Portugal’s reigning road champion Manuel Cardoso upstaged a 2009 grand tour champion and the current World Champion to win stage three of the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under.
Cardoso crossed the line in a time of 3hr14min38sec, one second clear of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) who won last year’s Tour of Spain and 2009 elite men’s road race World Champion, Australian Cadel Evans (BMC).
Oppressive weather saw temperatures top the 40 degree mark but the riders overcame the heat to stage an exciting battle over an undulating course through the Adelaide Hills watched on by an estimated 102,000 fans. Cardoso was impressive on the sharp, punchy climb into the finish line in the town of Stirling after 132.5km of hard, hot riding from the start in the Adelaide suburb of Unley.
“I was extremely happy to have won the tough stage to Stirling,” said Cardoso. “Once the attack had been closed Caisse d’Epargne did a lot of work on the front in preparation for the finish but I was able to make a big move in the final kilometre.
“I don’t think I have a chance to win the overall despite my win here, I have had a lot of hard days over the first couple of days of this race, I am probably too far behind,” said Cardoso who is 8min40sec off the overall race lead. “But it was really important for me, it is my first pro race, first pro team, first ProTour victory for me and the team, so it is a very important win.”
Overnight Tour leader, Germany’s Andre Greipel, (HTC-Columbia), survived the day to finish with the front group to hold on to the Santos Ochre Leader’s jersey.
“Yes just because of my team mates we control the race, we control the whole day and in the end I try to stay on the wheels of the others to just stay in the same time like the bunch,” said Greipel who admits he suffered in the heat. “I had cramps everywhere on my body.”
A flurry of attacks at the start of the stage left some riders struggling on the uphill drag of the Southern Expressway and several were involved in a crash including reigning American road champion, George Hincapie. They all eventually rejoined the race.
Seven time Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, needed a new rear wheel after puncturing at the 22 kilometre mark but he too was soon back in the peloton.
Meantime at the front the attacks were coming thick and fast but unlike the previous two stages the protaganists were kept on a very short leash by HTC-Columbia who were controlling the front of the peloton to protect Greipel’s lead.
The first Jayco Intermediate sprint at McLaren Flat (30.9km) went to Spaniard Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel – Euskadi) ahead of Australian Peter McDonald (UniSA-Australia) with Andriy Grivko of the Ukraine (Astana) third across the line.
But their time in the front was shortlived and it was then the turn of South Australia’s Luke Roberts and his Milram team mate Thomas Rohregger (AUT) to go on the attack with the view of putting Rohregger in the lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain classification. Over the Wickhams Hill climb at 38.5 kilometres Rohregger collected the points ahead of Roberts with Kazakh Valveriy Dmitriyev (Astana) third. Tim Roe (UniSA- Australia) managed to get points for fourth place but it wasn’t enough for him to hold on to the climber’s jersey.
At the 70 kilometre mark the most promising attack was instigated by Victorian Simon Clarke (UniSA-Australia) and Dutch rider Karsten Kroon (BMC). They were then joined by reigning U23 road time trial World Champion, Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions) and managed to forge a small 40 second lead on the peloton.
The trio contested the second Jayco intermediate sprint at Echunga (74km) with Kroon first across the line ahead of Clarke then Bobridge. After the sprint German rider Jens Voight (Saxo Bank) and Poland’s Maciej Paterski (Liquigas) managed to bridge the gap and the five leaders then worked together to try and increase their chances of staying clear to contest the finish.
As they crossed the finish line at Stirling to start the first of two twenty kilometre circuits out and back from Stirling the five in front had a gap of 50 seconds.
“It was hot and I think the Europeans really struggled towards the end, yeah they won but the guys in the break that were going hard were strong a bit earlier but when we started hitting these laps they really started struggling and that was when it started to get hot,” said Clarke who along with Bobridge then jumped clear of their fellow breakaways. “It was the perfect conditions for the guys who have been preparing in Australia and the Aussies and also with the wind so it was definitely a good opportunity.
“We gave it everything we could and then Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma – Lotto) came across as well but Caisse D’Epargne had other intentions.”
Even with the support of the thousands who lined the road they couldn’t hold off the charge of the peloton who swallowed up the leaders before the finish line opening the way for the climbers to stretch their legs in a bid for the podium.
“It was a bit of a strange old day, a bit harder than most expected, pretty windy and the heat of course,” said Evans. “Coming into the last kilometre it was like riding in slow motion almost, everyone was so exhausted.
“It is not often I get into the last kilometre with (sprinter) Robbie McEwen, in fact never,” he said. “My team are all a bit disappointed, I told them not to ride for me today, then I come third.”
Overall Greipel is still leading by a 14 second margin from Team Sky’s Greg Henderson (NZL) with Belgian Gert Steegmans (Radioshack) ranked third, also at 14 seconds. Valverde is now in fourth place overall also at 14 seconds. Evans has moved into seventh at 16 seconds.
The Skoda King of the Mountain jersey is now on the shoulders of Austrian rider Thomas Rohregger of Milram. Greipel also leads the Jayco Sprint classification and Belgian Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma – Lotto) is the top ranked Cycle Instead Young Rider.
UniSA-Australia’s Simon Clarke was named the Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider of the Day.