Tour Down Under Results - Stage 5
Caruso wins stage 5; Astarloza takes overall lead
today's race route meant they had time to then get back to Willunga and witness the finish as well."
But a chase group was soon on his tail including several rivals for overall honours. But noticeably absent was overnight race leader Fabio SACCHI (ITA - Saeco).
In the group was Stuart O'GRADY (AUS - Credit Agricole), Patrick JONKER (AUS - UniSA), Steffen WESEMANN (GER - Telekom), Lennie KRISTENSEN (DEN - CSC), Mikel ASTARLOZA (ESP - AG2R Prevoyance), Paolo LANFRANCHI (ITA - Ceramiche Panaria - Fiordo), David CANADA (ESP - Quick Step Davitamon) Xavier FLORENCIO (ESP - ONCE Eroski) and Giampaolo CARUSO (ITA - ONCE Eroski).
The group of ten gave SACCHI no chance of catching them as they wheeled towards the finish line.
As the line came into view CARUSO dug deep and rode off the front trying to gain every second he could in his bid to move into the overall lead but whilst he held them off to claim the stage victory all ten were awarded the same finishing time of 3hr26min43sec.
"On the first road stage I lost four seconds and unfortunately that might be the one that's going to decide that I won't win the race," said CARUSO who's win pushed up to third overall. "I really didn't think I could make it and I was really on the limit right on the finish.
"Manolo (ONCE Team Director Manolo Saiz) told me to attack at five kilometres to go and the win is thanks to him and thanks to his call on the tactics."
Second across the line was WESEMANN with LANFRANCHI third.
Overall the race lead is now held by ASTARLOZA who has the same accumulated time after 645km as KRISTENSEN but on countback technically leads the race. CARUSO is third overall at 4sec and O'GRADY fourth at 5sec.
"That's fantastic I've been working towards it and now that it's just happened I suppose it hasn't sunk in," said ASTARLOZA. "I didn't really expect to go this well but the thing is the team's going great and so that spurred me on."
In terms of his prospects of still being in the lead after tomorrow's final stage ASTARLOZA was restrained.
"I suppose the truth is that I'm the favourite because I'm the leader but it's going to be very difficult and we'll have to see what we can do," he said.
But three more riders, FLORENCIO (7 seconds), LANFRANCHI (7 seconds) and JONKER (9 seconds) are within striking distance setting up one of the most exciting final stages ever. Bonus seconds are on offer for the two intermediate sprints tomorrow and for the stage win.
O'GRADY has been in this position before in 2001 when he went in trailing narrowly and ended up winning overall by a mere three seconds.
Meantime overnight leader SACCHI finished 31 seconds behind CARUSO on the stage and has now dropped to 11th, 16 seconds off the pace and likely out of contention.
"ONCE really attacked the climb and I decided I was going to get shelled so I just tried to