Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) claimed his second victory of the 2014 Tour Down Under by winning the final stage as Australian national champion, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), clinched his third Tour Down Under title on Australia Day.
Greipel claimed his sixteenth career victory in the Australian WorldTour event, a race he has won on two occasions. Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol lead-out train delivered another flawless performance to deliver the German national champion to a winning position.
Greipel led home the Omega Pharma-Quickstep duo of Australia’s Mark Renshaw and Great Britain’s Andy Fenn, with the former just failing to deliver a perfect day of national celebration for the thousands who lined the streets of Adelaide.
The German champion paid tribute to his Lotto-Belisol colleagues, whose lead out is widely considered the best in the business, but the day belonged in equal measure to Orica-GreenEDGE. Australia’s only WorldTour team controlled the stage to prevent any of Gerrans’ rivals from launching an attack that might have threatened the result.
The Melbourne native had begun the day with only a single second advantage over arguably the greatest of all Australian riders, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). The former Tour de France and world road race champion had been unable to respond to what would transpire to be Gerrans’ race-winning move on Old Willunga Hill the previous day, and finished the race in Adelaide still one second from victory.
Gerrans retained his advantage over another countryman, Richie Porte (Team Sky). The Tasmanian had launched a blistering attack to win on Old Willunga Hill and bring himself to within five seconds of Gerrans on GC, but as the race ended, Porte had been unable to change matters, despite backing from some of the biggest engines in the Team Sky squad. Both Porte and Evans will target victory at the Giro d’Italia.
The final podium was rounded out with the presence of Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), the young Italian who looks set to deliver on the huge promise shown in his 2013 campaign. After victory on stage two, the 24-year-old hung tough to finish ahead of Gerrans on stages three and five, but he was unable to overhaul the Australian when it mattered on the closing stage.
After five days of racing in south Australia, the Tour Down Under was decided over 18 laps of a 4.7km street circuit in Adelaide. When the breakaway escaped, it would have surprised no-one to learn that it contained Will Clarke (Drapac), whose heroics in the 2012 race saw him win stage two with an attack from the gun. Clarke had lit up this year’s race too, and he went clear early in the day with Angelo Tulik (Europcar), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Julien Berard. Tulik’s time in the spotlight was short-lived, however, when he crashed while cornering.
The trio continued, even surviving when Clarke punctured on the third lap, but the efforts of Team Sky had inspired the peloton to raise the tempo. Orica-GreenEDGE were next on the front, but the Australian team was more intent on controlling matters and allowing the opportunities for bonus seconds to fall to the breakaway than in catching the escapees.
When the time came to take centre stage, Greipel’s supporting cast did not fluff their lines, and with another superbly disciplined performance, positioned their man to claim a sixteenth victory on Australian soil.
The UCI WorldTour calendar does not have another fixture now until early March, when the teams will assemble for Paris-Nice. In the meantime, most are likely to continue racing in the desert climes of Dubai, Qatar, and Oman, before returning to Europe for Paris-Nice and the eight-stage journey from the French capital to the Cote d’Azure, where Porte, should he start, will do so as defending champion.
Tour Down Under 2014: stage six – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belsiol – 1.55.16
2) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – ST
3) Andy Fenn (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4) Keon De Kort (NED) – Giant-Shimano
5) Jonathan Cantwell (AUS) – Drapac
6) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
7) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp
8) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
9) Michal Kolar (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo
10) Matthew Hayman (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
1) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 19.57.35
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +1″
3) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +5″
4) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +10″
5) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +27″
6) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +30″
7) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE +34″
8) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +37″
9) Adam Hansen (AUS) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
10) Egor Silin (RUS) – Katusha +47″