Matt Wilson has guided the Orica GreenEdge team to its first ever stage win at the Tour Down Under, with Simon Gerrans going one better than last year on Willunga Hill on Saturday.
It was an almost unlikely victory for the reigning Milano-Sanremo winner, having struggled with hay fever and asthma all week. Matt Goss finished as runner-up in Stirling on Thursday but then he and key lead-out men Daryl Impey and Jens Mouris crashed with less than one kilometre left to race on Friday. The Tour Down Under is Orica GreenEdge's home race but that raises expectations sky high. After the problems early in the race, this was a win borne of desire in every sense.
"Everyone came here with really good form and it was just one disappointment after another until now," Wilson told Cyclingnews. "Now it's perfect. On Australia Day to win like that and to win after so many disappointments makes it so much better."
"It's a really good feeling. Of course I would have been disappointed if I had of came away without a win, especially since everyone's going so well. It's a big relief."
There were doubts in the morning over just whether Gerrans would be up for the win given his health issues this week, but Wilson had made himself clear before the 151.1km stage.
"I said whether you think you're going as good as you can or not, you're still our best chance to win and we'll back you and hope you have a good day," the former GreenEdge, Garmin, Team Type-1, Unibet and FDJ rider had told Gerrans.
While Gerrans win was important for the team as a whole, it also provides Wilson with a sense of validation given the incorrect perception that he was at the race simply because Orica GreenEdge sacked sports director Matt White in the wake of the USADA report.
Giro d'Italia stage winner debuts for Lampre in Australia
Roberto Ferrari's first appearance as a WorldTour rider earned him a second place behind the unbeatable André Greipel in stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under. But his debut at the WorldTour level doesn't mean that the Giro d'Italia stage winner has been warmly welcomed in the closed circle of the world's best sprinter. Anger is still in the air as Mark Cavendish isn't prepared to forgive the Italian for making him crash in Horsens last year in the sprint finale of the Giro's third stage. The rider from Brescia, however, seems pretty satisfied with his move from Androni to Lampre-Merida.
At the age of 30, following seven seasons in second-ranked teams (Tenax, LPR, De Rosa and Androni), the Italian finally signed for a ProTeam. "Moreover, it's not such a big change as cycling remains a tiring sport," Ferrari told Cyclingnews in McLaren Vale. "Sprints are still fast! The main difference in my mind comes from the organization of the team. It requires operations of a higher level to put 30 riders on the road.
"It's also new for me to be able to start my season with such a big race as the Santos Tour Down Under. Then I'll be riding prestigious events like Paris-Nice, Milan-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia. I feel ready. My physical condition here in January is not excellent yet but good enough to let me take part in the sprints. My main goal is the Giro. I want to be at the best of my form in May."
Ferrari's race program is quite different from last year when he won stage 5 of the...
"I think it's important to start the season in good condition - not the best but still a little bit good," he told Cyclingnews.
"I've been training good but I still have to be much better than this. I stopped the season earlier so I had more training in the winter. I was really motivated with the jersey. I was training well. I think my endurance is perfect. I think I've built a good base for the season."
Gilbert was considered one of the favourites for overall success at the 2013 Tour Down Under, only to have his chances dashed by the mass pile-up on the Corkscrew Hill climb on stage two. He bounced back with a third place on stage three but was left to rue what might have been.
"It was so stupid to have lost [time] with the crash because with this third place maybe I would be in a good position but this is a race and you can't change this," he said.
On stage three Gilbert spent 118km blowing out the pre-season cobwebs in the break that dominated the stage. The reigning World Champion is in Australia as the first stepping stone towards his major season objective: the Ardennes Classics.
"I know I need to be 100 per cent there," Gilbert said. "I know if I'm 90 - 95 per cent now I know it's not possible to be 100 per cent in April. So I start the race slowly and my condition is coming up every week."
Gilbert found the going hard following the Corkscrew stage, with no position to defend on the general classification. Even before the
GB squad reverses disappointment of losing ochre jersey
The Sky Procycling team of former race leader Geraint Thomas could have started the final stage at the Tour Down Under wallowing in self pity after a disappointing end to Stage 6 at Old Willunga Hill. Thomas was wearing the ochre leader's jersey entering the queen stage and seemed destined to become the 15th winner of the tour but he cracked on the final ascent, losing the lead and dropping to fifth overall.
The team, however, had plenty to race for in the final stage around Adelaide and went about regaining some of what was lost the day prior.
