Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans won stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under on Thursday in Campbelltown, Australia. Evans (BMC Racing) attacked his way to victory in the 145-kilometer leg from Norwood.
Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) was second and stage 2 winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) was third.
Overnight leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) ceded the leader’s jersey to Evans, who rode a break-neck descent from the Corkscrew Road climb to take the double. Gerrans now sits second, at 12 seconds, and Ulissi is third, at 15 seconds.
“I had an idea about what we might have an opportunity to do. In this sport, if you have an opportunity, you have to take it,” said Evans. “It was a move for GC for me.”
On a day that saw a rolling profile culminating in the Corkscrew climb, Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) were the last of the long breakaway to give way to the peloton, seeing their run on the front end with 17km remaining.
“I picked today’s stage to break away because nobody else, did but I knew that it was close to impossible to go for the stage win,” said Voigt. “We never had more than two and half minutes’ lead because Andriy Grivko was at 21 seconds, he wouldn’t get any freedom. I might be getting old but I still have high expectations about myself. It’s because of self respect that I feel obliged to show my face to the people. I don’t want to be just a number in the bunch.”
André Greipel and Olivier Kaisen pulled mountains leader Adam Hansen at the front of the peloton through the turn onto the Corkscrew Road climb, just over 10km from the finish. BMC Racing soon took up the pace-making, setting a hard tempo that decimated the field. With 9.5km to go, there were roughly 20 riders in the front group.
As the riders approached the summit of the Cat. 1 climb, Richie Porte (Sky) went to the front, Evans planted on his wheel. When Evans pressed ahead, only Porte could follow. Behind them, Gerrans led the chase in his orange leader’s jersey.
Evans surged in the final kilometer of the climb, leaving Porte behind.
“When Cadel went, I tried to follow through the hairpins, but I couldn’t go with it,” said Porte.
Gerrans rode onto the rear wheel of the Sky captain, but Evans, the former world champion, ran toward the summit out of the saddle.
“The Corkscrew is one of the toughest climbs, especially when it comes at such a crucial part of the stage,” said Gerrans. “Everyone is going 100 percent. That was their opportunity to make their mark on the race. Cadel and Richie jumped on the steep section. I sort of bided my time, and then accelerated over toward them. I got to Richie, but Cadel slipped away.”
Evans, who entered the day 11 seconds out of the overall lead, held 14 seconds on Gerrans and Porte at the top of the climb. From there, Evans dove toward Campbelltown, putting more time into the chasers.
“The difficult part of that downhill is that you only need five seconds, and you’re out of sight,” said Gerrans. “I didn’t spot him again until we got near the bottom.”
A group soon caught Gerrans and Porte, but Evans was long gone toward the 10-second time bonus for the stage winner. The Australian pushed all the way across the line, trying to take as much time as possible on the GC.
“I had been training well but winning is what we are here for,” said Evans. “It’s amazing to be back racing in Australia and win. A stage race is all about the leader’s jersey. Time bonus is the key to win this race overall. We’ll see how it goes in the next stages. I haven’t won the GC yet.”
Haas took the sprint from the chase group, followed by Ulissi. Gerrans finished near the front of the group, but it wasn’t enough to defend the overall lead he had held since his stage 1 win.
“A little bit [disappointed], but it was a hard stage, quite a frantic start to the climb, but the team was brilliant again today,” said Porte, who looked ahead to Saturday’s stage to Old Willunga Hill.
The Santos Tour Down Under continues Friday with the 148km fourth stage, from Unley to Victor Harbor.