Posted by Editoress on 01/22/12
Stage 5: Valverde claims Old Willunga but Gerrans on EDGE of glory
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde has won the Queen stage of the Santos Tour Down Under edging out Australian road champion, Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) whose second place atop Old Willunga Hill has put him into the race lead.
Valverde (Movistar) stopped the clock at 3:45:48, half a wheel ahead of Gerrans as the pair both lunged for the line at the end of the Tour's first ever hill top finish. Third across the line, two seconds back, was Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) with Canberra's Michael Rogers (Sky) a further two seconds back in fourth place.
"I'm super happy, I can't believe it," said Valverde. "My team has been genius, I've won thanks to them. It's an emotional moment for me.
"The stage suited me. We've put the team at the front and it's a perfect comeback for me."
After the bonus seconds were allocated Valverde and Gerrans were equal on time at the top of the standings but a countback of previous stage placings put Gerrans in the Santos Tour Down Under ochre race leader's jersey to the delight of GreenEDGE team owner Gerry Ryan, fans and team officials in South Australia to celebrate the debut of the first Australian registered team to race the WorldTour.
"I'm rapt to have the lead going into the last stage. It's such a big deal for GreenEDGE to take the lead into the last stage in their first WorldTour outing so I'm thrilled and really rapt with the whole team's performance, they have really supported me all week so I really can't thank the guys enough."
Gerrans' team mate and local legend, Stuart O'Grady, who was named Hindmarsh Most Aggressive rider of the day, was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and support from the crowd of 120,000.
"It was seriously like an end of the Tour de France stage. Look at all the people, the stadium, the finish. I would never have dreamed a bike race to be as big in Australia, let alone Adelaide and the people have been absolutely fantastic," said O'Grady. "Coming up the hill today, it was like the tour."
O'Grady was one of six riders in the only serious breakaway of the day that established early in the 151km race that covered three laps from McLaren Vale, through Willunga and out to Aldinga Beach before the final two loops took the race up Old Willunga Hill. Joining O'Grady was Briton Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma - Lotto), Belgians Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Kristof Goddaert (AG2R La Mondiale), Tasmanian Nathan Haas (Garmin-Barracuda) and the Tour's first Japanese entrant Takashi Miyazawa (Saxo Bank).
They contested both Jayco intermediate sprints with Goddaert winning the first sprint at Snapper Point (63.4km) and De Gendt the second at 103.4km.
But while the break rode out to a substantial lead early, the teams of the climbers had no intention of letting them stay away. Halfway up Old Willunga Hill for the first SKODA King of the Mountain they were all caught except for Haas who soloed over the top for the points.
"I thought my team mates are in that group so I thought moving out in front just gave them a sit on, and it would put some pressure on the legs of the other teams and I did that but unfortunately two of our riders got dropped and in the end it was only Jack Bauer," said Haas who was caught on the descent. "It was inevitable …I knew that I didn't have the legs to make up the climb the second time."
As the front of the race regrouped the pace stayed high heading through Willunga for the last time with several attacks being launched. But in the end it was a select group of eight who challenged over the final 200 metres for a place on gthe podium.
UniSA-Australia's Rohan Dennis, who recently claimed both the under 23 time trial and road race national titles, was in super form today and went all out to hold onto his lead in the SKODA King of the Mountain classification. He was third over the climb the first time and fifth on the stage to end the day with 29 points, five clear of De Gendt and Gerrans.
"The only way to do it is to put yourself in the race. I'm a little bit stuffed now but its all worth it in the end. I guess sometimes you need a little bit of form as well to have that confidence to actually go up the front but sometimes it's just sort of a gut feeling, just sort of hope for the best," said Dennis who is racing against some of his boyhood idols. "It's always a bit of a worry because I know how good they actually are. I'm hoping they're feeling or hurting as much as what I am. I just need to keep sort of positive when your at the front and you just think they're hurting as much as you, really just stay as positive as possible."
Dennis is also the top ranked in the Cycle Instead Young Rider (aged under 26) classification sitting five seconds ahead of Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) on the overall rankings and team manager Dave Sanders is thrilled with the way the composite national team has performed this week.
