Movistar rider Francisco Ventoso won Stage 5 of the Santos Tour Down Under in Wilunga today, with Michael Matthews of Rabobank second and HTC-Highroad’s Matt Goss third, picking up vital bonus seconds that could yet see him overhaul race leader Cameron Meyer to win the overall title in Adelaide tomorrow.
Goss lost the race lead to Meyer yesterday, slipping to third in the overall standings, 12 seconds behind the Garmin-Cervélo rider, but the bonus seconds that he gains as a result of his third place today have seen him close the gap to eight seconds, Meyer coming home in the same group of 18 riders to limit the damage.
Tomorrow’s Stage 6 in Adelaide, which covers 20 laps of a 4.5km circuit for a total of 90km, should suit Goss perfectly. The 24-year-old has been in terrific form since winning the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic Series of criteriums earlier this month, and yesterday picked up four bonus seconds at the day’s first intermediate sprint, and four more for his third place finish.
With a total of 16 seconds available in tomorrow’s final stage, which includes two intermediate sprints, Meyer will need to stick to Goss like glue to attempt to limit the damage and protect his slender lead.
Afterwards, Meyer, who also tops the Cycle Instead Young Rider classification, said: "At the end of the day it was a perfect situation for us. Obviously it looks like Matt Goss has picked up a few more seconds and closed the gap, and so has Michael Matthews, but the plan was not let him get the full 12 seconds back and make sure we held on to the jersey today."
Goss, however, is determined to battle him for the ochre jersey tomorrow, with his team mates also planning to go all out to support him in his cause.
"The day went alright, I ended up in the bunch I wanted to be in," he revealed afterwards. "It wasn't a perfect sprint for me I made a bit of a mistake. I tried to get on the side with less wind but I got close to the barrier a little bit.
"I still managed to get third and I'm a few seconds away from the lead so I'm there for a crack tomorrow," he continued.
"I can try and get some bonus seconds and try and get the win I've been so close all week. I've been in and out of the jersey so if the pattern keeps going the way it has it's my turn to get back into the jersey tomorrow," Goss insisted.
While riders such as Robbie McEwen of RadioShack, Omega Pharma Lotto's Andre Griepel, and Astana's Allan Davies - all past winners of the race - will also be vying to compete for teh win tomorrow, the key feature of the stage is likely to be the battle between Goss's HTC-Highroad team and Meyer's Garmin-Cervelo outfit.
"I'll be having fingers crossed, hopefully Tyler (Farrar)and Julian (Dean) get time bonuses over the sprinters, but it's going to come right down to the wire," said Meyer. "But I have a good team around me and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.
"My legs were good, so hopefully tomorrow everything works out well and we might have the jersey at the end of it," the race leader added.
Today's stage winner Ventoso crossed the line just inches ahead of runner-up Matthews, the 20-year-old victor of Stage 3 and the current World Under-23 Champion on the road.
"This is a massive victory for me, but more important for the team," claimed Ventoso afterwards.
"We have a new sponsor this year and to win is really important. We can be calm for the rest of the year, now we have won a race," he added.
"My legs today are stronger than other days. The crowds were incredible and the ambience is very special for cycling," Ventoso concluded.
Britain's Ben Swift was tenth today, the Team Sky rider now lying sixth overall, 18 seconds behind Meyer, while HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish, who crashed heavily on Stage 2, still occupies the lanterne rouge spot.
The Manxman crossed the line in penultimate place today, nearly a quarter of an hour after Ventoso in the company of Tyler Farrar and Julia Dean, the Garmin-Cervelo pairing presumably saving their strength to help team mate Meyer tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s closing stage will be shown live on Sky Sports 4 in the UK at between 0230-0530, with extended highlights aired on Sky Sports 3 between 1600-1700.
Santos Tour Down Under Stage 5 Result 1 Francisco Ventoso Movistar 03:06:10 2 Michael Matthews Rabobank st 3 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad st 4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Movistar st 5 Luke Roberts UNI SA - Australia st 6 Robbie Hunter RadioShack st 7 Blel Kadri AG2R La Mondiale st 8 Alessandro Ballan BMC st 9 Ben Hermans RadioShack st 10 Ben Swift Sky Procycling st Santos Tour Down Under Overall Standings after Stage 5 1 Cameron Meyer Garmin-Cervelo 16:00:40 2 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad 00:08 3 Laurens ten Dam Rabobank 00:10 4 Michael Matthews Rabobank 00:12 5 Francisco Ventoso Movistar 00:17 6 Ben Swift Sky Procycling 00:18 7 Blel Kadri AG2R La Mondiale 00:26 8 Andre Greipel Omega Pharma-Lotto 00:27 9 Allan Davis Astana 00:28 10 Luke Roberts UNI SA - Australia st
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.