Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) leads the Tour Down Under after taking an impressive victory on stage two.
The Welshman attacked on the slopes of Corkscrew Hill and outsprinted a small breakaway group at the finish in Rostrevor for his first win of the season.
Thomas, who focussed on the track for much of last year and won an Olympic gold medal with Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad at London 2012, said he had concentrated on building his road form in the closed season.
“I’ve worked hard since the Olympics trying to lose the track weight and I’ve got some good kilometres in over the winter. I wanted to start this year strong. I knew I had decent form but you never know how well everyone else is going.
“To get the win is a massive bonus for all the hard work over the winter,” he said.
Thomas now leads the Tour Down Under by five seconds from Javier Moreno (Movistar), who was second on stage two. Ben Hermans, who was third on the stage, holds the same place overall, seven seconds behind Thomas.
The Welshman has previously shown his climbing abilities in the Tour De France, most notably on stage 12 of the 2011 edition, where he formed part of a brave but ultimately doomed breakaway on the road to Luz Ardiden.
Yesterday, he deployed his abilities on the slopes to chase down and pass George Benett (RadioShack-Leopard). The young Kiwi recovered to join Thomas on the steep descent into Rostrevor, with team-mate, Hermans, and the Spaniard, Moreno.
“I always knew that I’d have decent legs on the climb I just wasn’t sure how I’d go,” Thomas added. “I got a bit excited and attacked a bit earlier on there.
“With about 400 metres to go I was starting to tie up but fortunately there was that group behind and we were able to work well together.”
The Team Sky man showed discipline to remain at the rear of the quartet as they approached the finish, before launching a well-timed sprint for victory.
The 116.5km stage began with a flurry of attacks as the race pulled out of Mt Barker. Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) who won last year’s second stage with a 147km solo effort begun after the first kilometre, followed Calvin Watson (UniSA – Australia) in the first significant move. The pair was joined by Christopher Juul Jensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), and Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R).
Clarke was the last of the quartet to be hauled back, after surviving for nearly 100km.
More attacks followed with 10km to go, but the speed of the bunch prevented anyone from breaking clear. A heavy crash on the descent into Rostrevor brought down about 40 riders, including world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert, but no-one was badly hurt.
Stage three will see the riders tackle a rolling 139km parcourse from Unley to Stirling that ends in an uphill finish.
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Santos Tour Down Under 2013 – stage two – result
1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 2.44.18
2) Javier Moreno (SPA) – Movistar +1”
3) Ben Hermans (BEL) – Radioshack-Leopard- ST
4) Tom Slagter (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – ST
5) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
6) Daniele Pietropolli (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
7) Jack Bauer (NZL) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
8) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – ST
9) Ion Izagirre (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
10) George Bennett (NZL) – RadioShack-Leopard – ST
1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 6.19.32
2) Javier Moreno (SPA) – Movistar +5”
3)Ben Hermans (BEL) – Radioshack-Leopard + 7”
4) Daniel Pietropolli (ITA) – Lampre – Merida +14”
5) Tom Slagter (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – ST
6) Ion Izagirre (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
7)Gorka Izagirre (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
8) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
9) Jack Bauer (NZL) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
10) Tiago Machado (POR) – RadioShack-Leopard – ST