Cadel Evans wrested the leader’s jersey from the shoulders of fellow countryman Simon Gerrans with a solo victory across the line at the end of stage 3 of the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under today.
The 36 year old pounced on the Corkscrew Road climb, 10 kilometers from the finish of the 145km stage. With Richie Porte (Team SKY) on his wheel Evans powered up the hill surging clear of Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE). Evans then delivered a knockout surge that left Porte in his wake before he kicked his strong descending and time trial skills into gear to open up a lead on his pursuers.
"I had an idea of the opportunity I could get on Corkscrew climb and I knew what to do," said Evans after sailing down the home straight on a sea of cheers from an adoring crowd. "My team did a fantastic job to position me where I had to be. I had been training well but winning is what we are here for.
"It’s amazing to be back racing in Australia and win," Evans explained. "A stage race is all about the leader’s jersey and time bonus is the key to win this race overall."
Evans collected a 10 second time bonus which, along with the 15 second lead he had at the finish line, has put him 12 seconds clear of Gerrans in the race for the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under crown.
"We’ll see how it goes in the next stages," said Evans cautiously. "I haven’t won the GC yet."
Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) led home the chasing group of twelve riders to place second with yesterday’s stage winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) of Italy third. Ulissi is also sitting third overall, 15 seconds off the lead.
For Gerrans it was about limiting his time loss as he watched Evans ride clear on the Category One graded climb that features steep, challenging switchbacks.
"The Corkscrew is one of the toughest climbs, especially when it comes at such a crucial part of the stage," said Gerrans who is now in second place overall, 12 seconds off Evans lead. "Everyone is going 100 percent and that was their opportunity to make their mark on the race.
"Cadel (Evans) and Richie (Porte) jumped on the steep section. I sort of bided my time, and then accelerated over toward them," Gerrans explained. "I got to Richie, but Cadel slipped away. Then he managed to pull away on the downhill. The difficult part of that downhill, is that you only need five seconds, and you’re out of sight. I didn’t spot him again until we got near the bottom.
"It won’t be easy to get back . I guess Saturday will decide it all," said Porte.
The head of the BMC Team Performance Director, Australian Allan Peiper, says it was a fantastic day for the team.
"Cadel did all that was expected of him, and more," said Peiper. "We’re excited about his win, and it should make for a more exciting race.
"Tactically, we made it hard in the last part of the stage, and we had the whole team there for Cadel," explained Peiper of the plan hatched to put Evans in the lead.
"It’s still four months to go to the Giro, but this is all part of the effort to build up Cadel for May.
"This win is important for his confidence," said Peiper. "Everyone can see the happiness that he has when he’s riding his bike. He might underestimate the boost he’s had from the Australian public, from the national championships, and racing this week."
Fans turned out in force today with 118,000 making their way out to support the riders who have been treating them to a feast of world class cycling. The 150 kilometer stage began in the Adelaide shopping precinct of Norwood, headed into the Adelaide Hills and circled back to contest the aptly named Corkscrew Rd climb before a fast, downhill run to the finish line in Campbelltown.
Soon after the peloton rolled out for the start the expected early attack was launched this time by Aussie Travis Meyer (Drapac) who was joined by French rider Jérôme Cousin of Team Europcar. Astana’s Andriy Grivko (UKR) headed out to join them and a short time later Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) completed the quartet in front.
The four riders set up a lead of between two and three minutes with the peloton riding tempo to keep them within striking distance. At the first of the day’s two Adam Internet intermediate sprints at Kersbrook (39km) it was Meyer who claimed the top points ahead of Grivko and Cousin.
The second sprint at Williamstown, 53 kilometers into the stage went to Grivko with Meyer second and Cousin third across the line.
Soon after the halfway mark Cousin dropped back to the peloton while the lead trio rode ahead in the hope of staying clear. But with overall honours and the Skoda King of the Mountain on the line their lead dwindled and with 17 kilometers remaining the race regrouped.
Lotto Belisol drove the pace to give their man Adam Hansen the best possible chance to defend his lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain classification while the teams of Evans, Porte, Gerrans and Ulissi assigned lieutenants to their leaders for the decisive ascent.
Hansen didn’t figure in the placings at the top of Corkscrew as Gerrans, Porte and Haas trailed Evans across the summit but Hansen’s overnight points tally of 20 was enough to keep him in the lead, ahead of Will Clarke (Drapac) also on 20 and Evans who claimed 16 points on today’s stage.
