GreenEdge take maiden WorldTour race as bonus seconds elude Valverde

Simon Gerrans has today joined GreenEdge team mate Stuart O’Grady and Lotto-Belisol’s André Greipel in winning the overall title in the Santos Tour Down Under. Greipel himself won today’s 90-kilometre street circuit race in Adelaide, while Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, who had started the day on the same time overall as Gerrans, was unable to pick up even a single second in time bonuses that would have given him victory.

Gerrans had taken the ochre jersey yesterday after Valverde pipped him to the line at the Stage 5 finish on Old Willunga Hill, the Australian taking on the race leadership by virtue of having finished higher up the order, on average, than the Spaniard had in precious stages.

"When I was told yesterday that I was getting the leader's jersey, I didn't feel any pressure at all, it was just a nice surprise. I knew it would give us a tough job for this last stage, but as it turns out, I can't be happier," explained Gerrans, who a fortnight ago got his and GreenEdge’s season off to a perfect start when he won the Australian national road race championship. "This is just fantastic. I can't thank the GreenEdge team enough for this victory,” he added.

"We had a tough task today to control Alejandro Valverde who is a classics rider. The last lap was very fast," he continued. "It's an even sweeter victory than my first one here in 2006. It gives me the opportunity to thank for the first time the Ryan family [GreenEdge team owners Gerry and Andrew] and [GreenEdge General Manager] Shayne Bannan for putting this team together. It couldn't be a better start for us.

"I had Robbie McEwen looking after me [and] that was pretty special since it was his last race in Australia," Gerrans added.

McEwen holds the record for the most individual stage wins in the Santos Tour Down Under, with 12 victories to his name, but today Greipel closed to within one win of that total.

"What can I say?" asked Greipel after taking the sprint from Rabobank’s Mark Renshaw and Lampre-ISD’s Alessandro Petacchi. "The team Lotto-Belisol has just been amazing in leading me out to my third win of the week.

"It looks easy but it's not. I was nowhere in the front on GC (overall) this year but I'm happy with the sprint finishes. I always like to come to South Australia. It's just nice to start the new season here rather than train in Europe."

McEwen shepherded Gerrans home, finishing in 26th place, one behind the race winner and one in front of the man who had begun the day as his closest challenger, Valverde.

"I'm just really happy and proud to be part of this team here at the Santos Tour Down Under. I'm not retiring today, that was my last Aussie race officially, but the season's not done. I am still going to race for another four months after this," McEwen revealed.

"It's a fantastic way to go out as far as Australia racing is concerned. I joined the team and was really excited about being a part of the GreenEdge project racing in an Aussie team, our national team. It was all about winning the jersey and that's the success for the team, it feels like a personal win to be a part of it."

Valverde, completing his first race after returning from a two-month ban imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for his links to Operacion Puerto, said: "I am very happy with finishing second in the Santos Tour Down Under.

"The outcome is much better than I expected when I came to Australia. Today was a super fast stage with a bit of wind that made it even more difficult. I'm very happy."

At the end of the 803km six day event both Gerrans and Valverde remained deadlocked on 20:46:12 but Gerrans' stage placings added up to a total of 102 and Valverde's 175 giving the Australian the win.

"I certainly am [happy]," said GreenEDGE Team Director, Matt White, who last year steered Cameron Meyer to victory. "To win the Santos Tour Down Under with our newly crowned National Champion, we couldn't have written a better script. [I'm] elated, just elated."

While RadioShack-Nissan’s Tiago Machado and Team Sky’s Michael Rogers held on to third and fourth place respectively and Uni SA’s Rohan Dennis kept fifth spot, an attack by RadioShackNissan’s Jan Bakelandts ahead of the second intermediate sprint saw him pick up enough seconds to leapfrog Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen into sixth place.

Boasson Hagen did, however, pick up the Jayco Sprint Classification, finishiong six points ahead of Greipel.

"I got the jersey but I would like to be more up in the final stage, but I managed to keep the jersey so that's a good thing," he said. "It's an early start to the season and to be on top form now is difficult. I'm happy to be on OK form and I can still get better."

Santos Tour Down Under Stage 6 result

1  GREIPEL, André          Lotto-Belisol          1:56:48
2  RENSHAW, Mark           Rabobank           All at same time
3  PETACCHI, Alessandro    Lampre-ISD 
4  HUTAROVICH, Yauheni     FDJ-BigMat 

5  ROJAS, Jose Joaquin     Movistar 
6  BOASSON HAGEN, Edvald   Sky Procycling 
7  FEILLU, Romain          Vacansoleil-DCM 

8  CANTWELL, Jonathan      Team Saxo Bank 

9  SABATINI, Fabio         Liquigas-Cannondale 

10 BELLETTI, Manuel        AG2R La Mondiale 
11 SUTTON, Christopher     Sky Procycling 
12 VAN HUMMEL, Kenny       Vacansoleil-DCM 

13 PAOLINI, Luca           Katusha 
14 ROGERS, Michael         Sky Procycling 

15 BONNET, William         FDJ-BigMat 
16 BAUER, Jack             Garmin-Barracuda 
17 BOZIC, Borut            Astana 
18 CIOLEK, Gerald          Omega Pharma-QuickStep 
19 VERMOTE, Julien         Omega Pharma-QuickStep 

20 FENN, Andrew            Omega Pharma-QuickStep 

Final overall standings after Stage 6

1  GERRANS Simon           GreenEdge             20:46:18
2  VALVERDE, Alejandro     Movistar                    st
3  MACHADO, Tiago          RadioShack-Nissan         0:08
4  ROGERS, Michael         Sky Procycling            0:14
5  DENNIS, Rohan           UNI SA-Australia            st
6  BAKELANTS, Jan          RadioShack-Nissan         0:16
7  BOASSON HAGEN, Edvald   Sky Procycling            0:18
8  MORENO, Javier          Movistar                  0:23
9  MATTHEWS, Michael       Rabobank                  0:29
10 VORGANOV, Eduard        Katusha                   0:32

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.