Tour Down Under Results - Stage 5
Caruso wins stage 5; Astarloza takes overall lead
The 2003 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under is set to sizzle tomorrow when the final 90 kilometre stage on the Adelaide City Council circuit kicks off with only 16 seconds separating the top eleven riders in the field.
Spaniard Mikel ASTARLOZA (AG2R - Prevoyance) will wear the leader's jersey after officials resorted to a count-back of previous stage places to split he and Denmark's Lennie KRISTENSEN (CSC) who are tied at 15hr25min36sec after 645km of racing over five days.
Today's 147km stage saw the riders endure searing temperatures as they battled for race honours along the spectacular Fleurieu Peninsula setting off from Willunga and taking in McLaren Vale and the coastline along St Vincent's Gulf three times before heading up Old Willunga Hill and back into Willunga for the finish.
"90,000 people turned out to cheer on the field in recognition of their amazing endurance and fitness as they put on a spectacular day's racing," said Belinda DEWHIRST, General Manager, Australian Major Events. "People set themselves up with picnics, cold drinks, shade shelters and sunscreen well before the start of the day's racing and they were passionate in their support of every single competitor in the Tour."
The 45 degree heat didn't deter the riders with Italian Andrea TAFI (CSC) and Frenchman Nicholas PORTAL (AG2R Prevoyance) attacking off the front at the 15km mark.
The pair rode away to a lead of more than 4mins with TAFI obviously out to win back the lead in the SA Lotteries Sprint classification from overnight leader Robbie McEWEN, 30, (AUS - Lotto Domo).
He need not have bothered however as his sprint rival McEWEN was suffering pain in his left knee and after 40 kilometres of racing decided to abandon the race rather than risk possible further damage. In 1995 and again in 1999 McEWEN underwent left knee surgery for a cartilage problem and he was concerned it might be the same problem recurring. Scans later revealed it was a pinched lining of his joint and that it should mend itself in a coupled of days.
Back out on the road TAFI was the winner across the line at Aldinga on the first intermediate sprint before a huge crowd enjoying the sea breeze.
The next time through it was again TAFI who claimed the points and time bonus but the main field was beginning to get twitchy and the chase was on.
The lead whittled down as the climb up Old Willunga Hill approached. TAFI had already been caught by the bunch as PORTAL made a last ditch effort to stay in front but to no avail. By the bottom of the climb he was swallowed up and soon after Australian Cadel EVANS (Telekom) surged away up the climb cresting the summit on his own to take maximum points and the lead in the Laubman and Pank King of the Mountain classification in which he is the defending champion.
"It was amazing to see the people who trekked up the climb on foot to witness the decisive attack," said Ms DEWHIRST. "Also the design of