Posted by Editoress on 01/22/14
Italian Diego Ulissi of the Lampre-Merida team stole the show in Stirling today holding off star Australians Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Cadel Evans (BMC) who crossed for the minor placings at the end of the 150km stage BikeExchange.com.au Stage 2 through the Adelaide Hills.
The Santos Ochre Leader's jersey remains on the shoulders of Gerrans but today's stage winner now sits in second place at seven seconds. Ilissi, 24, who won a stage of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) in 2011, outfoxed his rivals to sprint well clear and celebrate his seventh professional career victory.
"I’ve never believed in my chances to win this stage because I had the impression that Simon Gerrans was by far the strongest," said Ulissi who crossed the line in a time of 3:52:15. "I thought he’d be unbeatable but I managed to beat him thanks to the help of the great team I have behind me.
"It has a lot to do with the serenity I found by winning a few races at the very end of last season, therefore I could train for this one with no worries and prepare well for Milan-San Remo."
Glorious summer weather and a spectator friendly course attracted 110 thousand fans who camped out from early this morning staking their claim on the best seats in the hills.
"This is my first time in Australia and I’m amazed by the incredible affection of the fans," said Ulissi. "The environment of this race is wonderful."
Gerrans, the newly crowned Australian road champion, had been hoping for back-to-back stage wins after his vcitory yesterday in Angaston but despite closing fast on Ulissi wasn't able to overtake.
"I would have loved to win the stage again today," said Gerrans. "It was close but I can’t win them all.
"It didn’t surprise me to be sprinting against Diego Ulissi in such a finale like Stirling," he explained. "He’s a classy rider. But I wasn’t expecting he’d pass me as fast as he did. He’s obviously a threat for the overall classification but it’s a good result for me today as I have a bigger advantage over my other rivals with the time bonus of the second place.
"My position on GC is just as good as I could have hoped for," said Gerrans. "Tomorrow is going to be the most decisive stage with the Corkscrew climb so close to the finish.”
Evans' third place on the stage has moved the 2011 Tour de France champion up from ninth overall to fourth overall at 13 seconds off the lead and he was one of several strong contenders to test their legs on the short, sharp pinch at the end of the stage.
"I went too early, and got swamped at the finish," said Evans. "I hope to get it right in the next few days, I didn't have the legs and timing to do it today.
"The team is being really good here (but) we're still getting things going together," he said. "It's our first race of the year. I'm going OK. I just need a bit of timing. It's still pretty open on GC (race for overall win).
The Adelaide suburb of Prospect hosted a stage start for the third year in a row farewelling the 136 riders as they headed off to the Adelaide Hills region ahead of two laps of an undulating, leafy 20 kilometre circuit through and around the finish town of Stirling.
Racing was barely underway when an early attack saw yesterday's Europcar Most Competitive rider, Will Clarke (Drapac) break clear with UniSA-Australia's Campbell Flakemore and Dutchman Boy Van Poppel of Trek Factory Racing.
"It’s three years in a row that I break away on the way to Stirling. Unfortunately, the last two haven’t been as successful as two years ago when I stayed away and won," said Clarke whose efforts today saw him again named Europcar Most Competitive Rider.
The trio shared the spoils of both Adam Internet Sprint and both Skoda King of the Mountain primes contested in the first 85 kilometres.
At One Tree Hill, 26 kilometres into the stage, Van Poppel scored top points in the Adam Internet sprint ahead of Flakemore and Clarke. But when the trio contested the Skoda King of the Mountain climb at Golden Grove it was Clarke who crested the hill ahead of Flakemore and Van Poppel. Mountain classification leader, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) led the peloton over a couple of minutes later to protect his jersey.
The second climb of the day was at Checker Hill at the 56 kilometre point and the placings were a repeat of the previous as Clarke lead Flakemore and Van Poppel over the top before Hansen grabbed fourth place points.
The second Adam Internet intermediate sprint was at Blahannah (85km) where Clarke held off Van Poppel and Flakemore was third.
Hopes the trio might contest the stage win were dashed when they were reeled in by the peloton as they rode through Stirling to start the final 20 kilometre circuit to the finish.
"In the next day or two, I’ll take it easy," said Clarke. "I feel a bit tired so I’ll back off for another attack a bit later in the race."
Meantime Hansen's efforts ensured he held onto the Skoda King of the Mountain lead, albeit on a countback with Clarke who also has 20 points.
"I’ve seen the possibility to take two points for the KOM without spending much energy as the fourth place atop the hill was still up for grabs," said Hansen.
Hansen's team mate, André Greipel put in a super effort to fight his way back to the lead group after a front wheel change the closing kilometres. He placed 19th, the last rider in the lead group awarded the same time as the winner, which meant he only slipped down one place overall to third where he sits 11 seconds off the overall lead.
"I was trying to help André (Greipel) today," said his team mate Hansen. "It was always the plan to race for him, even after he had a flat tyre. He and I had a little argument with 1km to go. He wanted me to go for myself but I kept supporting me."
The lead in the Cycle Instead Young Rider category remains with Carlos Verona (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who was caught behind a late race crash but awarded the same time as the main bunch and is now ranked 22nd overall, 21 seconds behind Gerrans.
"This was a very nice stage with lots of ups and downs. Mainly, I wanted to avoid crashing. I enjoy being the best young rider in such a big race," said Verona. "It’s always good to wear a distinctive jersey. If I can keep it in the next couple of days, it’s perfect, but it’s not an obsession."
The race started today with two less riders. Australian David Tanner (Belkin) broke his right collar bone in a crash during yesterday's racing and had surgery overnight to repair it and x-rays this morning confirmed a broken scaphoid for Spanish climber Jose Joaquim Rojas (Movistar) who will return home for treatment. Rojas joins his team mate Giovanni Visconti who broke his leg in a crash during Sunday's People's Choice Classic.
|Stage 2: Prospect to Stirling, 150km|
|1 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||3:52:14|
|2 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE|
|3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team|
|4 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|6 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky|
|7 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|8 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing|
|9 Javier Moreno (Esp) Movistar Team|
|10 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE|
|11 Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha|
|12 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ|
|13 Steve Morabito (Sui) BMC Racing Team|
|14 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|15 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto-Belisol|
|16 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac|
|17 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxobank|
|18 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp|
|19 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol|
|20 Ruben Plaza (Esp) Movistar Team|
|68 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale||all s.t.|
|1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE||7:12:31|
|2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||at 0:07|
|3 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol||0:11|
|4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||0:13|
|5 Steele von Hoff (Aus) Garmin-Sharp||s.t.|
|6 Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano||0:16|
|7 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:17|
|8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team|
|9 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky|
|11 Rafael Valls (Esp) Lampre-Merida||all s.t.|
|12 Daryl Impey (Rsa) Orica-GreenEDGE||0:21|
|13 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team|
|14 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp|
|15 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxobank|
|16 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky|
|17 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|18 Ruben Plaza (Esp) Movistar Team|
|19 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac|
|20 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing||all s.t.|
|77 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale||2:38|
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