"I'm very proud of these kids [for holding onto the mountain jersey], I mean these are the best riders in the world, I just got them to believe not to be afraid of them, to race them," said Sanders. "You'll either get there or you won't but you can't (win) if you don't have a go."
Boasson Hagen is leading the Jayco Sprint classification on 46 points, 11 clear of two stage winner and previous race leader, Andre Greipel and hopes to hold onto that jersey and move a little higher up the standings from his current place of sixth at 18 seconds.
"My team did a great job and I managed to get up the climb first time so I felt really good," said Boasson Hagen "(The second time) was really hard for me, so we managed to get over the top, so I'm so happy and the team did a great job today I thought."
His team mate Rogers is sitting in fourth place overall at 14 seconds after an exhausting effort.
"The whole hill was pretty tough and there was strong head wind. The goal was to get everything out and scrape the bottom of barrel and I did that and I'm really happy," said Rogers. "I jumped with 400 metres to go and Valverde and Gerrans got on my wheel and went when I blew. But I am really happy and it's been a long time since I have been able to scrape the bottom of the barrel. It's a win for myself and I am really happy."
The leading team in the Brilliant Blend Team competition is RadioShack-Nissan-Trek who have a 24 seconds buffer over Sky ProCycling.
Sunday's final stage will be contested over 20 laps of a street circuit at Elder Park on the banks of the Torrens River north of the Adelaide CBD. The 90 kilometre finale is set to be a corker with time bonuses up for grabs at the two Jayco intermediate sprints and on the stage finish and several riders in striking distance of the win.
Stage 5 Results Summary
• Stage Winner - Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (ESP)
• Santos Tour Down Under Leader - Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) (AUS)
• Jayco Sprint Leader - Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky ) (NOR)
• SKODA King of the Mountain Leader - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS)
• Cycle Instead Best Young Rider - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS)
• Brilliant Blend Team Leader - Radioshack-Nissan
• Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider for stage 5- Stuart O'Grady (GreenEDGE) (AUS)
Stage 5 results
Stage 6: Gerrans seals fairytale debut for GreenEDGE
Victorian Simon Gerrans has sealed a fairytale debut for the fledgling GreenEDGE Australian professional cycling team by claiming overall victory in the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under.
Gerrans joins team mate and local hero Stuart O'Grady and today's stage winner German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) as the third rider in the event's 14 year history to win the trophy twice.
Sunday's final stage was raced over 20 laps of a street circuit at Elder Park on the banks of the Torrens River north of the Adelaide CBD. The 90 kilometre finale set off with the air temperature at 37 degrees celsius but the heat from road made racing conditions much hotter.
31 year old Gerrans went into the stage tied on time with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) but as race leader because of a lower total when the pair's places on previous stages were tallied. There was also a handful of other riders hoping to improve their positions. But GreenEDGE were up to the challenge and vigilant throughout the stage making sure they covered every move.
"When I was told yesterday that I was getting the leader's jersey, I didn't feel any pressure at all, it was just a nice surprise. I knew it would give us a tough job for this last stage, but as it turns out, I can't be happier," said Gerran who two weeks ago won the elite men's road race crown at the nationals. "This is just fantastic. I can't thank the GreenEdge team enough for this victory.
"We had a tough task today to control Alejandro Valverde who is a classics rider. The last lap was very fast," said a jubuliant Gerrans whose wife Rahna was in Adelaide to witness his win. "It's an even sweeter victory than my first one here in 2006. It gives me the opportunity to thank for the first time the Ryan family (GreenEDGE team owners Gerry and Andrew) and (GreenEDGE General Manager) Shayne Bannan for putting this team together. It couldn't be a better start for us.
"I had Robbie McEwen looking after me (and) that was pretty special since it was his last race in Australia," said Gerrans of his team mate McEwen who holds the record for the most stage wins in the history of the Santos Tour Down Under, 12. Greipel today notched up his 11th stage win.
"What can I say?" said Greipel after flashing across the line a good bike length clear of Australian Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Italian sprint ace Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre). "The team Lotto-Belisol has just been amazing in leading me out to my third win of the week.
