa Valley intact but when they approached Seppeltsfield for the final loop the attacks began and by the time the front of the race turned back onto the Barossa Valley Highway at Nuriootpa for the final run into the finish the five riders who would fight out the placings were well clear. Stuart O'Grady (CSC) led home the main field 26m15s after Menzies with Avery placing 19th at 24m35s after a very lonely day on the road. Results 1 Karl Menzies (Aus, Australia - UniSA) 3:50:51 2 Martin Elmiger (Swi, AG2r Prvoyance) 3 Lars Bak (Den, Team CSC) 0:0:03 4 Matthew Lloyd (Aus, Predictor - Lotto) 5 Gustav Larsson (Swe, Unibet:com) 0:0:11 6 Gene Bates (Aus, SouthAustralia:com-AIS) 0:0:45 7 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita, Barloworld) 8 Yannick Talabardon (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 9 Luke Roberts (Aus, Team CSC) 10 Simon Clarke (Aus, SouthAustralia:com-AIS) 0:0:58 General classification after stage 1 1 Karl Menzies (Aus, Australia - UniSA) 3:50:45 2 Martin Elmiger (Swi, AG2r Prvoyance) 0:0:01 3 Lars Bak (Den, Team CSC) 0:0:07 4 Matthew Lloyd (Aus, Predictor - Lotto) 0:0:09 5 Gustav Larsson (Swe, Unibet:com) 0:0:17 6 Gene Bates (Aus, SouthAustralia:com-AIS) 0:0:46 7 Luke Roberts (Aus, Team CSC) 8 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita, Barloworld) 0:0:51 9 Yannick Talabardon (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 10 Simon Clarke (Aus, SouthAustralia:com-AIS) 0:1:04 More information: www.tourdownunder.com.au. Got a comment? 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