• Peter Sagan opened his 2018 season with a winning lunge. (Santos TDU/Regallo)Source: Santos TDU/Regallo
The three-time defending world road champion took out the People's Choice Classic on Sunday night in Adelaide.
Cycling Central

15 Jan 2018 - 5:34 AM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2018 - 8:09 AM

Peter Sagan has expressed surprise after putting Tour Down Under sprint rivals on notice with his season-opening win.

He won the bunch sprint in the 50.6km twilight street race, which is held two days before the start of the Tour.

Always a sprinter's race, it is a solid gauge for which fast men have come to Adelaide with strong form.

The day before, Sagan had said he was approaching the event with the same mindset as last year.

He would be a high-profile domestique for Bora-hansgrohe teammates, NZ rider Sam Bennett and Australian Jay McCarthy.

But Sagan beat the other world-class sprinters in the Tour field, with Andre Greipel (lotto-Soudal) second, Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) third and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) fourth.

"I didn't expect that I could win today, for sure - it was more about positioning," he said.

"I'm very happy, I was okay (in the finish), but some guys came from the back and closed me a bit - but in the end, it went very well.

"They (teammates) did a very good job, maybe they went a bit too early and I was hiding behind but it was OK.

"I'm very happy to be here again, it's nice weather and will be very good for my conditioning, it's good preparation."

Greipel smacked his handlebar in frustration as he crossed the line and Ewan also was unhappy with his finish.

Ewan, who won his third-successive national criterium championship earlier this month, said he misjudged the final sprint.

"It was a pretty tough one, it got a little bit muddled up in the end," he said. "I started my sprint a bit too early and it was more of a headwind than I thought it was going to be. I felt like I couldn't get on top of the gear."

Ewan, who was the top sprinter at last year's event, winning the Classic and four stages, said Sagan's win showed the Slovakian ace was one to watch.

"He looks in good form (and) we always knew he was definitely going to be one to watch," he said. "They have two cards to play, with Sam [Bennett]. So it's always going to be a bit tricky to know which one is going to sprint."

While disappointed not to win, Ewan is upbeat about the week ahead, saying he had a good team around him.

"I'm really confident in them and I'm confident in my form," he said. I know now which guys to look out for."