Italy’s Diego Ulissi edged out Australian Simon Gerrans in a powerful final sprint yesterday to win the second stage of the Tour Down Under in southern Australia.
Ulissi, 24, attacked from 100m out on a long, uphill finish and went clear of the chasing pack, finishing three bike lengths ahead of Gerrans and Australia’s Cadel Evans.
“It was great to win here, I was very motivated because this is my kind of finish,” Ulissi said through an interpreter.
Gerrans retained the ocher overall leader’s jersey and is now seven seconds clear of Ulissi on general classification, with the Italian moving to second after the stage win.
Germany’s Andre Greipel is in third, 11 seconds behind Gerrans.
Yesterday’s 150km stage began in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect in cool conditions and took the cyclists on a testing course through the Adelaide Hills that finished with three 21km laps around Stirling.
Australian duo Will Clarke (Drapac) and Campbell Flakemore (UniSA) broke away alongside Dutchman Boy Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) 4km into the race, but the trio never got more than three minutes clear and it was inevitable that the peloton would catch them — and it did so at the start of the last lap around Stirling.
Attacks came thick and fast on the final lap, with first the Tinkoff-Saxo team and then Team Sky trying to break the peloton up, but every move was countered by Gerrans’ strong Orica-GreenEDGE team and it looked as though the Australian was in pole position to claim his second stage win in a row.
Evans’ BMC Racing team also brought the former Tour de France winner to the front, but both Australians were caught on the hop when Ulissi launched his attack.
“Hats off to Ulissi, he timed that sprint just perfectly,” Gerrans said.
A disappointed Evans conceded that he had got his timing wrong.
“Yesterday I went too late and got closed in and today I went too early and got swamped at the finish — maybe I’ll get it right in the next few days,” he said.
Greipel was the only sprinter to survive when the peloton splintered on the final climb, finishing in 19th at the tail end of the leading group.
However, officials later awarded most of the peloton the same time as the leaders due to a crash within 3km of the finish.
Today’s 145km stage is from Norwood to Campbelltown and includes the notorious Corkscrew Road hill.
In other cycling news yesterday, gunmen shot dead six guards protecting a Spanish cyclist in a violent, remote area of western Pakistan where a bus bomb killed 24 Shiite pilgrims a day earlier, police said.
The cyclist, who suffered minor wounds, crossed into Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province from Iran, they said. Six guards were wounded and one attacker was killed.
Police said they did not know why he was cycling in such a dangerous area. He was assigned the escort by security forces because the province is plagued by kidnappers, Taliban militants, sectarian killers, paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.
“Six of our security men have been killed trying to save the Spanish cyclist, who has suffered minor injuries,” said Shafqat Anwar Shawani, assistant police commissioner for the province’s Mastung District.