Tour Down Under Results - Stage 2
Fabio Sacchi (Saeco) takes second stage and overall lead
Italian Fabio SACCHI (Saeco) today signalled he is in top form and on track in his bid to claim honours when he rode to victory in today's second stage of the 2003 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. In the process he claimed the overall race lead and the lead in the SA Lotteries Sprint classification.
SACCHI crossed the line in 3hr29min16sec, 14 seconds clear of 2002 Tour de France sprint winner and world ranked number four, Robbie McEWEN (Lotto - Domo) with Frenchman Cedric HERVE (Credit Agricole) close behind in third.
"I had a great day," said SACCHI. "But it's only the second day and you have to bear that in mind."
It's the third consecutive year that the 28 year old has found himself in the Jacob's Creek leader's jersey after the second stage of the event. In 2001 he claimed the stage win and wore the jersey for one day before it was wrested from his shoulders by eventual Tour winner and local hero Stuart O'GRADY (Credit Agricole). Last year SACCHI placed second on Stage 2 to claim the race lead but on the penultimate stage he conceded the jersey to Australian Michael ROGERS (Quick Step - Davitamon) who claimed the overall crown.
This year SACCHI arrived in Adelaide two weeks early determined to reach peak form ahead of the race and today his advance preparation paid off. But he admits the race is far from decided.
"There are a lot of tough riders out there and you've got to live the race day by day," he said. "I will try my best, count on my friends (team mates) and see if I can take out the win."
The 94 strong international field rode out of Jacob's Creek at a fairly sedate pace which prompted UniSA local rider Russell VAN HOUT to launch a solo attack less than 30 kilometres from the start.
VAN HOUT established a significant lead which at one stage had him almost nine minutes ahead of the rest of the field. The 26 year old cleaned up the maximum points in the two SA Lotteries intermediate sprints of the day at Mt Pleasant (45km) and Eden Valley (62km) and managed to hold off his to be first over Mengler Hill which gave him the overall lead in the Laubman & Pank King of the Mountains.
Forty kilometres from the finish VAN HOUT's solo journey ended when a chasing trio joined him and 20 kilometres later eight more cyclists, including the eventual placegetters, set up a lead group of twelve.
Overnight race leader Baden COOKE, (AUS - FDJeux.com) missed the break and along with Stuart O'GRADY (AUS - Credit Agricole) was left to chase down the leaders in a bid to minimise the damage.
Five kilometres from home six riders remained in the leading group and pundits were predicting a McEWEN win.
But SACCHI, fearing he would have no answer for McEWEN's blistering sprint, broke away in the final kilometre to set himself up for a clear victory.
"I have a lot of respect for Robbie and