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André Greipel won stage 6 of the Santos Tour Down Under on Sunday in Adelaide, Australia. Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was fastest to the line in a high-speed, criterium-style circuit race through the city.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Mark Renshaw and Andrew Fenn were second and third, respectively, in the 18-lap, 85-kilometer final leg.
Australian national champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) finished safely in the peloton to secure his record third overall win in the UCI WorldTour opener.
“Chapeau, I will say. When [leadout man] Marcel Sieberg went, it was incredibly fast. I just needed to stay on the wheel,” said Greipel. “For myself, I’m confident. I have fast legs and I’m looking forward to the next races.”
After a breakaway of three riders took each of the intermediate time bonuses on offer, five Orica riders escorted Gerrans into the final of 18 laps at the head of the race. Cannondale and Giant-Shimano soon swamped the Australian squad, looking to set up their fast men for the finale.
Lotto-Belisol took command, however, into the final 800 meters with three men in front of Greipel.
“There was a long, straight headwind section,” said Sieberg. “We lost Adam Hansen with a puncture with about 3km to go. I started from about 1.1km to go. We came from the back. Jens [Debusschere] did a great job. We take confidence — it’s a WorldTour race. It’s not a small race. When we are good here, we know we can be good in Europe. I think we showed already last year we have a good train. We are on a good way.”
Indeed, there was no doubt the German champion would take top honors when he launched to the line with 200 meters to go to become a 16-time stage winner in the season opener.
“The guys did a fantastic job, not just a pretty good job,” Gerrans said of his Orica teammates. “It was a real roller-coaster week.
“I said from day one it was going to be decided by time bonuses. We wanted to take advantage of every opportunity we had. I won today thanks to my team. They supported me all week. This is a big race for us. We want to win in front of our fans. It sets us up nicely for the rest of the season.”
After a tight battle for the ocher leader’s jersey, former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) finished second overall and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) was third.
Evans, for his part, said BMC brought its core Giro d’Italia to the race aiming for the overall, adding, “We’re hard-wired to win.”
Still, he said: “To lose by one second shows that we’re in a good way. That race is fantastic. The fans really make this race and this ambiance, I am so pleased, so proud of us as a cycling nation. I took my best judgment on the road; you have to be satisfied with how it went.
“As I said the other day, in a six-day race, there were two stages well suited for me, and four for Orica-GreenEdge, so to be second by one is not such a bad performance.”
Evans wasn’t Gerrans’s only concern in the finale. Third-placed Ulissi was just five seconds down, and the race leader had his eye on him, too.
“I was confident in my teammates to take me home safely, which they did today,” he said. “Until I crossed the line, I suspected that Diego Ulissi would try and do something, but it went all right. I’ve got my third Tour Down Under win thanks to an outstanding team.
“This is an Australian team, on Australia Day, in a WorldTour event — what else could I ask for?”