By Gerard Knapp in Adelaide
Going into the sixth and final stage of the 2008 Tour Down Under, UniSA - Australia's sprinter Allan Davis trails dominant race leader Andre Greipel of Team High Road by only seven seconds. After the stage, Davis told Cyclingnews that the Tour was by no means over, and he and his team were going to have a really good crack at the overall win.
"Definitely," he said when asked if his team was going all-out to secure the win. In today's stage five, Davis made the final selection up the Old Willunga Hill and followed Greipel across the line in second place. Greipel secured a 10 second time bonus and Davis, six seconds. That deficit helped extend Greipel's GC advantage over Davis from three to seven seconds.
"We've got 88km to go yet and we'll be fighting for the last centimetre," Davis declared. "Another day to go and we're not going to stop fighting.
"Seven seconds, it's winable, we can win it from there," he said. "There are 3-2-1 bonus sprints, plus a 10-6-4 sprint at the end. There's more than seven seconds to gain there. As long as we go down fighting, we're all happy."
Despite Davis' willingness to attack on Sunday, the final stage is hardly conducive to major time gaps being created. It's a flat yet twisting 5.5km city street circuit that the field will complete 16 times for a total stage length of 88km. There are two intermediate sprints and then the final sprint, offering time bonuses of six and 10 seconds, respectively, plus time bonuses for the minor placings.
"Personally I need this win," Davis added. "An overall win would be great for my resume."
Davis would have finish in front of Greipel in at least two of those three sprints, and that's assuming Greipel doesn't finish better than third. However, Greipel has been the form sprinter of this year's TDU, with three stage wins as well as a victory last Sunday in the Down Under Classic. Adding some family tension into the mix is that Davis' brother, Scott, is on Team High Road, and will have to work against his brother to help Greipel secure the win.
There was a similar situation in last year's final stage of the TDU, where Ag2r's Martin Elmiger held a one second advantage over Karl Menzies, who was also riding for the composite team UniSA. However, Menzies and his UniSA squad - that also included Allan Davis - was unable to erase that deficit and Elmiger went on to win the 2007 TDU.
While many may see Greipel's seven second advantage as being insurmountable, given his current form, as well as the flat parcours and the strength of Team High Road, Davis will certainly have a home advantage; the support of the crowd.
Speaking at a press conference after stage 5, even Cadel Evans of Silence - Lotto said he backed the plucky Australian sprinter. "I'm an Allan Davis fan," he said, "and I'd really like to see a fight to the finish."