ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Welshman Geraint Thomas won the short but demanding second stage of cycling's Tour Down Under on Wednesday, avoiding a 15-man fall near the finish which brought down world champion Philippe Gilbert.
The 72-mile stage featured a new addition to the race; an arduous climb up the Corkscrew; a 7.25-kilometer series of switchbacks with a gradient near the end of around 15 degrees.
That climb was designed to counter the historical dominance of sprinters over the 15-year history of the six-stage race, the first event of the World Tour.
The stage victory made Thomas the race leader on general classification, taking over the leader's ocher jersey from Andre Greipel, who won the first stage on Tuesday.
Thomas has been in South Australia state for several weeks, training on the roads over which the Tour will be raced, and showed the benefit of that experience on Wednesday.
He launched his final sprint suddenly and unexpectedly and had established a clear advantage before his rivals could react.
"I've worked hard all the winter and since the track (season) all I've been thinking about is the road. That's what kept me racing after the (London Olympic) Games.
"After Beijing I was just out on the lash for a few months, but I was straight back on the road after the games, thinking about this year."
Thomas knew how important the Corkscrew would be in deciding who was in a position to attack on the final few kilometers. He ensured he was part of the four-man group that broke away immediately after the exhausting climb and he was able to put himself in a winning position.
"I did think 'what have I done, have I gone too early?' But I just bit the bullet and luckily the group of three came up and they were willing to work.
"It was a good little group. I jumped quite early with about 400 meters to go. I knew it was a fast tail wind and I had seen the bunch coming so thought I'd better go. It was great to win."
The early part of the stage featured a four-man break involving Australians Calvin Watson and William Clarke, Guillaume Bonnafond of France and Christopher Juul-Jensen of Denmark.
They led by up to two minutes but the peleton had pulled them back by the 97-kilometer mark and the field was all together as the riders started up the Corkscrew.
Gilbert was also prominent but got caught up in a fall which brought down 15 riders.
The world road race champion was in fifth place on general classification after the opening stage.
Thomas has a chance to press for overall victory in the Tour, with the help of his Sky ProCycling teammates.
"When I came here I just wanted to race hard and possibly get a stage win," he said. "So I've done that now and that's fantastic.
"General classification would be a massive bonus but tomorrow is hard enough. We'll see what happens there first."
Thursday's third stage will cover 87 miles from Unley to Stirling.