ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Caleb Ewan sprinted past world champion Peter Sagan on Wednesday to win the second stage of the Tour Down Under cycle race and seize a 10-second overall lead.
Sagan took the lead in sight of the finish line of the 148.6-kilometer stage from Unley to Stirling but Ewan surged past him to claim his seventh stage win on his home tour which starts the 2018 World Tour season. Ewan's Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate Daryl Impey of South Africa was second, Australia's Jay McCarthy was third and Sagan came in fourth.
The demanding uphill finish at Stirling doesn't suit out-and-out sprinters such as Ewan but the Australian placed himself in a good position on the climb to the finish and made up for mistiming his sprint on the first stage in which he finished second.
German sprint star Andre Greipel, who won Tuesday's opening stage from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch, dropped to the back of the bunch on the last climb and didn't take part in the sprint for the finish.
"It was a super-tough finish and it was one we were also unsure about, whether we'd make it over the top," Ewan said. "But the boys put me in a perfect position again and I just love seeing them back me 100 percent even after some results we weren't hoping for. For them to back me on a stage that probably doesn't even suit me means a lot.
"I hid pretty well in the field. I've done this circuit before so I knew when I could relax and when I needed to be at the front. The boys knew exactly the same thing so we relaxed when we could and went hard when we needed to."
Ewan was told by team radio that Greipel had dropped back and realized the overall lead was his to take. He claimed a 10 second time bonus for his stage victory which put him in first place, 10 seconds ahead of Impey and 12 seconds ahead of Sagan.
The stage saw an early breakaway by the three riders — Will Clarke and Scott Bowen of Australia and Nicholas Dlamini of South Africa — who also got away early to lead for much of the first stage. They were quickly joined by the young Spanish time-trialer Jaime Castrillo.
Dlamini won the early climbs to consolidate his lead in the King of the Mountains classification and Clarke took six seconds in time bonuses to overtake Greipel, who began the day with a four second lead, to become the race's virtual leader.
The South African punctured and dropped back into the peloton and Clarke and Bowen were also caught but Castrillo rode a brave race and did not come back to the bunch until 14 kilometers from the finish.
There was plenty of action at the front of the peloton on the last long climb towards Stirling and it was finally Ewan who put himself in a position to ride off Sagan's wheel and win the stage.
"I heard on the radio that Greipel had been dropped on the last climb so I'm so glad to be back in the (tour leder's) ocher jersey," Ewan said.
"It's just good to get the confidence back up after the last two races."