The Santos Tour Down Under thundered into Victor Harbor today with German sprint sensation Andre Greipel leading home a bunch gallop to win the third stage and reclaim the overall lead. The Lotto-Belisol rider, who won both the curtain raiser Down Under Classic race on Sunday night and the first stage of the Tour into Clare on Tuesday, was just too fast for his rivals edging out FDJ – BigMat rider Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) by half a wheel with Norwegian Evald Boasson Hagen (Sky) third across the line.
“This victory is for Jurgen Roelandts who unfortunately supports us from the hospital,” said Greipel of his team mate who was injured in the crash at the end of the stage into Clare. “We’re nearly three riders down but the rest of the team that is not injured has been awesome today.
The win puts Greipel back into the ochre leader’s jersey with an eight second margin over Swiss rider Martin Kohler (BMC). Australian Michael Matthews (Rabobank) finished with the bunch and remains in third place overall at 12 seconds.
“I’m happy to get back into the lead but the time bonus (10 seconds for the stage win) I got again isn’t important in my mind,” said Greipel who has twice won overall honours but concedes he is unlikely to win a third. “The Willunga stage (Saturday) is too hard for me to win GC this year. With two stage wins, we’ve already reached our goal. We can’t have everything and we just take it day by day.”
The stage today departed from the cosmopolitan shopping hub of Unley for a 134.5km route that took in the breath taking countryside of both the McLaren Vale and the picturesque coastal scenes of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
A group of three went down the road in the first five kilometres made up of Russian Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) and Belgians Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) and Thomas De Gendt (Vaconsoleil-DCM). They were soon joined by Ireland’s Matthew Brammeier (Omega Pharma – Quickstep).
De Gendt was the only rider in the quartet already on the board in the SKODA King of the Mountain competition so, not surprisingly, he hit out up Sellicks Hill Category 2 climb to claim the maximum ten points ahead of Brammeier, Bakelants and Vorganov. That puts De Gendt in the polka dot jersey with a two point lead over yesterday’s stage winner Tasmanian Will Clarke (UniSA-Australia).
The break stretched to a lead of around five minutes but the peloton, after failing to catch Clarke yesterday, judged today’s chase to perfection.
The two Jayco intermediate sprints were hotly contested by the top three placed riders with a maximum of six bonus seconds up for grabs and all within 12 seconds of the race lead. De Gendt proved the swiftest of the trio battling for the points and won the dash for the line at both Mt Compass (65km) and Goolwa (89.4km). By then the margin had shrunk to less than two minutes.
“Three of the four riders (in the break) had the same goal and that was to take the second sprint and then after that we just wanted to go back to the peloton,” said De Gendt.
After the sprint at Goolwa Brammeier tried a solo attack off the front as the peloton reeled in his there fellow escapees and although he held on for a few more kilometres it wasn’t too be his day for victory. Ten kilometres from home the pace was frenetic as the sprinter’s jostled for position.
“It was our intention to keep the breakaway in sight with a good gap. The crosswinds have made the race faster. The one kilometre to go mark was the most important point of today’s stage,” said Greipel. “I told my team-mates ‘I need to be in fifth or sixth position at that point’.They did a great job to put me there and I finished it off.”
De Gendt’s efforts along the road moved him up to fourth overall, 14 seconds off Greipel’s lead.
“The legs are not so good but I will try to attack. I think tomorrow is the best for me just to stay in the peloton and then Old Willunga Hill is going to be so hard but I am going to try and be in the front.”
Matthews still leads the Cycle Intead Best Young Rider under 26 classification but was a little disapointed with today’s finish.
“The boys had a really good lead out for me and I just couldn’t really hold the wheel in the last couple of kilometres,” said Matthews. “It just got a bit messy and Mark Renshaw [Rabobank team mate] held the lead out but I just wasn’t there to finish it.”
Tomorrow’s BUPA Stage 4 travels 130km from Norwood in Adelaide’s eastern suburb’s to Tanunda in the Barossa wine growing region. Stage 4 also hosts the Bupa Challenge Tour with more than seven thousand cycling enthusiasts hopping on their bikes to ride the race route. Joining them on the family friendly Tanunda loop will be cycling legend, Eddy Merckx.
Photo: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo
Source: Santos Tour Down Under