ADELAIDE, Australia, Jan 22, 2012 (AFP) – Australian champion Simon Gerrans secured his second career victory in the Tour Down Under Sunday following a tense 90 kilometer (55 mile) final stage, won by Germany’s Andre Greipel.
While Lotto-Belisol sprinter Greipel took his third stage win of the week and 11th in total, Gerrans claimed his first-ever stage race victory on the WorldTour and the first-ever win for the peloton’s newest team, GreenEdge.
“It’s just fantastic. I really can’t thank my teammates at GreenEdge enough,” said Gerrans, who won the race in 2006 when it was not yet part of cycling’s elite calendar.
“We had a tough task today with Alejandro Valverde, he’s a tough customer.
But I managed to hold on to the lead today, and I couldn’t be happier.”
After a thrilling fifth stage on Friday which gave Gerrans the ochre jersey when he finished runner-up to Spanish ace Valverde, there was still plenty of stake on the final stage.
Gerrans started the 20-lap circuit race with the same overall time as the Movistar team leader, but with the ochre jersey by virtue of better placings in previous stages.
GreenEdge were given a boost when early attacks ate up the bonus seconds on offer at the intermediate sprints, where Valverde could have taken the virtual race lead.
But from the midway point until the final two laps the Australian outfit were given a fresh challenge when RadioShack-Nissan rider Belgian Jan Bakelants, only 19 seconds adrift of Gerrans, went on the attack.
GreenEdge sent Cameron Meyer up the road to mark him, but instead of pulling Bakelants back, Meyer’s relays at the front helped increase the Belgian’s lead on the chasing peloton to 51secs, making him the virtual leader.
In the final two laps, however, Meyer put GreenEdge back into the black when he attacked solo. The bunch soon had Bakelants in their sights, and he was easily reeled in.
The final lap then saw several teams move to the front as they jostled for position ahead of an imminent bunch sprint. But heading into the home straight
only one team, Lotto-Belisol, dominated.
“What can I say? I think the team was just amazing,” said two-time race champion Greipel, who came off the wheels of teammates Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson to finish comfortably ahead of his sprint rivals.
“I need to say ‘chapeau’ (hat’s off) to all the guys, the way they did the sprint they made it look easy. All I had to do was the final 200 metres.”
In the overall standings Valverde finished second, with the same time as Gerrans, while Portuguese Tiago Machado of RadioShack-Nissan was third at 08sec.