Simon Gerrans Wins On Australia Day, Slagter Takes Lead

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by Andrew Dent

ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan 26, 2013 (AFP) – Local hero Simon Gerrans
celebrated Australia’s national day in style with a thrilling win in the fifth
stage of the Tour Down Under on Saturday.

Gerrans flashed home to edge out Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter, who seized the
overall lead from Welshman Geraint Thomas with another superb ride.

Gerrans, the 2012 champion from Australian team Orica GreenEDGE, sent the
huge crowd at the finish line on top of Old Willunga Hill into raptures as he
passed Slagter with 200 meters to go and held on to win his first stage of the
week.

Slagter’s second place was enough to see the Blanco Pro Cycling rider take
the ochre leader’s jersey from Thomas, who was well in contention until he ran
out of steam 600 meters from the finish line.

Thomas slipped back to 17th place, 28 seconds behind the Dutchman, and now
lies in fifth place in the general classification, well out of contention for
overall honors with only Sunday’s 90-kilometre (56 miles) stage on the
Adelaide street circuit remaining.

Slagter, 23, had celebrated his first win as a professional when he won
Wednesday’s second stage to Stirling.

He is now almost certain to be crowned overall winner when the race
finishes on Sunday, giving Blanco, formerly known as Rabobank, a win in their
first race as a new team.

“This whole week has been amazing for all the team — the first win for me
and today I can hang this (ochre) jersey around my shoulders, it’s amazing,”
he said.

Slagter said he hoped the success would help attract a new sponsor,
following Rabobank’s decision to withdraw funding in the wake of doping
scandals.

“For everyone it’s the first race so to go home with the stage win and
hopefully the general, it’s the best start you can have,” he said.

“This is the best way to show to the Dutch people and the world how nice
cycling can be and what we can do.

“I’m proud of the team and I hope we can find a new sponsor.”

Saturday’s 151.5-kilometre stage from McLaren Vale to the top of Old
Willunga Hill saw the riders complete three circuits around Aldinga Beach
before two climbs up the infamous Category One hill.

A group of seven broke away on the first of the three beach circuits and at
one stage had opened a gap of over four minutes.

But the peloton picked up the pace and gathered them in right at the start
of the first climb up Old Willunga.

Movistar’s Eros Capecchi and Jose Herrada Lopez then attacked on the hill
along with AG2R La Mondiale’s Guillaume Bonnafond, and they were soon joined
by Jurgen Roelandts from Lotto Belisol.

The four riders crossed the top of the hill 300 meters ahead of the peloton
and opened a slight lead on the last circuit before the final climb.

However, the peloton closed again and the race was back together at the
bottom of the hill, when the final attacks began.

Swiss rider Steve Morabito (BMC Racing), Portugal’s Tiago Machado
(RadioShack Leopard) and German Bert Grabsch (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) opened
a small break, before Machado tried to go on his own.

With 800 meters to go Gerrans flew from the front of the peloton and passed
Machado, only for Slagter to go past them both, leaving a spent Thomas in his
wake.

However, Gerrans stayed on Slagter’s wheel and delighted the fans when he
overtook the young Dutchman.

“I’ve been really struggling with my asthma and today was the first day
that my chest was clear,” Gerrans said.

Results from the 151.5km fifth
stage of the UCI WorldTour Tour Down Under from McLaren Vale to Old Willunga
Hill Saturday:

1. Simon Gerrans (AUS/OGE) 3hr 36min 25sec, 2. Tom-Jelte Slagter (NED/BLA)
s.t., 3. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV) at 10sec, 4. Jon Izagirre (ESP/EUS) 12, 5.
Tiago Machado (POR/RLT) 13, 6. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BLA) 16, 7. Gorka Izagirre
(ESP/EUS) s.t., 8. Rafael Valls Ferri (ESP/VCD) s.t., 9. Daniele Pietropolli
(ITA/LAM) s.t., 10. Ben Hermans (BEL/RLT) s.t.
Selected
17. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) at 28, 61. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 3min
02sec, 103. Andy Schleck (LUX/RLT) 12min 49sec.

General Classification

1. Tom-Jelte Slagter (NED/BLA) 16hr 35min 33sec, 2. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV)
at 13sec, 3. Ben Hermans (BEL/RLT) 25, 4. Jon Izagirre (ESP/EUS) 28, 5.
Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 29, 6. Tiago Machado (POR/RLT) s.t., 7. Gorka
Izagirre (ESP/EUS) 32, 8. Daniele Pietropolli (ITA/LAM) s.t., 9. Wilco
Kelderman (NED/BLA) s.t., 10. Jussi Veikkanen (FIN/FDJ) 37
Selected
26. Simon Gerrans (AUS/OGE) at 3min 17sec, 35. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC)
5min 50sec, 64. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 12min 34sec, 127. Andy Schleck
(LUX/RLT) 39min 29sec

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