In this video Thomas talks about the result of the stage to Old Willunga and the team's approach to step back onto the podium. At the end of the day it was Thomas who would finish the Tour Down Under in third overall, win most aggressive for the stage and also take home the sprint jersey.
“We were disappointed yesterday but there was still one day of racing left and we still had the chance of getting third,” said Thomas after he also collected the blue Jayco Sprints jersey from the stage.
“The boys [were] just incredible again really, all I had to do was just, well, try and get past Eddy [Boasson Hagen].
"I didn't count - I thought I already had 100," he told media following the sprint.
"It's always nice to get another win. We always took responsibility during the week for the sprints and I think we worked hard for sprint possibilities and we also dominated the sprint."
Dominate the mighty Lotto Belisol train did over the past seven days - first taking out the warm-up People's Choice Classic before getting down to business on Stage 1. His win on Stage 4 was Greipel's 13th at the Tour Down Under, breaking the record previously held by Robbie McEwen. Four sprints in a week, it was a clean sweep.
"We did for sprints, we won four," Greipel stated. "The team always did a big effort to bring me to the front and keep me out of trouble. Of course we would have liked to have had Adam Hansen in the top-10, it didn’t work out. I think with four victories we can be really happy."
When Greipel crossed the finish line after the 90km street circuit on Sunday, he had moved around Blanco's Mark Renshaw who had opened the sprint with around 300m to go. The German's acceleration made it look like Renshaw had been standing still.
"It was nearly the same scenario as last year," Greipel explained. "I don't know if he...
André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) stamped his authority on the final day of racing is Australia as he sprinted to his fourth stage win of this year's Tour Down Under for the 100th victory of the German's career.
Phil Anderson and Cyclingnews' Australian Editor Alex Malone take a look over the action from the concluding stage in Adelaide plus reflect on the both this year's edition and the future of the Tour Down Under.
Coy on the idea of his own truth and reconciliation
Gianni Bugno, the head of the Cyclistes Professionels Associés (CPA), the International Cyclists' Association, has said that Lance Armstrong should pay for what he has done to cycling but contradictorily added that the sport shouldn't concentrate on the past.
Bugno's career as a professional was highlighted by back-to-back road race world championships in 1991-1992 plus the overall victory at the 1990 Giro d'Italia, a race he led from start to finish. The Italian, a competitor of Armstrong later in the 1990s, retired in 1998, a year before Armstrong won his first Tour de France; which was later stripped from him through USADA's Reasoned Decision.
"It's difficult to talk about. In my eyes, as an ex-athlete I respect him. I can't say he's a champion but I respect him as an athlete. However, if he has done something wrong he has to pay for that. It wasn't good what he did to cycling. He'll pay for what he has done," Bugno told Cyclingnews.
Last month Bugno, in his position as head of the CPA, appeared to welcome the concept of a truth and reconciliation package within cycling. There appears to be growing momentum for the idea too, even with the beleaguered UCI adding their support to the idea. Armstrong's legal counsel have also made noises on the topic. Although there is no framework in place WADA appear to be the only organisation with the ability to create a structure for cyclists, past and present, to come forward.
Bugno, however, appeared lukewarm on the idea, saying that cycling should look forward, although he added that he agreed with the ideology of truth.
Slagter scored 100 points for overall victory and 11 points for his stage results, to give him a total of 111 points. With teammates Wilco Kelderman scoring 40 points and Mark Renshaw a further six points, the Blanco Pro Cycling Team topped the team rankings with a total of 157 points, make for a successful start to the racing season for the troubled Dutch squad.
Euskaltel Euskadi is a distant second with 91 points and the Movistar Team is third with 87 points after both Spanish teams placed two riders in the top 15 overall. Javier Moreno was second overall for the Movistar Team, scoring 86 points tan dos is second to Slagter in the individual rankings. Britain's Geraint Thomas is third with 77 points after finishing third and winning a stage.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) is ninth in the individual ranking, with 18 points, after winning three stages in Australia.
Spain leads the nation ranking with a total of 177 points thanks to strong performances from Javier Moreno and brothers Jon and Gorka Izaguirre Insausti of Euskaltel Euskadi. They finished fourth and seventh overall at the Santos Tour Down Under to place Spain ahead of the Netherlands -second with 152 points, with Great Britain a more distant third with 78 points.
The next race on the WorldTour calendar is Paris-Nice in France between March 3-10.