- Adelaide 19 – 26 January 2014
Greipel grabs a dozen
Andre Greipel opened his UCI WorldTour account with victory scoring his twelfth Santos Tour Down Under stage win to equal the record of recently retired Australian star Robbie McEwen.
The 30 year Lotto-Belisol rider was a favourite for line honours in the 135 kilometre L'Oreal Men Expert stage that wound its way from the northern Adelaide suburb of Prospect through the Adelaide Hills to the town of Lobethal.
"We expected more attacks,’’ Greipel said after the race.”The team did an awesome job again. It was hard to control and keep me up the front but the team did an awesome job."
The early action saw recently crowned U23 Australian road race champion Jordan Kerby (UniSA-Australia), 20, break away from the peloton to forge a solo lead that endured for 100 kilometres. Along the way the youngster collected maximum points over the Category 2 climb at Checker Hill (42km) to grab the early lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain classification.
"At the start of my first WorldTour race, I was pretty excited," said Kerby. "UniSA always try to be aggressive at the Tour Down Under. It was great to have Dave Sanders (Team Manager) telling me from the car to not overdo it. Once I got seven minutes lead, I tried to ride tempo."
Kerby also claimed top points in the first two Jayco Intermediate sprints in Charleston (67km and 92km). He was also awarded the Europcar Most Competitive Jersey award for the day.
"Now I’m the king of the mountains," Kerby said. "But it’s a very big challenge to keep the jersey with what’s coming up. I’ll give it a try though!"
But the Queenslander was caught soon after the 100 kilometre mark. Frenchman Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) tried to escape but as the third Jayco intermediate sprint in Charleston (118km) approached he was overtaken by reigning World Champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) who popped up to claim the three second time bonus and five points.
"I attacked with about 1km to go to the line (final bonus sprint) and I surprised him (Pineau). The time bonus is better for the car position," said Gilbert referring to the system that allocates positions for team cars in the convoy based on overall race rankings each day. "We were 18th today. It's easier to get the water bottles."
From then on the jostling began as the teams sorted out their plans for the final run into the line. Greipel's team set him up a treat and he sailed across the line ahead of Frenchman Arnaud Demare (FDJ) with Australian Mark Renshaw (Blanco) third.
"André (Greipel) is probably the fastest sprinter here, so it's normal that they (Lotto-Belisol) take control," said Renshaw. "The sprint for us went well. I had (David) Tanner and (Maarten) Tjallingii looking after me with 20km to go.
"(Graeme) Brown took over with 2km to go. Behind Greipel, I lost a few spots over the top of the climb. I had to start too far back in the sprint and I think I moved from sixth or seventh to third. It's a good sprint and it's a big improvement from Sunday.
"I think I am capable of a win this week. I have a good team working for me, so I think it's realistic to try to win a stage. I am competitive. Today was a pretty tough sprint stage," said Renshaw.
Greipel picked up a ten second winning bonus today and will go into tomorrow's stage with a four second lead over Demare and six seconds up on Renshaw. Greipel also leads the Jayco Sprint classification.
Demare is leading the Cycle Instead Best Young Rider category and Lampre-Merida is on top of the Hindmarsh Teams classification.
Tomorrow the 132 riders contest the Hahn Super Dry Stage 2 over a 116.5km course from Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills to the finish in the suburb of Rostrevor. The stage also boasts a new Skoda King of the Mountain climb up Corkscrew Hill which comes around seven kilometres from the finish.
"This (corkscrew) climb will decide a lot in this race," said Gilbert. "If it's hot like this, it will be hard. It's the beginning of the season and we will not have the same fitness as in the spring classics. I take more pleasure (racing) like this."
Meantime 2010 Tour de France Champion, Andy Schleck (RadioshackLeopard Trek) said today was a challenging return to the peloton for him.
"I was OK. I just don't know how to ride in the peloton anymore," said Schleck who was injured last year in a crash that cut short his season. "That was the most difficult part of the day. I lost contact with the bunch on the last downhill. I am not happy.
"The sensations are OK, but the results are not good. Physically, I am OK. I do not feel so safe in the peloton. You already saw it was getting nervous in the end. I was not in a good position, in the downhill and the right turn, I had to let go. I hope the next days are getting better and I get back the feeling."