A familiarly styled course to many which have opened the Tour Down Under in recent years, Stage 1 takes the riders on a 145km jaunt from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch, featuring a smattering of rolling terrain early in the day on a stage anticipated to finish in a bunch sprint. The sole recognised ascent of the day is the typically Antipodean titled Humbug Scrub, a 6.3 km rise which average a gradient of 4%, appearing just before the 40km marker. With little to upset the sprinters’ teams beyond Humbug Scrub on Stage 1, it should simply be a case of sitting back and watching the fist serious duel amongst the sprinters in 2018.
Caleb Ewan has cemented his place as one of the fastest riders in the bunch since breaking through a couple of seasons ago and could leave his native race with a good haul of stage wins this week. He has previously taken two stage finishes of the Tour Down Under in Lyndoch, so evidently finds this finale to be to his liking for one reason or another. He might not feel that his best leadout team his here to support him, but with his blistering turn of pace, the likelihood is that Ewan shall make it a hatrick of wins here.
Elia Viviani appears to be in strong form since making his off-season move to Quick Step and could emerge as the rider who pushes Ewan most for the day’s honours. Another without a perfect set of riders to back him, he will need to rely upon his guile and nous in order to find the best wheel to follow late in the day, seeking to produce a late charge to the line which edges out his Australian rival.
André Greipel often lays down a decent marker of early season form at the Tour Down Under and will be focused on repeating this once again in 2018. Not as potent over short distances as his rivals mentioned above, the German powerhouse is still a tough man to catch once he gets up to speed however and will be expected to podium on Stage 1. His greatest advantage is the leadout train which Lotto Soudal have equipped him with in Australia and the power it possesses to diminish any advantages held over the ‘Gorilla’ by Ewan or Viviani; a perfect performance from his team could make Greipel impossible to beat.
Sam Bennett should be the focus for Bora Hansgroe in the sprints this week, but recent illness has meant Peter Sagan stepped into the breach for the People’s Choice Classic a few days ago, which he promptly won due to being, well, Peter Sagan. The three time world champion looks likely to attempt the same today, but with much faster rivals eagerly eyeing up this opening stage, only another brilliant showing from his teammates will manage to snatch a second unexpected sprint victory for Sagan in a week.
Phil Bauhaus became a familiar name in the top ten placings at WorldTour races last season and the expectation will be that he pushes on once again in 2018, so could prove a danger throughout the racing at the Tour Down Under. Chris Lawless certainly has the talent to podium at the very least here, though is somewhat hamstrung by a relatively limited Team Sky leadout train, in regards to both experience and organisation
1st Caleb Ewan 2nd Elia Viviani 3rd André Greipel