Season-opening cycling win surprises Sagan

Roger Vaughan
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Australia's Caleb Ewan will go head-to-head with Andre Greipel in Adelaide on Sunday.

Australia's Caleb Ewan will go head-to-head with Andre Greipel in Adelaide on Sunday.

Cycling superstar Peter Sagan has expressed surprise after putting Tour Down Under sprint rivals on notice with his season-opening win.

The three-time defending world road champion took out the People's Choice Classic on Sunday night in Adelaide.

Norwegian Kristoffer Halverson, the 2016 under-23 world road champion, crashed into the barricades near the finish and was taken to hospital for tests.

It was Halverson's first race with the British Team Sky squad.

Sagan won the bunch sprint in the 50.6km twilight street race, which is held two days before the start of the Tour.

Always a sprinter's race, it is a solid gauge for which fast men have come to Adelaide with strong form.

The day before, Sagan had said he was approaching the Tour Down Under with the same mindset as last year.

He would be a high-profile domestique for Bora-Handsgrohe teammates, NZ rider Sam Bennett and Australian Jay McCarthy.

But Sagan beat the other world-class sprinters in the Tour field, with German Andre Greipel second, Australian Caleb Ewan third and Italian Elia Viviani fourth.

"I didn't expect that I could win today, for sure - it was more about positioning," he said..

"I'm very happy, I was okay (in the finish), but some guys came from the back and closed me a bit - but in the end it went very well.

"They (teammates) did a very good job, maybe they went a bit too early and I was hiding behind but it was OK.

"I'm very happy to be here again, it's nice weather and will be very good for my conditioning, it's good preparation."

Greipel smacked his handlebar in frustration as he crossed the line and Ewan also was unhappy with his finish.

Ewan, who won his third-successive national criterium championship earlier this month, said he misjudged the final sprint.

"It was a pretty tough one, it got a little bit muddled up in the end," the Mitchelton-Scott star said.

"I started my sprint a bit too early and it was more of a headwind than I thought it was going to be.

"I felt like I couldn't get on top of the gear."

Ewan was the top sprinter at last year's Tour Down Under, winning the Classic and four stages.

He said Sagan's win showed the Slovakian ace was one to watch.

"He looks in good form (and) we always knew he was definitely going to be one to watch," Ewan said.

"They have two cards to play, with Sam.

"So it's always going to be a bit tricky to know which one is going to sprint."

While disappointed not to win, Ewan is upbeat about the week ahead, saying he had a good team around him.

"I'm really confident in them and I'm confident in my form," he said.

"I know now which guys to look out for."