GERMANY’S Andre Greipel outsprinted Aussie Caleb Ewan to win today’s first stage of the Tour of Britain.

Lotto-Soudal rider Greipel timed his finish on Usk Way in Newport city centre to perfection, flying past Colombian Fernando Gaviria of Quick-Step Floors and holding off Mitchelton-Scott’s Ewan.

Huge crowds gathered on the streets of South Wales as the tour got under way, with fans eager to catch a glimpse of Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.

Any hopes of a Thomas victory were dashed 7km from the end when he couldn’t sustain an attack on the final climb.

Newport’s Jon Mould held the briefest of leads when the field set off from Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire.

However, it was four other Brits – Wales-based Tom Moses, Richard Hadley, Rory Townsend and Matthew Bostock – who were part of a six-rider breakaway just 5km into the race.

Ireland’s Mark Downey and South African Nicholas Dlamini joined the quartet as the group went clear and worked together for most of the 109 miles to Newport.

Thomas, four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome and the rest of the peloton did their best to chase down the leaders, and with 50km to go the gap had been cut to 58 seconds.

By the time of the last sprint in Usk, the group of six was down to four and with a little more than 15km remaining the peloton had reduced the deficit to 18 seconds.

It was at the point Townsend went for broke, going away from the other three in a bid to win the stage, but it proved to be in vain as the peloton swallowed him up 10km from the end.

As the riders began to climb Belmont Hill it was Thomas who looked to take the initiative, however, he only led for a matter of seconds and quickly fell back into the pack.

With Thomas’ chances of winning on home soil gone, Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors headed a four-man break.

Alaphilippe was joined by teammate Bob Jungels, Jonathan Hivert (Direct Energie) and Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Team KATUSHA ALPECIN).

Then Jungels seized his opportunity to lead 3km from home, but he didn’t have enough left in the tank and for a moment it seemed like Gaviria would cross the line first.

It wasn’t to be as he lost his momentum on the run-in and Greipel, a multiple stage winner in the past, surged through with Ewan having to settle for a very close second.

Thomas finished 77th, Froome was 64th and Mould was 38th.

Meanwhile, Team Dimension Data’s Dlamini wore the Skoda King of the Mountains jersey after day one and British Cycling’s Bostock went into the second stage wearing the Eisberg Sprints jersey.

Today’s stage two takes place in Devon and goes from Cranbrook to Barnstaple.

The OVO Energy Tour of Britain finishes in London on Sunday, September 9.