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Tour Down Under: Slagter snatches race lead, Gerrans wins on Old Willunga Hill

Blanco rider moves ahead of Thomas on GC, while home fans celebrate Australia Day with Aussie win

Tom-Jelte Slagter of Blanco Pro Cycling is set to win the Santos Tour Down Under after wresting the race lead from Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage’s summit finish at Old Willunga Hill. Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans celebrated Australia Day by taking the stage win ahead of Slagter.

With a number of riders within striking distance of the race lead this morning, Edvald Boasson Hagen had made sure that Thomas remained in touch as several riders played their cards on the two ascents of Old WIllunga Hill.

Slagter, who had started the day 5 seconds behind Thomas, was sitting on the Welshman's wheel, and made his move once the Team Sky man had been isolated, attacking with around 500 metres left of the climb as his rival started to tire.

The Blanco ridrer quickly reached the two riders ahead of him, Gerrans and Movistar’s Xavier Moreno, only the Australian able to respond as he caught them.

Last year, on the first summit finish here, Gerrans had been pipped to the line by Alejandro Valverde, though the GreenEdge rider would take the race lead by the slenderest of margins, sealing his overall victory the following day.

Today, with Thomas back down the hill and Slagter guaranteed the race lead by virtue of bonus seconds alone, the win belonged to Gerrans.

"It was absolutely fantastic, the crowd today was bigger than a stage at the Tour de France, really there were people around the whole course today cheering us on, it was a great atmosphere," said Gerrans afterwards.

"Obviously I was pretty disappointed to drop out of contention on stage two for overall and I had one chance to really make up for that and that was today so I’m rapt.

"To win here on Australia Day, it’s a fantastic feeling and a big thanks to my Orica-GreenEdge team mates they waited in line for me today so it was great to finish it off.”

Describing his decisive move, Slagter said: "With 600 metres to go, I’ve seen Simon Gerrans going fast with a Movistar rider.

"I could have just gone for third place as long as I had a gap over Geraint Thomas but I wasn’t sure about the seconds. I wanted to win the stage and make a gap on GC.

"I preferred to have my adversaries as far behind as possible," he said. "For the stage win, Gerrans was fast but it doesn’t matter really.”

Poised to win the opening WorldTour race of 2013, the 23-year-old, who on Thursday took his first ever pro victory, said: "It’s an incredible feeling!"

"I never won a pro race before and I’ve a stage here this week, second today with the jersey and I have enough of a lead to believe that I can my win the first WorldTour race of the year tomorrow."

"It comes from such great team work. I’m really proud to show this team to the world. It looks like the real beginning of my career even though the season is long."

Reflecting on losing the leader’s jersey, Thomas said: "The legs just went with 500 metres or so to go. All the boys did a great ride. Eddy (Boasson Hagen) did a great turn.

“I should have swung over and let someone else do a turn, but I ended up doing all the work. I was a bit empty then.

"Gerro [Simon Gerrans] came past me and it was a bit too fast to get on his wheel. Then I got stuck out in the wind and I just went backwards with about 400m to go and lost the whole thing.

“It might not look like I was panicking, I was giving it everything, but there wasn't much coming out.

"Afterwards, you're pretty gutted because you wanted to win. For the first race of the year, we started with a bang and ended with a bang, the wrong kind of bang.

"It's been a good week, a good start of the year." With a thought for those of us back in the UK, he added: "At least it's not snowing."

Early in the stage, seven riders including the Vacansoleil-DCM pair Thomas De Gendt and Tomasz Marczynski had got away on three loops of a circuit that skirted the coast, the race coming back together as it headed onto two laps of the closing circuit including Old Willunga Hill where the stage, and the overall, would be decided.

Santos Tour Down Under Stage 5 result  
1  GERRANS, Simon           ORICA GreenEDGE      3:36:25
2  SLAGTER, Tom Jelte       Blanco                   st
3  MORENO BAZAN,            Javier Movistar         0:10
4  IZAGIRRE, Ion            Euskaltel Euskadi       0:12
5  MACHADO, Tiago           Radioshack Leopard      0:13
6  KELDERMAN, Wilco         Blanco                  0:16
7  IZAGIRRE, Gorka          Euskaltel Euskadi        st
8  VALLS FERRI, Rafael      Vacansoleil-DCM          st
9  PIETROPOLLI, Daniele     Lampre-Merida            st
10 HERMANS, Ben             Radioshack Leopard       st
11 VEIKKANEN, Jussi         FDJ                     0:21
12 ELISSONDE, Kenny**       FDJ                      st
13 SANTAROMITA, Ivan        BMC                     0:23
14 BAUER, Jack              Garmin Sharp            0:25
15 ROJAS GIL, Jose Joaquin  Movistar                 st
16 MOINARD, Amaël           BMC                     0:27
17 THOMAS, Geraint          Sky Procycling          0:28
18 AMADOR, Andrey           Movistar                0:32
19 BENNETT, George          Radioshack Leopard       st
20 WELLENS, Tim**           Lotto Belisol           0:38
Overall Standings after Stage 5  
1  SLAGTER, Tom Jelte       Blanco              16:35:33
2  MORENO BAZAN, Javier     Movistar                0:13
3  HERMANS, Ben Radioshack  Leopard                 0:25
4  IZAGIRRE, Ion            Euskaltel Euskadi       0:28
5  THOMAS, Geraint          Sky Procycling          0:29
6  MACHADO, Tiago           Radioshack Leopard       st
7  IZAGIRRE, Gorka          Euskaltel Euskadi       0:32
8  PIETROPOLLI, Daniele     Lampre-Merida            st
9  KELDERMAN, Wilco         Blanco                   st
10 VEIKKANEN, Jussi         FDJ                     0:37

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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