Unheralded Pikulik scores upset Tour win

Unheralded Polish cyclist Daria Pikulik used her track racing nous to usurp the big names and win the historic first stage of the women's Tour Down Under.

The 26-year-old timed her sprint to perfection on Sunday to take out the stage at Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide, and claim the overall lead.

It is the first time the women's Santos Tour Down Under has had World Tour status.

The win was also a banner moment for Pikulik, making her World Tour debut in her first race with the American-based Human Powered Health team.

She pumped her fist in elation after beating Italian Clara Coppini (FDJ-Suez) to the line, with Australian Commonwealth Games gold medallist Georgia Baker (Jayco-AlUla) third.

FDJ-Suez, Jayco-AlUla and Trek-Segafredo are the strongest teams in the women's Tour this year and they were prominent in the closing kilometres as the peloton raced through strong crosswinds.

Pikulik, who had not been sighted throughout the stage, then timed her sprint to perfection.

She tore through the middle of the high-speed finish to claim the 110.4km stage from Glenelg to Aldinga.

Her previous best result was on the track, winning a bronze in the omnium at the 2020 world championships, and Pikulik is unlikely to hold onto her overall lead for the rest of the three-day tour.

"I'm the new one in the team ... it means a lot for me and the team," Pikulik told the Seven Network.

"We are really happy - I can't believe it.

"The ending, like this - the wind - it's very tactical. So for me, it's (easier)."

But none of the top overall hopes lost any time, with star Trek-Segafredo recruit Amanda Spratt finishing fifth and FDJ's Grace Brown also looking strong during the stage and finishing 20th, in the main bunch.

Time bonuses mean Pikulik holds a four-second overall lead over Copponi, with Brown fourth at seven seconds and Spratt eighth at 10 seconds.

Along with Brown and Spratt, the other two most likely overall contenders are Jayco-AlUla pair and fellow Australians Alex Manly and Ruby Roseman-Gannon.

Manly is fifth overall at eight seconds and Roseman-Gannon is sixth, one second behind her.

Australian Keely Bennett (Team Bridgelane) is out of the race after crashing heavily about 30km into the stage.

The right shoulder of her jersey was ripped apart, but Bennett sat up soon after hitting the road at speed.

Less than a week after winning the under-23 Australian time trial championship, Isabelle Carnes (ARA Skip Capital) again showcased her form with a strong ride.

She and Bennett's teammate Gina Ricardo broke away and with 30km left led the peloton by as much as two minutes.

But the top teams kept them under control and caught the duo with 10km left as crosswinds buffeted the riders.

New Zealand team rider Ally Wollaston, who won Saturday's twilight street race in the Adelaide CBD, finished sixth.

The women's and men's Tour Down Under races are returning from two years off the World Tour schedule because of COVID-19.

The women's tour runs for three days, while the six-day men's race will start late on Tuesday afternoon with a prologue time trial.