ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Australian star Caleb Ewan avoided a crash on the final lap to win the Down Under Classic on Sunday, the criterium prelude to the Tour Down Under which is the first race of the year on cycling's World Tour.
Ewan, who won the full Tour Down Under last year, crossed the finish line in downtown Adelaide just over a bike length ahead of three-time world champion Peter Sagan after 30 laps of a 1.7km circuit.
Sagan won the 50km criterium in 2018 while Ewen was third.
Ewan came into Sunday's race in good form after winning two stages and finishing second overall in the Bay Classic Series in Victoria state.
He was led into the race well by teammates in his Belgium-based Lotto Soudal team and sprinted strongly near the line to outlast Sagan who was on his wheel at the finish.
"I knew it was going to be a hard one to win because of the caliber of sprinter here," Ewan said. "I went into it confident because I know how my form is but you never know how everyone else is going.
"It was very different to normal. It was very aggressive this race, so that made it a little bit harder."
That aggressive approach on a circuit featuring four tight corners led to major crashes on the last two laps. One of those accounted for Italy's Elia Viviani, who was fourth in the race last year.
Sunday's race doesn't count towards general classification but Ewan will win the tour leader's ocher jersey in the first of six stages of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday.
Tour organizers have already been forced to shorten Wednesday's second stage because of a forecast heat wave in South Australia.
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