Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi has moved to second in the overall standings at the Santos Tour Down Under behind Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans after beating the Australian to the line at the end of Stage 2 of the race in Stirling.
BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans was third on the stage, but André Greipel of Lotto-Belisol remains third overall, battling back from a late puncture to rejoin the front group and avoid losing time.
The 24-year-old Ulissi shot past Gerrans, who had won yesterday’s opening stage, on the uphill drag to the finish of the 150km stage through the Adelaide Hills and although the race leader tried to close the Italian down, he was unable to fully reel him in.
"I’ve never believed in my chances to win this stage because I had the impression that Simon Gerrans was by far the strongest," said Ulissi afterwards.
"I thought he’d be unbeatable but I managed to beat him thanks to the help of the great team I have behind me.
"It has a lot to do with the serenity I found by winning a few races at the very end of last season, therefore I could train for this one with no worries and prepare well for Milan-San Remo," he added.
"I would have loved to win the stage again today," commented Gerrans, who stays in the ochre leader’s jersey as he seeks to become the first man to win the race three times. "It was close but I can’t win them all.
"It didn’t surprise me to be sprinting against Diego Ulissi in such a finale like Stirling. He’s a classy rider. But I wasn’t expecting he’d pass me as fast as he did.
“He’s obviously a threat for the overall classification but it’s a good result for me today as I have a bigger advantage over my other rivals with the time bonus of the second place.
"My position on GC is just as good as I could have hoped for," he added.
"Tomorrow is going to be the most decisive stage with the Corkscrew climb so close to the finish.”
Two riders failed to start today’s stage after suffering injuries yesterday – Belkin’s David Tanner, who broke his collarbone, and Jose Joaquim Rojas of Movistar – which has already lost Giovanni Visconti, who broke his leg at the weekend – suffering a broken scaphoid.
For the second day running, Will Clarke of Drapac was one of the riders in the break after the start of the stage in Prospect, getting away with Campbell Flakemore of UniSA-Australia and Trek Factory Racing’s Boy van Poppel.
"It’s three years in a row that I break away on the way to Stirling,” said Clarke.
“Unfortunately, the last two haven’t been as successful as two years ago when I stayed away and won," he reflected – although he did have the consolation of being named Europcar Most Competitive Rider for the second day running.
The three men were caught by the peloton as the race headed through Stirling for the first time to begin a 20km loop prior to the finish.
"In the next day or two, I’ll take it easy," confessed Clarke. "I feel a bit tired so I’ll back off for another attack a bit later in the race."
Tomorrow's Stage 3 starts in Norwood and finishes in Campbelltown via the climb of Corkscrew Hill, which should result in a big selection and help determine who will contest the overall in the days ahead.
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.