Evans Soars to Stage 3 Victory at 2014 Tour Down Under
36 year old Evans pounced on the Corkscrew Road climb, 10 kilometres from the finish of the 145 kilometer stage. With Tasmanian Richie Porte (Team Sky) on his wheel Evans powered up the hill surging clear of Gerrans (Team GreenEdge). Evans then delivered a knockout surge that left Porte in his wake before he kicked his strong descending and time trial skills into gear to open up a lead on his pursuers.
"I had an idea of the opportunity I could get on Corkscrew climb and I knew what to do," said Evans after an excited crowd supported him all the way to the finish line. "My team did a fantastic job to position me where I had to be. I had been training well but winning is what we are here for.
"It’s amazing to be back racing in Australia and win," Evans explained. "A stage race is all about the leader’s jersey and time bonus is the key to win this race overall."
Evans collected a 10 second time bonus which, along with the 15 second lead he had at the finish line, has put him 12 seconds clear of Gerrans in the race for the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under crown.
"We’ll see how it goes in the next stages," said Evans cautiously. "I haven’t won the general classification yet."
Australian Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp-Castelli) led home the chasing group of twelve riders to place second with yesterday's stage winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) of Italy third. Ulissi is also sitting third overall, 15 seconds off the lead.
For Gerrans it was about limiting his time loss as he watched Evans ride clear on the Category One graded climb that features steep, challenging switchbacks.
"The Corkscrew is one of the toughest climbs, especially when it comes at such a crucial part of the stage," said Gerrans who is now in second place overall, 12 seconds off Evans lead. "Everyone is going 100 percent and that was their opportunity to make their mark on the race.
"Cadel (Evans) and Richie (Porte) jumped on the steep section. I sort of bided my time, and then accelerated over toward them," Gerrans explained. "I got to Richie, but Cadel slipped away. Then he managed to pull away on the downhill. The difficult part of that downhill, is that you only need five seconds, and you're out of sight. I didn't spot him again until we got near the bottom.
"It won't be easy to get back [the time], but it's not impossible," said Gerrans who leads the Adam Internet Sprint competition. "It's not going to be easy for Cadel. We're going to throw everything at him, that's for sure."
"I’m disappointed to lose the ochre jersey but it’s not over."
Evans and Porte are tipped to be major rivals for Grand Tour honours at this year's Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) but today Evans was clearly superior.
"Cadel was absolutely flying, I tried to go with him in those hairpins, I couldn't stay with him, and he got away," said Porte. "It's a little disappointing, but Saturday is another hilltop finish, I am quite hopeful we have the team to at least get up there on the podium.
"Yesterday, they were saying the same thing about Simon [that the race is over]. I guess Saturday will decide it all," said Porte.
The head of the BMC Team Performance Director, Australian Allan Peiper, says it was a fantastic day for the team.
"Cadel did all that was expected of him, and more," said Peiper. "We're excited about his win, and it should make for a more exciting race.
"Tactically, we made it hard in the last part of the stage, and we had the whole team there for Cadel," explained Peiper of the plan hatched to put Evans in the lead.
"It's still four months to go to the Giro, but this is all part of the effort to build up Cadel for May.
"This win is important for his confidence," said Peiper. "Everyone can see the happiness that he has when he's riding his bike. He might underestimate the boost he's had from the Australian public, from the national championships, and racing this week."
Fans turned out in force today with 118 thousand making their way out to support the riders who have been treating them to a feast of world class cycling. The 150 kilometre stage began in the Adelaide shopping precinct of Norwood, headed into the Adelaide Hills and circled back to contest the aptly named Corkscrew Rd climb before a fast, downhill run to the finish line in Campbelltown.
Soon after the peloton rolled out for the start the expected early attack was launched this time by Australian Travis Meyer (Drapac) who was joined by French cyclist Jérôme Cousin of Team Europcar. Astana's Andriy Grivko (UKR) headed out to join them and a short time later Germany's Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) completed the quartet in front.
The four riders set up a lead of between two and three minutes with the peloton riding tempo to keep them within striking distance. At the first of the day's two Adam Internet intermediate sprints at Kersbrook (39km) it was Meyer who claimed the top points ahead of Grivko and Cousin.
The second sprint at Williamstown, 53 kilometres into the stage went to Grivko with Meyer second and Cousin third across the line.
Soon after the halfway mark Cousin dropped back to the peloton while the lead trio rode ahead in the hope of staying clear. But with overall honours and the Skoda King of the Mountain on the line their lead dwindled and with 17 kilometres remaining the race regrouped.
Lotto Belisol drove the pace to give their man Adam Hansen the best possible chance to defend his lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain classification while the teams of Evans, Porte, Gerrans and Ulissi assigned lieutenants to their leaders for the decisive ascent.
Hansen didn't figure in the placings at the top of Corkscrew as Gerrans, Porte and Haas trailed Evans across the summit but Hansen's overnight points tally of 20 was enough to keep him in the lead, ahead of Will Clarke (Drapac) also on 20 and Evans who claimed 16 points on today's stage.
"I wasn’t so good, actually," said Hansen. "BMC set a high pace on the climb and I went hard too early but I was still with the big names in the first group.
"Now I hope for a good GC (overall placing) at the end of the Santos Tour Down Under, that’s my priority."
Frenchman Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.fr) has taken over the lead in the Cycle Instead Young Rider competition. He is sitting 18th overall at 1:01 from Evans and is 17 seconds clear of his nearest rival.
"This was very hard," he exclaimed after the presentation. "We rode so fast before the Corkscrew climb. But my team-mates positioned me very well even though it was a short climb and not exactly to my taste.
"It shows the trust they have in me, so the jersey I get now belongs to the team more than to myself," said Elissonde. "This is not high mountains, so I’m not in my comfort zone, but that’s how I can improve my cycling."
The Europcar Most Competitive award of the day went to the oldest rider in the peloton, Jens Voigt, who at 42 is racing what is tipped to be his last year in the professional ranks.
"I picked today’s stage to break away because nobody else did but I knew that it was close to impossible to go for the stage win," said Voigt who is one of the most popular figures in world cycling. "We never had more than two and half minutes lead because Andrey Grivko was at 21 seconds (off the overall lead), he wouldn’t get any freedom.
"I might be getting old but I still have high expectations about myself," said Voigt. "It’s because of self respect that I feel obliged to show my face to the people. I don’t want to be just a number in the bunch. On the road side, every second or third spectator yelled my name. The crowd has enjoyed the show, apparently!"
Spaniard Rafael Valls was unable to start today's stage after scans revealed a fractured humerus bone in his arm. Instead he headed to SportsMed SA for surgery to pin the break he sustained when he crashed during yesterday's racing.