by Justin Davis
ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan 22, 2012 (AFP) – Australian champion Simon Gerrans
secured his second career victory in the Tour Down Under Sunday following a
tense 90 kilometer (55 mile) final stage, won by Germany’s Andre Greipel.
While Lotto-Belisol sprinter Greipel took his third stage win of the week
and 11th in total, Gerrans claimed his first-ever stage race victory on the
WorldTour and the first-ever win for the peloton’s newest team, GreenEdge.
“It’s just fantastic. I really can’t thank my teammates at GreenEdge
enough,” said Gerrans, who won the race in 2006 when it was not yet part of
cycling’s elite calendar.
“We had a tough task today with Alejandro Valverde, he’s a tough customer.
But I managed to hold on to the lead today, and I couldn’t be happier.”
After a thrilling fifth stage on Friday which gave Gerrans the ochre jersey
when he finished runner-up to Spanish ace Valverde, there was still plenty at
stake on the final stage.
Gerrans started the 20-lap circuit race with the same overall time as the
Movistar team leader, but with the ochre jersey by virtue of better placings
in previous stages.
GreenEdge were given a boost when early attacks ate up the bonus seconds on
offer at the intermediate sprints, where Valverde could have taken the virtual
But from the midway point until the final two laps the Australian outfit
were given a fresh challenge when RadioShack-Nissan rider Belgian Jan
Bakelants, only 19 seconds adrift of Gerrans, went on the attack.
GreenEdge sent Cameron Meyer up the road to mark him, but instead of
pulling Bakelants back, Meyer’s relays at the front helped increase the
Belgian’s lead on the chasing peloton to 51secs, making him the virtual leader.
In the final two laps, however, Meyer put GreenEdge back into the black
when he attacked solo. The bunch soon had Bakelants in their sights, and he
was easily reeled in.
The final lap then saw several teams move to the front as they jostled for
position ahead of an imminent bunch sprint. But heading into the home straight
only one team, Lotto-Belisol, dominated.
“What can I say? I think the team was just amazing,” said two-time race
champion Greipel, who came off the wheels of teammates Adam Hansen and Greg
Henderson to finish comfortably ahead of his sprint rivals.
“I need to say ‘chapeau’ (hat’s off) to all the guys, the way they did the
sprint they made it look easy. All I had to do was the final 200 meters.”
Valverde finished second overall, with the same time as Gerrans, while
Portuguese Tiago Machado of RadioShack-Nissan was third at 08sec.
Despite only making his competitive return following a two-year doping ban,
the Spaniard made an immediate impact by winning the toughest stage on Friday.
“I’m very happy finishing second in the race,” said Valverde.
“It’s much better than I expected when I came to Australia. Today was a
super-fast stage with a bit of wind which made it even harder.”
Pre-race contender Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) secured the sprinters’
jersey and, in the young riders’ standings the Norwegian finished runner-up to
Australian Rohan Dennis (UniSA), who also won the best climbers’ jersey.
Results from the sixth and final
stage of the Tour Down Under WorldTour event, a 90km circuit race, Sunday:
1. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 1hr 56min 48sec, 2. Mark Renshaw (AUS/RAB) same
time, 3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM) s.t., 4. Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR/FDJ)
s.t., 5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) s.t., 6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY)
s.t., 7. Romain Feillu (FRA/VCD) s.t., 8. Jonathan Cantwell (AUS/SAX) s.t., 9.
Fabio Sabatini (ITA/LIQ) s.t., 10. Manuel Belletti (ITA/ALM) s.t.
Selected: 15. William Bonnet (FRA/FDJ) s.t., 25. Alejandro Valverde
(ESP/MOV) s.t., 27. Simon Gerrans (AUS/GEC) s.t.
1. Simon Gerrans (AUS) GreenEdge 20hr 46min 12sec, 2. Alejandro Valverde
(ESP/MOV) same time, 3. Tiago Machado (POR/RNT) at 8secs, 4. Michael Rogers
(AUS/SKY) 14, 5. Rohan Dennis (AUS/UNI) s.t., 6. Jan Bakelants (BEL/RNT) 16,
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) 18, 8. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV) 23, 9.
Michael Matthews (AUS/RAB) 29, 10. Eduard Vorganov (RUS/KAT) 32
Selected: 18. Blel Kadri (FRA/ALM) 2:30, 28. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) 3:11,
30. Romain Lemarchand (FRA/ALM) 3:33