Victoria’s Simon Gerrans celebrated Australia Day in style when he claimed a record-breaking third Tour Down Under in Adelaide yesterday.
Riding in an Australian team on national day, the Orica GreenEdge rider finished in the leading group behind Germany’s Andre Greipel to win the season-opening UCI World Tour event by 1 second from fellow countryman Cadel Evans.
Italian Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) finished in third, 4 seconds further back.
The sixth and last stage, 18 laps of a 4.75km circuit through central Adelaide, went perfectly for Gerrans, who took just a one-second lead into the final day.
Gerrans stayed in the front section of the peloton all race and never looked in danger of surrendering the ocher leader’s jersey he regained after Saturday’s fifth stage on Willunga Hill.
“We made sure we stayed at the front, stayed out of trouble,” Gerrans said. “I’m really thrilled to come out unscathed. The guys did a fantastic job — they kept me right up the front there out of trouble, well protected, to make sure I would avoid any splits in the peloton and I finished right up there in the front. So it worked out beautifully.”
Gerrans said it was particularly special to win on Australia Day in front of a massive crowd in central Adelaide.
“It’s a huge honor to win the Tour Down Under and to cap it all off on Australia Day as well, and racing for an Australian team, it just doesn’t get much better,” he said.
With bonus seconds available at intermediate sprints on laps six and 12, the Orica GreenEdge team were content to let a three-man breakaway go in the first lap.
William Clarke (Drapac), Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale) and Maxime Belkov (Katusha) stayed away until the 16th lap, taking the bonus seconds and effectively ending Evans’ challenge.
With the field all together again, the sprinters’ teams began to set the pace, with Orica GreenEdge controlling the front of the peloton.
Canondale and Evans’ BMC Racing teams came to the front on the 17th lap, before Giant-Shimano and then Trek Factory Racing took over.
However, Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol bided their time and took control with a lap to go.
The lead-out riders gave the big German a perfect springboard to claim his second stage of the week and his 16th overall.
Greipel later paid tribute to his teammates.
“They rode incredibly fast so I could save myself for the last moment,” he said. “This is a very nice victory for us. I had fast legs today and I’m confident in my capacities these days.”