Mount Barker to Rostrevor 116.5km
The roads of the Santos Tour Down Under got their revenge on bike racers at the end of Stage Two. While most of the 116.5km (73mi) stage was largely fast but with some short testing rises thrown in, the short 2.4km (1.5mi) ascent of Corkscrew Hill shortly before the end of the stage quickly reminded them of what kind of suffering they'll have to endure to do well here in Australia and for their season objectives. Corkscrew rises at an average gradient of 9.4%, which is steep, but that average masks the fact that there are stretches close to 20%, which is brutal.
If the Tour Down Under has a script, it's that a UniSA rider will attack from the start. Today, it was Calvin Watson's turn. He put in his effort, three riders joined him, and they were off. The field kept them on a short leash, and brought them back a few kilometers before Corkscrew.
Every team with ambitions for the overall victory promptly went to the front and fought for position on the rapid descent before the steep Corkscrew ascent. Cannondale was there for Stefano Agostini, mixing it up with Astana, BMC, Orica-Greenedge, and Lotto- Belisol. The race was even treated to the sight of race leader Andre Greipel turning himself inside out to help his team; he knew the hill was too tough for him and he wanted to repay the team for their efforts on his behalf.
Corkscrew started, and the attacks immediately began. RadioShack's George Bennett put in the first good move. He was followed by Sky's Geraint Thomas, who first caught, then passed the RadioShack rider before the summit. His attack netting him the King of the Mountain points and the KoM jersey.
Coming off Corkscrew, Thomas was chased by a group of three, and then a much bigger group keen on getting back. But disaster struck on the third turn of the descent. Coming out of a tight, blind turn, one racer in the first chase group went down, and a chain reaction followed, with Stefano, Cannondale teammates Brian Vandborg, and Cameron Wurf, and about 20 others smacking the pavement.
Thomas was joined on the descent by Bennett, Ben Hermans (RadioShack), and Javier Moreno of Movistar. Eleven chasers were closing in, but the road was rapidly disappearing. Thomas jumped early, taking the stage and the race lead.
Behind, Stefano led in the first post-crash chase group for 27th place, 1:09 down. Cannondale's general classification hopes for this Tour Down Under are dimmed. Brian finished alongside Cristiano Salerno in the next group 1:18 down. Cam finished over six minutes down and was taken to the hospital. X-rays determined that he didn't break any ribs, as feared.
The upcoming Stage 3 is Unley to Stirling, 139km (87mi) long, but it's really a short ride over a long hill from Unley to Stirling, all of 7km (4.5mi), and then six laps on 22km (14mi) loop around Stirling. The circuit will grind down the legs and spirit of the riders, and a small group will contest the finish. A great course for light riders and hard riders, a break can go from far out and succeed.
Santos Tour Down Under 2013
Stage Two Mount Barker to Rostrevor 116.5km
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling - 2:44:18
2. Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar - 0:00:01
3. Ben Hermans (Bel) Radioshack Leopard - same time
4. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco - 0:00:04
5. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol - same time
27. Stefano Agostini (Ita) - 0:01:09
44. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) - 0:01:18
45. Brian Vandborg DNK - same time
59. Juraj Sagan (Svk) - 0:02:36
66. Federico Canuti (Ita) - same time
82. Alan Marangoni (Ita) - 0:04:53
127. Cameron Wurf (Aus) - 0:06:38