NATHAN Haas has sprinted himself into the Herald Sun Tour yellow jersey with a blistering ride in today's opening stage from Geelong to Ballarat.
The 24-year-old, riding for Garmin Sharp, outclassed champion sprinter Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and dark horse Jonathan Cantwell (Drapac) as well as 30 others in a bunch sprint up Sturt Street after negotiating 116 kilometres of bitter winds and cruel climbs.
Haas won in a time of 3hrs04mins and now holds a seven-second lead over prologue time-trial winner Jack Bauer in the general classification standings, with Drapac's William Clarke and Goss a further two seconds back in third.
The win means Garmin Sharp is now two-from-two for stages at this year's Tour, while Haas will now target a second overall Sun Tour victory after winning the race in 2011.
"This is the race where it all started for me," Haas said.
"Today is a bigger day for me than just taking yellow - it's my first win as a professional with team Garmin - so it's a big day for me."
Ballarat's Pat Shaw put in a superb ride to finish in sixth position on the stage, while South Australian Harry Carpenter took the overall lead in the under-23 category.
Cannondale's Alberto Bettiol will now put on the most aggressive rider jersey, while Haas has taken up ownership of the sprinters jersey in addition to overall honours.