Marcel Kittel wins prelude to Tour Down Under

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Germany’s Marcel Kittel exploited outstanding teamwork Sunday to win the People’s Choice Classic, the 51 kilometer prelude to the Tour Down Under.

Kittel, who also won last year, is among the favorites to win the season-opening tour that officially begins Tuesday with the 132 kilometer (82 mile) first stage. Sunday’s result doesn’t count towards general classification but Kittel will wear the tour leader’s jersey in the stage from Tanunda in the Barossa Valley to Campbelltown in Adelaide’s north-eastern suburbs.

Sunday’s race covered 30 laps of a 1.7 kilometer street circuit near central Adelaide. Kittel won comfortably for Germany’s Team Giant-Alpecin, ahead of Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle of Spain and Wouter Wippert of the Netherlands.

Kittel’s Germany-based Giant-Alpecin team was able to control the late stages of the race, leading him out effectively before launching him at the finish line.

There was competition at the front of the peleton over the last five laps from Tinkoff-Saxo, Lampre Merida and IAM Cycling but Kittel’s team worked hardest to place him in an advantageous position as the field wheeled into the long finishing straight.

”It’s actually impossible to control in such a big race,” Kittel said. ”I think my boys did an awesome job. We always try to come back and stay together as much as possible and in the end it was sort of a good lead out with all the chaos. It’s a great start to the season.”

Australia’s Miles Scotson won the first sprint after five kilometers before his compatriot, Mathew Hayman, took over at the front of the field. Hayman, riding for the Orica-GreenEDGE team, won the sprints at the end of 10 and 15 laps, featuring in a four-man break that lasted until the 23rd lap.

Britain’s Geraint Thomas was one of several riders who tried to slip away from that point but all breaks were closely covered. That left the prospect of a bunch sprint until Kittel’s team took control.