Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge has become the first man to win the Santos Tour Down Under three times. Today’s sixth and final stage of the race was won in Adelaide by two-time overall winner André Greipel of Lotto-Belisol, who has now won a record 16 stages in the race.
With today being Australia Day, the country’s cyclists have much to celebrate, sweeping the honours board at the conclusion of the first UCI WorldTour race of 2014.
Besides clinching ochre jersey for the overall victory, Gerrans also won the Adam Internet Sprint contest and Orica-GreenEdge took the Hindmarsh Teams classification.
Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen won the Skoda King of the Mountain standings, and UniSA-Australia’s Jack Haig the Cycle Instead Bet Young Rider catorgory.
"I’ve got my third Tour Down Under win thanks to an outstanding team," commented Gerrans afterwards. "This is an Australian team, on Australia Day, in a WorldTour event, what else could I ask for?"
The 33-year-old won the race by just one second from BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans, the lead having changed hands yesterday on Old Willunga Hill. The podium was completed by Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi.
"It’s been a hard race for me and my team-mates," reflected Gerrans. "It’s been difficult to get the Ochre jersey back, what a tough week!”
Remarkably, Gerrans’ slender margin of victory this year isn’t as narrow as when he last won the race, in 2011 – then, he finished the race on the same time as Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, winning on countback.
"I had the experience from two years ago of defending the lead with a very small margin,” said Gerrans. "I was confident in my team-mates to take me home safely, which they did today. Until I crossed the line, I suspected that Diego Ulissi would try and do something, but it went all right."
Evans, meanwhile, who saw the seven-second lead he had held yesterday morning evaporate on the upper slopes of Old Willunga Hill, said: "This race is fantastic, the fans really make this race and this ambiance, I am so pleased, so proud of us as a cycling nation."
"I took my best judgement on the road [so] I have to be satisfied with how it went.
"We prefer to win, that's what we're hard-wired to win," he added. "[But] to lose by 1 second shows that we're in a good way."
Speaking of his win on a new, 4.7km Adelaide city-centre circuit that the peloton rode 18 times, Greipel said: "Chapeau to my team-mates, they rode incredibly fast so I could save myself for the last moment.
"This is a very nice victory for us, I had fast legs today and I’m confident in my capacities these days.
"It was difficult to keep the peloton together but everyone knew where we’d start the lead out. This new circuit is really fast but we have enough experience in the team to adjust ourselves to a new course. I’m really happy to come out of the Santos Tour Down Under as a winner again."
Greipel was followed across the line by two Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders – Mark Renshaw, who will be riding much of the season back in the service of Mark Cavendish after joining the Belgian team from Belkin, and Britain’s Andy Fenn.
Missing from the final sprint was Greipel’s compatriot and the man expected to pose the biggest threat to him during this week’s sprint stages, Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel, who got separated from his leadout man, Koen de Kort, who finished fourth today.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.