German sprinter Nikias Arndt won the first UCI WorldTour sanctioned Elite Men’s Race today with a thrilling finish, concluding a successful third edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race which was attended by over 100,000 spectators across the weekend.

To win the 174km race that began and finished in Geelong, Arndt beat Australians Simon Gerrans (ORICA-SCOTT) and Cameron Meyer (KordaMentha Real Estate Australian National Team) who took a close second and third place respectively.

“I thought it is not possible to come back … but I just didn’t stop fighting and I just pushed,” said Arndt, 25, whose victory was also the first for his German team, Team Sunweb this season.

“I saw a teammate after the last climb … Wilko Kelderman. He pushed me and he was there doing a big, big pull and I thought, ‘Okay if he did such a big pull you also have to come back. You cannot give up now.’ I continued and suddenly, I have to say, the group in front slowed down a little bit and that was to my advantage to come back.”

But Arndt, in his fifth year as a professional and the winner of stage 21 of last year’s Giro d’Italia, praised all his team. “They supported me and stayed with me,” Arndt said. “They did an awesome job.”

Arndt said he had also been inspired by the performances of players in the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne: “We saw some tennis matches and they also said, ‘Never give up, focus and try again, try again.’ That was actually good motivation for today.”

The win will also serve Arndt well for the European one-day classic season. “It gives me a lot of motivation towards the classics,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gerrans’ second place after a runner-up finish in the Australian Road Championship augurs well for his season. And Meyer’s third since returning to elite racing this summer after taking a spell from the sport is another sign that the fire is back in his belly.

Although, Meyer’s finish was tinged with heartbreak. He looked like winning after he attacked with 800m to go following a solo move by Australian Tour Down Under winner and Tour de France contender Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) with 4.5km to go was caught 1.2km from the line.

Porte was not the only grand tour star to try his hand though. British triple Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Colombian Esteban Chaves (ORICA-SCOTT) were also in the fray with late moves.

The race, broadcast live and in full in Australia by Channel 7 and in over 140 countries, was held in glorious sunshine and in relatively still conditions.

While the race saw a large group still lead going into the third and final 20km finishing laps, the flurry of attacks and chases that unfolded ensured another thrilling finale.

The entire event, named after Cadel Evans who in 2011 became the first Australian Tour de France winner, was certainly another success for the entire Geelong region that hosted it, according to the chief executive of Visit Victoria, Peter Bingeman.

“The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is a wonderful example of the way Visit Victoria brings together the very best athletes with our greatest natural assets to create a memorable experience,” he said.

“The race celebrates the stunning achievements and contribution of Cadel and the region that is his home as well as being home to the stunning scenery of the Great Ocean Road.

“It’s little wonder that some of the world’s best male and female riders chose to be part of the event.”