Porte Soloes to Victory in Tour Down Under; Gerrans Reclaims Race Lead
Simon Gerrans (Team GreenEdge) set himself up to become the first three-time winner of the Santos Tour Down Under in a dramatic day of racing that saw Richie Porte (Team Sky Pro Cycling) win stage 5.
Following Porte across the line ten seconds later was Italian Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) while Gerrans was third.
The anticipation and tension was palpable on the start line of today's Queen stage that began in McLaren Vale, criss-crossed the region's celebrated vineyards and swept along a spectacular Fleurieu Peninsula coastal circuit before turning left to contest two ascents of Willunga Hill and the hiltop finish line. The race attracted 125 thousand fans who set up picnics, eskies and sun lounges along the length of the course.
2011 Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans, began the day with a seven second lead but at the end of the 151 kilometre stage Gerrans had grappled back the overall lead thanks to his third place time bonus and a six second gap back to Evans on the line. He is now a mere one second ahead of the BMC Racing Team leader. Ulissi remains third overall at five seconds.
"All the way up the climb, I always knew what I had to do," said Gerrans who was protected all day and kept out of the wind by his team mates so he could be fresh for the final showdown. "I needed to save energy for the very last part.
"Earlier on, we had Matt Goss at the front, then Daryl (Impey) and Simon (Clarke) looked after me. It’s a dream result to get the jersey back," he explained. "I've got a fantastic team here, we've seen it today, and they've been great all week."
Gerrans claimed the lead on the same stage in 2012 and went onto win the Tour for the second time, the first win coming in 2006. He held the race lead earlier this week after winning the San Remo Pasta Stage 1 but Evans took over with his Thomas Foods Stage 3 victory in Campbelltown.
"It’s only by one second though, actually it’s one second more than two years ago (against Alejandro Valverde) but it’s still going to be tight and nervous tomorrow," said Gerrans who is hoping to have a third Santos Tour Down Under crown in his possession at the end of tomorrow's final day of racing. "I’m very pleased to be back in the lead."
The big mover of the day however was the Tasmanian Porte who began 33 seconds down in tenth overall but his winning assault has moved him up to fourth on the overall, ten seconds behind Gerrans.
The 2013 Paris-Nice winner rode away from his rivals in front of a huge crowd that packed the three kilometre climb to the finish.
"This result is more than I hoped for," said Porte who was ten seconds in front when he crossed the line. "It was a very stressful day with crosswinds but I had my team doing incredible work for me.
"Ian Stannard, Bernhard Eisel, Luke Rowe, the Classics’ guys... I just had to sit in their back pocket all day. I panicked a little bit and Stannard said he’d drop me at the right place."
Once Stannard delivered Porte into position he pounced breaking clear