Simon Gerrans wins Tour Down Under for 3rd time
ADELAIDE, Australia -- Australian Simon Gerrans won cycling's Tour Down Under by five seconds from compatriot Cadel Evans Sunday, becoming the first rider to win the ProTour event three times.
Andre Greipel of Germany won the sixth and final stage, over 18 laps of a 4.75 kilometer street circuit in downtown Adelaide, for the third straight year.
It was Greipel's 16th career stage win on the season-opening tour.
Gerrans entered the 85.5 kilometer stage with a one second lead over Evans, the 2011 Tour de France-winner, and was able to extend that lead and add to his tour wins of 2006 and 2011.
Evans, who has set the Giro d'Italia as his main target this season, finished second and Italy's Diego Ulissi third, both five seconds behind Gerrans.
Gerrans took the race lead when he won the opening stage by five seconds from Greipel and extended his advantage to seven seconds when he finished second behind Ulissi on the second stage.
Evans soloed to victory on the third stage and took over the lead on general classification by 12 seconds from Gerrans.
Greipel won the fourth stage for his 15th stage win in Australia, with Gerrans finishing fourth to cut Evans' overall lead to seven seconds. Gerrans again finished fourth on the tour's queen stage, the long fifth stage which finished on the summit of Old Willunga Hill, allowing him to reclaim the overall lead but only by the brittle margin of one second from Evans.
Neither Gerrans nor Evans picked up time bonuses from Sunday's intermediate sprints, making positions across the line critical in determining the outcome of the race. Both were prominent as the leaders jostled for position coming to the final lap but Evans began to drop off the pace and Gerrans, helped by his Orica GreenEDGE teammates, held on to increase his winning margin.
"We made sure stayed at the front, stayed out of trouble," he said. "I'm really thrilled to come out unscathed.
"The guys did a fantastic job, not just a pretty good job. They kept me right up the front there out of trouble, well protected, to make sure I would avoid any splits in the peloton and I finished right up there. It's a huge honour to win the Tour Down Under and to cap it all off on Australia Day as well, and racing for an Australian team, it just doesn't get much better."
Greipel won the stage from Belgium's Mark Renshaw and Britain's Andrew Fenn.
"Chapeau to my teammates," he said. "They rode incredibly fast so I could save myself for the last moment.
"This is a very nice victory for us. I had fast legs today and I'm confident in my capacities these days. It was difficult to keep the peloton together but everyone knew where we'd start the lead out."
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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