ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Germany’s Andre Greipel claimed his 17th stage victory in the Tour Down Under cycle race when he won the 145-kilometer (90-mile) stage of the 2018 World Tour opener to take an early lead on general classification. The 35-year-old Greipel, who won the Australian tour in 2008 and 2010, beat Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan and triple world champion Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint at the end of the stage from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch.
He was riding at a disadvantage after his Lotto Soudal team lost one rider before the stage began. Belgium’s Bjorg Lambrecht, who was due to make his World Tour debut, was removed from the start list after confusion over his compliance with the anti-doping whereabouts system.
The 20-year-old Lambrecht was required to sign up for the Anti-Doping Administation and Management whereabouts system 42 days before the race start, but didn’t receive log-in data until 32 days from start time, according to a statement from the Lotto-Soudal team.
“Without a written confirmation from the UCI that Bjorg can start, neither the rider nor the team can take any risk,” the statement said.
Sagan, the three-time world road racing champion, was also left at a disadvantage in the final sprint when a key team member, Sam Bennett, had a problem with his chain.
Greipel was able to time his finish perfectly to overtake Ewan a few meters from the line. Norwegian rider Daniel Hoegaard crashed at the final bend and was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
“Thanks to the team, they set up the sprint really well,” Greipel said. “Unfortunately we were already one rider down before the start so we just made the work for the other teams who had to make the chase so we could wait until the final and set a good bunch sprint up.”
The stage, which featured four 26.5-kilometer (16.5-mile) laps of a course through the wine-growing Barossa Valley, saw an early break by Australians Scott Bowden and Will Clarke and the 22-year-old South African Nicholas Dlamini.
The trio established a lead of more than four minutes before Bowden dropped back to the peloton. Clarke and Dlamini stayed away, working together until the 110- kilometer (68-mile) point when Dlamini slowed to receive directions from his team. He lost touch with Clarke and fell back into the bunch.
Clarke took 6 seconds in time bonuses from intermediate sprints, while Dlamini took the King of the Mountains jersey after winning the major climb of the stage up Humbug Scrub.
Clarke stayed away until the final lap but was quickly caught as the peloton set up their sprinters on the flat run to the finish.