"It looks easy but it's not," he said. "I was nowhere in the front on GC (overall) this year but I'm happy with the sprint finishes. I always like to come to South Australia. It's just nice to start the new season here rather than train in Europe."
Further back in the peloton were Valverde and Gerrans who crossed the line 25th and 27th respectively split only by Gerran's stage finish pilot McEwen who made sure the Spaniard was well marked.
"I'm just really happy and proud to be part of this team here at the Santos Tour Down Under. I'm not retiring today, that was my last Aussie race officially, but the season's not done. I am still going to race for another four months after this," said McEwen. "It's a fantastic way to go out as far as Australia racing is concerned. I joined the team and was really excited about being a part of the GreenEDGE project racing in an Aussie team, our national team. It was all about winning the jersey and that's the success for the team, it feels like a personal win to be a part of it."
Despite not being on the top step of the podium Valverde was satisfied to have won the Tour's first ever hilltop finish yesterday.
"I am very happy with finishing second in the Santos Tour Down Under," said Valverde. "The outcome is much better than I expected when I came to Australia. Today was a super fast stage with a bit of wind that made it even more difficult. I'm very happy."
At the end of the 803km six day event both Gerrans and Valverde remained deadlocked on 20:46:12 but Gerrans' stage placings added up to a total of 102 and Valverde's 175 giving the Australian the win.
"I certainly am [happy]," said GreenEDGE Team Director, Matt White, who last year steered Cameron Meyer to victory. "To win the Santos Tour Down Under with our newly crowned National Champion, we couldn't have written a better script. [I'm] elated, just elated."
Third place overall went to Portugese rider Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) who was eight seconds back with Canberra's Michael Rogers (Sky Pro Cycling) fourth at 14 seconds. On the same time as Rogers in fifth place was 21 year old Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) who recently claimed both the under 23 time trial and road race national titles.
Dennis was in superb form this week to claim the SKODA King of the Mountain classification and the Cycle Instead Best Young Rider (under 26) trophy.
"I wasn't sure I was actually going to finish this race," said Dennis explaining the effect on him of the fast start to the stage. "I was pretty happy it slowed down, I think everybody was. With that surge at the start it almost slowed it down and made it a little bit easier towards the end."
Dennis was also given the Tanya Denver Award as the highest placed South Australian overall.
Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen had hoped to climb higher in the overall rankings today but an attack from Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) netted the Belgian some crucial bonus seconds in the Jayco intermediate sprints and pushed Boasson Hagen back to seventh. Bakelants' audacious attack also saw him named the Hindmarsh Most Aggressive rider of the stage.
But Sky's Boasson Hagen did hold onto his lead in the Jayco Sprint Classification to claim the trophy with 56 points, six ahead of Greipel.
"I got the jersey but I would like to be more up in the final stage, but I managed to keep the jersey so that's a good thing," said Boasson Hagen. "It's an early start to the season and to be on top form now is difficult. I'm happy to be on OK form and I can still get better."
The Brilliant Blend Team trophy was awarded to RadioShack-Nissan-Trek who were 24 seconds ahead of Sky ProCycling after the times of the top three ranked riders from each team were tallied.
"We like to win a team GC and on top of that we managed to place Tiago, we are pretty happy with the outcome of the race," said team captain Jens Voigt.
The final word goes to the man considered the most successful cyclist of all time, Belgian legend Eddy Merckx who was a special guest at this year's event.
"It was a great race and I will be thanking everybody, everything was great," said Merckx.
Final Results Summary
• Stage 6 Winner - Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) (GER)
• Santos Tour Down Under Winner - Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) (AUS)
• Jayco Sprint Winner - Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky ) (NOR)
• SKODA King of the Mountain Winner - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS)
• Cycle Instead Best Young Rider (Under 26) - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS)
• Brilliant Blend Team Leader - Radioshack-Nissan
• Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider for stage 6- Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) (BEL)
• Tanya Denver Award - Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) (AUS) (Highest placed South Australian overall)
Stage 6 results and Final GC
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