"I wasn’t so good, actually," said Hansen. "BMC set a high pace on the climb and I went hard too early but I was still with the big names in the first group.
"Now I hope for a good GC (overall placing) at the end of the Santos Tour Down Under, that’s my priority."
Frenchman Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) has taken over the lead in the Cycle Instead Young Rider competition. He is sitting 18th overall at 1:01 from Evans and is 17 seconds clear of his nearest rival.
"This was very hard," he exclaimed after the presentation. "We rode so fast before the Corkscrew climb. But my team-mates positioned me very well even though it was a short climb and not exactly to my taste.
"It shows the trust they have in me, so the jersey I get now belongs to the team more than to myself," said Elissonde. "This is not high mountains, so I’m not in my comfort zone, but that’s how I can improve my cycling."
The Europcar Most Competitive award of the day went to the oldest rider in the peloton, Jens Voigt, who at 42 is racing what is tipped to be his last year in the professional ranks.
"I picked today’s stage to break away because nobody else did but I knew that it was close to impossible to go for the stage win," said Voigt who is one of the most popular figures in world cycling. "We never had more than two and half minutes lead because Andrey Grivko was at 21 seconds (off the overall lead), he wouldn’t get any freedom.
"I might be getting old but I still have high expectations about myself," said Voigt. "It’s because of self respect that I feel obliged to show my face to the people. I don’t want to be just a number in the bunch. On the road side, every second or third spectator yelled my name. The crowd has enjoyed the show, apparently!"
Spanish rider Rafael Valls was unable to start today’s stage after scans revealed a fractured humerus bone in his arm. Instead he headed to SportsMed SA for surgery to pin the break he sustained when he crashed during yesterday’s racing.
Tomorrow’s stage will kick off with the Bupa Challenge Tour, a recreational ride enjoyed by thousands of people from around Australia and the world. The participants can choose one of three start locations, all finishing under the official Bupa Stage 4 finish arch in Victor Harbor. The peloton will follow them later in the day departing from the cosmopolitan Adelaide suburb of Unley and heading out through the Adelaide Hills to the beautiful Fleruieu Peninsula to the finish line at the coastal holiday town of Victor Harbor.
Stage 3, Norwood to Campbelltown:
1, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) 145 kilometres in 3 hours 34 mins 5 secs 2, Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp) at 15 secs 3, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) 4, Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) 5, Simon Gerrans (Orica Greenedge) 6, Rory Sutherland (Tinkoff Saxo) 7, Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) 8, Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team) 9, Daryl Impey (Orica Greenedge) 10, Robert Gesink (Belkin-Pro Cycling Team) 11, Richie Porte (Team Sky) 12, Egor Silin (Team Katusha) 13, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 14, Anthony Roux (FDJ.fr) at 43 secs 15, Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team) 16, Simon Clarke (Orica Greenedge) 17, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) 18, Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) 19, Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Shimano) at 1 min 0 secs 20, Jack Bauer (Garmin Sharp) 21, Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida) 22, George Bennett (Cannondale) 23, Michael Valgren Andersen (Tinkoff Saxo) 24, Caleb Fairly (Garmin Sharp) 25, Jack Haig (UniSA)
1, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) 10 hours at 46 mins 39 secs 2, Simon Gerrans (Orica Greenedge) at 12 secs 3, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) at 15 secs 4, Nathan Haas (Garmin Sharp) at 27 secs 5, Robert Gesink (Belkin-Pro Cycling Team) at 29 secs 6, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 7, Daryl Impey (Orica Greenedge) at 33 secs 8, Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) 9, Rory Sutherland (Tinkoff Saxo) 10, Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team) 11, Richie Porte (Team Sky) 12, Egor Silin (Team Katusha) 13, Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) 14, Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) at 1 min 1 secs 15, Anthony Roux (FDJ.fr) 16, Simon Clarke (Orica Greenedge) 17, Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team) 18, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) 19, Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Shimano) at 1 min 13 secs 20, Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale) at 1 min 14 secs 21, Ruben Plaza Molina (Movistar Team) at 1 min 18 secs 22, Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) 23, Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida) 24, Caleb Fairly (Garmin Sharp) 25, Eduard Vorganov (Team Katusha)
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