Adelaide - Germany's Andre Greipel opened his 2018 season in style when he claimed the first stage of the Tour Down Under in the South Australian town of Lyndoch on Tuesday.
Greipel timed his final sprint to perfection to overpower young Australian Caleb Ewan in the last 50 metres and claim a record 17th stage win in the first UCI race of the year.
World champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia (BORA-Hansgrohe) edged Italian Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) to take third, with another Italian, Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), in fifth place.
Favourites for the general classification Richie Porte and Jay McCarthy finished safely in the peloton in a stage that was designed to produce a sprint finish in the wine-growing Barossa Valley town.
Greipel said the sprint had worked out perfectly for him.
"It was a pretty fast sprint but I thought I could wait as long as possible and I did a nice sprint I guess," he said.
"It's nice to be back here this way after a few years of absence. Because of the heat, the racing isn't that stressful. We were one guy down (Bjorg Lambrecht) but my team set the sprint really well."
The stage began in perfect conditions in the historic area of Port Adelaide and - as is usually the case at the Tour Down Under - three riders immediately broke away
Australian pair William Clarke (Education First-Drapac) and Scott Bowden (UniSA) were joined by South Africa's Nicholas Dlamini (Team Dimension Data), with the three opening up a four-and-a-half minute lead after 35 kilometres.
But the peloton didn't allow the leaders to get any further away and when Bowden was dropped after the King of the Mountain was decided, the lead was whittled back to three minutes and it was only a matter of time before the remaining two were reeled in.
Clarke dropped Dlamini with 30 kilometres to go and although the Australian battled bravely, he was eventually caught with 10 kilometres left, leaving the race open for the sprinters and their lead out teams.
Ewan's Mitchelton-SCOTT team took control 1 500 metres out and with the pint-sized Queenslander tucked in behind his five lead-out riders, Ewen looked favourite to win in Lyndoch for the third year in a row.
But Greipel stayed right on Ewen's wheel and he swung out 50 metres from the finish line to storm past the Australian for a clear win.
Greipel will wear the ochre leader's jersey in Wednesday's stage from Unley to the Adelaide Hills town of Stirling, with a four-second advantage over Ewan and Clarke, who picked up six bonus seconds for winning the two intermediate sprints.
Results after the 145km first stage of the UCI Tour Down Under from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch in South Australia on Tuesday:
1. Andre Greipel (GER/Lotto-Soudal) 3hr 50m 21sec
2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/Mitchelton-SCOTT) same time
3. Peter Sagan (SVK/BORA-Hansgrohe) s.t.
4. Elia Viviani (ITA/Quick-Step Floors) s.t.
5. Simone Consonni (ITA/UAE Team Emirates) s.t.
6. Phil Bauhaus (GER/Team Sunweb) s.t.
7. Nathan Haas (AUS/Katusha-Alpecin) s.t.
8. Matteo Montaguti (ITA/AG2R La Mondiale) s.t.
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (LIT/Bahrain Merida) s.t.
10. Ricardo Minali (ITA/Astana) s.t.
1. Andre Greipel (GER/Lotto-Soudal) 3hr 50 min 11 sec
2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/Mitchelton-SCOTT) at 4 seconds
3. William Clarke (AUS/EF Education First-Drapac) same time
4. Peter Sagan (SVK/BORA-Hansgrohe) +6
5. Nicholas Dlamini (RSA/Team Dimension Data) s.t.
6. Nathan Haas (AUS/Katusha-Alpecin) +9
7. Jhonatan Restrepo (COL/Katusha-Alpecin) s.t.
8. Elia Viviani (ITA/Quick-Step Floors) +10
9. Simone Consonni (ITA/UAE Team Emirates) s.t.
10. Phil Bauhaus (GER/Team Sunweb) s.t.
1. Andre Greipel (GER/Lotto-Soudal) 15 pts
2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/Mitchelton-SCOTT) 14 pts
3. Peter Sagan (SVK/BORA-Hansgrohe) 13 pts
King of the Mountain
1. Nicholas Dlamini (RSA/Team Dimension Data) 10 pts
2. William Clarke (AUS/EF Education First-Drapac) 6 pts
3. Scott Bowden (AUS/UniSA) 4 pts