Ben Swift took his second stage of the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under today, and third overall, with Greg Henderson second as Team Sky scuppered HTC-Columbia’s attempt to set up Matt Goss for the final sprint and the victory that would give him the overall title. Instead, with Goss finishing third, it’s Garmin-Cervélo’s Cameron Meyer who wins the first event of the 2011 UCI World Calendar.
The 90 kilometre stage in Adelaide, taking place on 20 laps of a 4.6km circuit, began with two riders harbouring realistic hopes of the overall title, race leader Cameron Meyer of Garmin-Cervélo and HTC-Highroad’s Matt Goss, eight seconds back in second, although the Rabobank pairing of Laurens ten Dam and Michael Matthews also had a slim outside chance.
From the start, Garmin-Cervélo signalled their intention to take the race to HTC-Highroad to defend Meyer’s lead, with Matt Wilson launching a solo attack, and the Australian was soon joined by former Tour Down Under winner and Adelaide resident Stuart O’Grady of Leopard Trek, Iaki Isasi of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Dimitro Champion of AG2R.
Luke Durbridge of Uni SA also bridged the lap on the second lap, while behind the leading quintet, HTC-Highroad’s big guns including Bernie Eisel, Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish took control of the front of the peloton, of the vital bonus seconds on offer on lap 8 that might help Goss bridge the gap on Meyer.
Ahead of that, as the peloton closed O’Grady jumped off the front of the escape group, Durbridge subsequently joining him, but they were swept up just before the start of the lap 8. Mindful of the looming intermediate sprint, Travis Meyer of Garmin-Cervélo now attacked to try and claim the bonus seconds on offer, but he was caught on Montefiori Hill as HTC-Highroad roared past like a train.
However, as Goss seemed poised to take the sprint as his team mates led him out, Raboank’s Michael Matthews, fourth overall and wearing the Best Young Rider jersey, came through to pip him on the line and take virtual third place on the podium from his team mate Laurens ten Dam.
Another sprint was scheduled for lap 12, but first there was the issue of the King of the Mountains jersey to be decided, classification leader Luke Roberts crossing under the banner on Montefiore Hill first to take the title.
The group of five that Roberts was riding with was overhauled on lap 12 as the second intermediate sprint came into sight, with Astana and BMC prominent riders at the front of the peloton followed by the ever-vigilant HTC-Highroad.
This time, however, the riders contesting the overall title missed out on the bonus seconds, the Rabobank pair of Jos van Emden and Tom Leezer looking back over their shoulders, presumably for Matthews or ten Dam, as they crossed the line, with Allan Davis of Astana taking third to pip Goss.
Another breakaway group formed shortly afterwardsm but by the penultimate lap just three survived, O’Grady, his former Saxo Bank colleague Nicki Sorensen and Simon Zahner of BMC Racing, but they were caught head of the bell as the peloton ratcheted up the speed ahead of the final battle.
HTC-Highroad's Mark Renshaw shrugged off some barging from Saxo Bank’s Juan Jose Haedo as he tried to lead out team mate Goss, but the 24-year-old Australian was unable to fully profit and finished third behind the Team Sky pairing of Swift and Henderson to miss out on the overall title by just two seconds from Meyer – although he does win the Jayco Sprint Jersey – while Swift’s win saw him take the third podium place.
Afterwards, Swift, who had also won Wednesday's Stage 2, said: "It's not just a stage race, it's a race within a race. I was struggling really bad half way through after the efforts of Willunga yesterday (but my team) is just perfect, throughout the race they supported me, they made sure I was not on the outside or in the wind all day and Matt Hayman did an awesome job coming into the last corner. It really was just unbelievable."
Goss meanwhile was left to rue a race that he had led earlier in the week eluding him at the very end.
"Two seconds off it," he reflected. "But (Mark) Renshaw was doing the perfect job, he has all week, I just went on the opposite side, I didn't want to take the risk of getting shut on the barrier again, it didn't work out unfortunately.
"I guess it's a little bit of a disappointment, but it's also not a bad result, the team rode awesome all week and they completely supported me. I can't thank those guys enough.
"We had a great race, and if it wasn't for a couple of mishaps, maybe it would be different but that's bike riding," said Goss. "It just didn't really work out this year, but I will come back next year, I have a few years left here."
Race winner Cameron Meyer, meanwhile, was coming to terms with his victory, which seems him join past victors such as Australian riders Stuart O'Grady, Simon Gerrans, Michael Rogers and Allan Davis and overseas stars including Andre Greipel and Luis Leon Sanchez.
"My brother (team mate Travis) said when we were looking at all the photos in the Hilton of the past winners, with Griepel and all that with big muscles, and now there's going to be little scrawny Cameron," the Garmion-Cervelo rider said immediately after crossing the line. "It is going to look a little bit different."
"It hasn't sunk in quite yet," continued the 23-year-old. "To race in front of tens of thousands of people all cheering my name, so many friends and family and supporters out there, was fantastic.
"(Today) our plans were to go out hard and aggressive to put the pressure on HTC-Highroad," added Meyer. "It looks like they had to use their men up quite a lot and maybe Goss didn't quite have the train (at the end).
"I can't thank my team enough, it was fantastic. It's my first pro win and my first tour win, a great way to start the year for the team," he concluded.
Santos Tour Down Under IG Markets Stage 6 results 1 Ben Swift Sky Procycling 01:53:47 2 Greg Henderson Sky Procycling st 3 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad st 4 Robbie McEwen Radio Shack st 5 Juan Jose Haedo Saxo Bank Sungard st 6 Allan Davis Astana st 7 Andre Greipel Omega Pharma-Lotto st 8 Romain Feillu Vacansoleil-DCM st 9 Davide Vigano Leopard Trek st 10 Jonathan Cantwell UNI SA - Australia st Santos Ochre Leaders' Jersey 1 Cameron Meyer Garmin-Cervelo 17:54:27 2 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad 00:02 3 Ben Swift Sky Procycling 00:08 4 Michael Matthews Rabobank 00:09 5 Laurens ten Dam Rabobank 00:10 6 Francisco Ventoso Movistar 00:17 7 Andre Greipel Omega Pharma-Lotto 00:26 8 Blel Kadri AG2R La Mondiale st 9 Allan Davis Astana 00:27 10 Luke Roberts UNI SA - Australia 00:28 Jayco Sprint Jersey 1 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad 28 2 Michael Matthews Rabobank 20 3 Thomas De Gendt Vacansoleil-DCM 20 Skoda King of the Mountain Jersey 1 Luke Roberts UNI SA - Australia 60 2 Ben Hermans Radio Shack 36 3 Mitchell Docker UNI SA - Australia 32 Cycle Instead Young Rider Jersey 1 Cameron Meyer Garmin-Cervelo 17:54:27 2 Matthew Goss HTC-Highroad 00:02 3 Ben Swift Sky Procycling 00:08 SA Brilliant Blend Winning Team Jersey 1 Movistar 53:44:56 2 Vacansoleil-DCM at 00:08 3 AG2R La Mondiale at 00:25
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.