Geraint Thomas Takes The Lead At Tour Down Under

by Andrew Dent

ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan 23, 2013 (AFP) – Britain’s Geraint Thomas launched
an audacious attack on Corkscrew Hill then outsprinted his rivals to record a
brilliant win in the second stage of the Tour Down Under Wednesday.

Thomas, who won gold in the team pursuit at the London Olympics, broke
clear halfway up Corkscrew Hill five kilometres from the finish line and was
too strong in the closing stages, taking both the stage win and the overall
lead in the season-opening WorldTour race.

The 26-year-old said he had been training hard heading into the new season,
using London teammate Bradley Wiggins as motivation.

“Seeing what Brad did (at the Tour de France) last year has definitely
given me the confidence to really push on on the road,” Thomas said after
winning the stage in 2hr 44min 18sec.

Thomas took the field by surprise when he attacked on Corkscrew.

Although he was caught by three other riders on the downhill run to the
finish line, he attacked again 400 metres from home to claim the 116.5km stage
from Mt Barker to Rostrevor.

Spaniard Javier Moreno from Movistar was second with Radioshack Leopard’s
Belgian rider Ben Hermans third, both a second behind Thomas.

Thomas also took over the ochre jersey as outright leader from Andre
Greipel, the big German sprinter finishing more than six minutes back.

Thomas said afterwards he had been determined not to suffer a let down
after claiming gold in the team pursuit in London.

“As soon as I finished the Olympics I was straight back on the road,” he
said. “I wanted to start the year strong and that’s what I’ve done — it’s
definitely a nice reward for all the hard work over winter.”

World road race champion Philippe Gilbert’s chances of overall victory are
all but gone after he was involved in a crash soon after getting over
The Belgian was not badly hurt, but he limped home two minutes and 49
seconds behind the leaders. Frenchman Arnaud Courteille and Giovanni Visconti
of Italy were taken to hospital for assessment following the crash, but no
riders were seriously injured.

Last year’s champion, Australia’s Simon Gerrans, conceded his hopes of
defending the title were also gone after losing contact with the leading group
and finishing 2min 36sec behind Thomas.

Thomas said he was worried he had attacked too early on the 2.4km climb up

“At one point I did think perhaps I’d gone a bit early, got a bit keen up
that climb, but I managed to just hang on over the top and fortunately there
was another little group behind and we worked really well together,” he said.

“I just took a bit of a run at them and hit them with 400-350 meters to go.
I knew it was a fast finish and I just gave it everything.”

The Welshman was quietly confident of hanging on to the lead, although he
conceded Thursday’s stage from Unley to Stirling would not be easy.

“Tomorrow’s a tough stage, it’s a hard start so potentially there could be
a strong group go away which would be pretty dangerous,” he said.

“But we’ve got a strong team, we’re just going to try and defend it
tomorrow and if we do that it will be a real step forward.”

Thursday’s 139km stage starts in inner-city Unley and finishes with an
uphill sprint into the town of Stirling.

Results from the 116.5km second
stage of the UCI WorldTour Tour Down Under from Mt Barker to Rostrevor

1. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 2hr 44min 18sec, 2. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV) at
01 seconds, 3. Ben Hermans (BEL/RLT) s.t., 4. Tom Jelte Slagter (NED/BLA) at
04, 5. Tim Wellens (BEL/LTB) s.t., 6. Daniele Pietropolli (ITA/LAM) s.t., 7.
Jack Bauer (NZL/GRS) s.t., 8. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BLA) s.t. 9. Jon Izagirre
(ESP/EUS) s.t., 10. George Bennett (NZL/RLT) s.t
61. Simon Gerrans (AUS/OGE) 2min 36sec., 71. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC)
2min 49., 93. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 6min 14sec, 98. Andy Schleck (LUX/RLT)
6min 19sec

General Classification

1. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 6hr 19min 32sec, 2. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV) at
05 seconds, 3. Ben Hermans (BEL/RLT) at 07, 4. Daniele Pietropolli (ITA/LAM)
at 14, 5. Tom Jelte Slagter (NED/BLA) s.t., 6. Jon Izagirre (ESP/EUS) s.t., 7.
Gorka Izagirre (ESP/EUS) s.t., 8. Tim Wellens (BEL/LTB) s.t., 9. Jack Bauer
(NZL/GRS) s.t., 10. Tiago Machado (POR/RLT) s.t.
46. Simon Gerrans (AUS/OGE) at 2min 43sec, 61. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC)
2min 56sec, 85. Andre Greipel (GER/LTB) 6min 14sec, 103. Andy Schleck
(LUX/RLT) 7min 48sec

Photo: Corvos