Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans sprints to victory in the first stage of the Tour Down Under.

The Australian outsprinted German sprinter Andre Griepel to win the San Remo Pasta stage and become the early overall leader of the race.

Gerrans completed the stage in just over three hours 20 minutes and will take his five second lead into stage two tomorrow.

The race is in its early stages but if Gerrans can continue his good form he could win the Tour Down Under for the third time. He last won it in 2012.

According to the Tour Down Under, the two-time champion said: "I guess I’ve surprised a few, myself included.

"It was a tough finale and everyone was tired. I had to sprint really late because of the head wind (and) looking towards the end of the week, it might have been better if André had the lead but we’ve seen in the past few years that this race is won or lost by seconds, so you have to take every opportunity.

"Every second counts, I hope it’s not too early to hold the jersey but we have a fantastic squad here, so I’m optimistic for keeping the lead till the end."

The 135 kilometre stage was in doubt as there had been forest fires just South of the route, but the race organisers were given the all clear by the Country Fire Service and South Australian Police.

The course saw the riders take on the category one climb Menglers Hill.

Adam Hansen from Lotto-Belisol reached the summit first to become the leader of the King of the Mountains.

A breakaway group, which included Adam Hansen, Yukiya Arashiro, Bjorn Thurau and Rory Sutherland surged for the finish after Menglers Hill but the Peleton caught them towards the end to set up a bunch sprint which Gerrans won.

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