ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) – Simon Gerrans has sealed a fairytale debut for the fledgling GreenEdge Australian professional cycling team, claiming overall victory in the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under.
By consequence, Gerrans joins team-mate and local hero Stuart O’Grady and Sunday’s final stage winner, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), as the third rider in the event’s 14-year history to twice win overall honors.
“It’s an even sweeter victory than my first one here in 2006,” said Gerrans, who rated his Australian championship win a fortnight ago as slightly more emotional. “It couldn’t be a better start for us.”
Raced over 20 laps of a street circuit on the banks of the Torrens River, located north of the Adelaide CBD, the 90-kilometer finale set off under a vermillion sky at 1:10 p.m. local time, as the mercury hit 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit).
31-year-old Gerrans went into the stage tied on time with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), but as race leader on count-back, when the pair’s places on previous stages were tallied.
However edgy though brimming with confidence, the GreenEdgers were up to the task and vigilant throughout the stage, making sure every move was covered. “When I was told yesterday that I was getting the leader’s jersey,” Gerrans said, “I didn’t feel any pressure at all; it was just a nice surprise.
“I knew it would give us a tough job for this last stage, but as it turned out, I can’t be happier. This is just fantastic. I can’t thank the GreenEdge team enough for this victory. I had Robbie McEwen looking after me (and) that was pretty special, since it was his last race in Australia.”
Valverde and Gerrans who crossed the line in 25th and 27th place, respectively, split only by Gerrans’ stage-finish pilot McEwen, who made sure the Spaniard was well-marked. “It’s a fantastic way to go out as far as Australia racing is concerned,” said McEwen.
“I joined the team and was really excited about being a part of the GreenEdge project, racing in an Aussie team, our national team. It was all about winning the jersey and that’s the success for the team; it feels like a personal win to be a part of it.”
Despite not being on the top step of the podium, Valverde was satisfied to have won the Tour’s first-ever hilltop finish yesterday on Old Willunga Hill. “I am very happy with finishing second in the Tour Down Under. The outcome is much better than I expected when I came to Australia. I’m very happy,” he said.