Gerrans Sprints to Stage 1 Victory in Tour Down Under 2014
Team GreenEdge's Australian Simon Gerrans has continued his impressive season start and announced his intention to claim his third Santos Tour Down Under crown with a stunning sprint to win stage 1 in Angaston.
Gerrans, who won the Australian national championship a little over a week ago, has given his GreenEDGE team more reason to celebrate with today's stage victory ahead of German sprint ace André Greipel (Team Lotto-Belisol) of Germany and Australian Steele Von Hoff of Team Garmin-Sharp-Castelli, who was third to cross the finish line closely behind Gerrans.
"I guess I’ve surprised a few, myself included," Gerrans commented after being celebrated on the podium. "Obviously André (Greipel) is one of the fastest sprinters around."
"I didn’t imagine I’d be able to come past Greipel until the very end," Gerrans told RoadCycling.com. "But in the final two kilometers all of the Lotto guys were looking tired and had been working hard and I thought maybe Greipel wouldn’t be able to do his normal sprint. So I took his wheel in the sprint, and it was only in the last 100 meters that I felt confident I would be able to come past him."
"It was a tough finale and everyone was tired. I had to sprint really late because of the head wind (and) looking towards the end of the week, it might have been better if André had had the lead but we’ve seen in the past few years that this race is won or lost by seconds, so you have to take every opportunity. Every second counts," Gerrans, who won the Santos Tour Down Under in 2006 and 2012, continued.
"I hope it’s not too early to hold the jersey but we have a fantastic squad here, so I’m optimistic for keeping the lead till the end."
Gerrans crossed the finish line in a time of 03:20:34 and his strong performance in today's stage has put him into the leader's jersey. Considering the time bonuses he collected today, he now has an overall race lead of five seconds on Greipel with Von Hoff third at seven seconds.
The 135 kilometer stage began in the town of Nuriootpa and wound it's way through the Barossa winegrowing region to the nearby town of Angaston. The stage had been in doubt due to a bushfire at Eden Valley, 18 kilometer south of Angaston that had been burning since Friday, but after getting the all clear from the Country Fire Service and South Australian Police the 138 world class cyclists lined up to kick off the 2014 WorldTour.
Today's stage took the riders through scenic vineyards for two circuits before being led onto Menglers Hill by Team Sky for the category 1 climb that tested the legs of the peloton.
The main contenders stayed in touch up the climb before Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) attacked close to the top to score the major points for the day and in the process grabbed the lead in the Skoda King of the Mountain classification. Second over the line was Frenchman Axel Domont followed by Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing).
"Garmin-Sharp and Sky were pulling in the climb but I was in a very good position, so I decided to have a go and see what happened," said Hansen who