Tour Down Under 2014 Stage 3
Norwood to Campbelltown 145km
The 145km (90mi) third stage of this year's Santos Tour Down Under was always going to come down to Corkscrew Hill. The steep climb that topped out 7km from the finish is tough enough to thin the field to only the top climbers of the race, and the drop to the finish in Campbelltown tricky enough that even a solo rider can hold an advantage.
With only one obstacle in the course profile on stage three, most of the field at the Tour Down Under decided to sit back and let the teams of the favorites control the race as long as possible. Let them get tired first, then come out and play. So the 145km (90mi) stage from Norwood to Campbelltown was about letting race leader Simon Gerrans' Orica-Greenedge team wear themselves out for as long as possible.
Cannondale Pro Cycling built their Tour Down Under team more for sprinting than for climbing. Still, Kiwi George Bennett almost qualifies as a local, and as he's been training in his summer, he's got the fitness and the reason to take a shot at stage victory.
Despite the obstacle on the horizon, there are always the adventurers who refuse to let the race happen to them. Drapac's Travis Meyer took over from his teammate as the energizer bunny of the day. He attacked from kilometer zero, and was quickly joined by three others: Jerome Cousins of Europcar, Astana's Andriy Grivko, and the oldest man in pro bike racing, Jens Voigt of Trek. The four went about their business, never getting much more than two minutes on the pack, with the only interruptions being the intermediate sprints, which were split between Meyer and Grivko. With 50km (31.1mi) remaining, Cousins couldn't handle the pace and was dropped.
The pace was picking up in the group behind. Orica's tempo-making had worn out several of their riders, so Team Sky and others took turns ramping up the pace. Cannondale Pro Cycling brought two to the front to position Bennett for the climb.
With 18km (11.2mi) remaining, and the drop to the base of Corkscrew Hill urging the field along at ever-higher speeds, Meyer fell of the lead. In the next kilometer, Grivko and Voigt succumbed to the pressure from behind, and it was back to zero as the field thundered to the narrow left turn that marked the approach to the hill.
As the climb pitched up, BMC came to the front to thin the field for Cadel Evans. As their final riders started to sputter, Sky's Richie Porte took off. Evans was fast on his wheel. They quickly got five seconds. Around a few hairpins, and Evans stamped his pedals and gapped Porte.
As Porte was distanced, race leader Gerrans made it up to him. The two gave their all, but Evans had fifteen seconds at the summit. As Evans bombed the descent, the two chasers saw their gap increase until the second chase group, with teammates of both caught them. Now they were on the flats outside of Campbelltown and it was a drag race; the solo Evans pursued by a pack of twelve. At the finish it was Evans by fifteen seconds. With the ten-second time bonus, he jumped from fourteen seconds down to a lead of eleven seconds.
Cannondale's Directeur Sportif Biagio Conte was hoping for a better finish but happy with what he saw. "We knew it was a hard day today and we expected a hot finale. We worked to keep good position for the final climb and the team did a good job at that. Bennett and Wurf were our key riders but, at this moment of the season, it's not easy to be as competitive as we wanted against these on-form riders. Anyway, I'm happy for what the guys did and the mental attitude they showed."
Tomorrow's 148.5km (92.3km) ride from Unley to Victor Harbor is likely to be a day for the sprinters. As a number of fast men have yet to score this year, and Orica will want to get seconds back for Gerrans, the pace should be fast and steady. This will help Cannondale Pro Cycling deliver Elia Viviani to the final 200 meters in good position, as they won't have any responsibility at the front until near the end.
Tour Down Under 2014
Stage 3 Norwood to Campbelltown 145km
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 3:34:06
2. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:15
3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida same time
4. Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol same time
5. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
22. George Bennett (NZl) 0:01:00
38. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:01:34
81. Matej Mohoric (Slo) 0:05:44
82. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
95. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) 0:06:55
96. Matthias Krizek (Aut) same time
116. Elia Viviani (Ita) 0:10:11
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 10:46:40
2. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:11
3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:14
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:26
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin 0:00:28
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
26. George Bennett (NZl) 0:01:18
33. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:01:52
75. Matej Mohoric (Slo) 0:08:19
77. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
98. Elia Viviani (Ita) 0:12:46
100. Matthias Krizek (Aut) 0:13:51
109. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) 0:15:17