• Caleb Ewan was too fast for the rest on Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Santos Tour Down Under field was baking in 40-degree temperatures but Caleb Ewan was even hotter to take the stage and overall lead.
Cycling Central

17 Jan 2017 - 3:15 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2017 - 5:52 AM

Australian sprint ace Caleb Ewan won Tuesday's opening stage of the Tour Down Under, with baking 40-degree conditions prompting organisers to shorten the course.

The in-form Orica-Scott rider posted his fourth win of the year, beating Sky rider Danny van Poppel and Bora-Hansgrohe's Sam Bennett.

Two-time world champion Peter Sagan led out Bennett at the Lyndoch finish, but Ewan tore through on the outside for a tight win.

It is a repeat of Ewan's stage-one win a year ago at the same Barossa town.

The stage win also gave the 22-year-old the overall lead, which was also the cast at the start of last year's Tour.

As the race started to run behind schedule, the decision was taken mid-stage to cut the finishing loops at Lyndoch in the Barossa from three to two.

It shortened the stage that started in suburban Unley from 145km to 118km.

Rider rights respected in searing hot TDU stage
The opening stage of the Tour Down Under was shortened on Tuesday at the peaceable request of the peloton that laboured in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

Belgian rider Laurens De Vreese (Astana) attacked at the start of the stage and the peloton was happy to let him go.

The peloton predictably caught him inside the last 20km.

Belgian Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) then attacked, his jersey coated in salt as he gained about 30 seconds.

But he too was caught before 1km to go as the sprinters' teams drove the pace.

Orica-Scott team director Matt White said on Tuesday morning that the Australian team had drilled into their riders the need to stay hydrated properly during Tuesday's stage.

Conditions are expected to be milder for Wednesday's decisive stage through the Adelaide Hills.

"It's going to hurt the Europeans today - it's going to hurt a lot of guys," White said of the oven-like conditions.

"All the guys have had pretty mild conditions since they've been in Adelaide and this is going to be a long day in the office.

"We've stressed with our guys that if you make a mistake with hydration and you cook yourself today, you'll be paying for it for days - and tomorrow is a crucial day."