The Lotto-Soudal rider, whose mother died last month, edged past Caleb Ewan with 50 meters left as world champion Peter Sagan took third place.
“I am very happy with this victory,” the experienced rider said. “This was the first official UCI race of the year and the first WorldTour race too. That I take the win here, feels really great. Not all top sprinters are here, but I do beat guys like Ewan, Sagan and (Elia) Viviani.”
“Jens Debusschere dropped me of with 350 metres to go, in the last corner. Instinctively I chose a wheel and that turned out to be the perfect position to start the sprint. I got out of the wheel of Caleb Ewan pretty smoothly and won quite easily. It’s wonderful for the team and me to start 2018 with a victory. I’m also very happy with today’s power data.
“In the past I often set good results at Tour Down Under and that was the start of a good season; I hope that is the case this year too. I was disappointed after my second place at People’s Choice Classic, but on the other hand it also gave me the feeling that it would be possible to win a stage this week. Tomorrow the stage finishes in Stirling where I got second in 2011. With riders such as Ulissi and Sagan it won’t be easy to set a high result though, but never say never.”
“My mother will always remain in my thoughts and I know for sure that she saw this,” he said.
“But I don’t dedicate this win only to her, but also to my career as a whole. I went through difficult times, but I am looking at the future now. I received a lot of support, from family and the team. It is still difficult to process her death, but cycling does help me.”