Simon Gerrans (Sky) claimed his first win of 2011 at the Tour of Denmark on Sunday, nine seconds ahead of Leopard Trek's Daniele Bennati. It was the Australian's first general classification victory since the 2006 Herald Sun Tour along with his first stage race win in Europe.
Gerrans took the yellow jersey on Stage 3, extending his four second lead out to eight seconds with a fifth placing in Saturday's penultimate time trial stage before coming under attack from the Italian. With time bonuses up for grabs in the day's intermediate sprints, Gerrans had the speed to beat Bennati on the uphill sprint and so extended his lead to nine seconds. That left Bennati chasing the stage win although he had to settle for 11th after Rabobank's Theo Bos took out the bunch sprint to the line.
"Today's stage panned out perfectly for us. Leopard controlled the peloton for the first sprint with the goal to reduce back my advantage so I think it was a huge blow to their confidence when I outsprinted Bennati and extended my lead by one second," Gerrans said.
"My teammates did a fantastic job throughout the whole stage controlling the peloton and making sure I was well protected".
"It's a huge thrill to stand on the top step of the podium in a European stage race," he added.
Team Sky also took out victory in the teams classification with Alex Dowsett and Dario Cioni finishing fifth and sixth overall respectively.
Sky DS Marcus Ljungqvist was happy to see the team combine to great effect in helping Gerrans to victory.
He said: "It's a really good result. A very nice win for Simon and for the team. Like always without the help of the team it is difficult to pull something off so it was great to see."
Ljungqvist explained that the first intermediate sprint played right into Gerrans' hands.
"They [Leopard Trek] had to fight for it and work hard to get the intermediate sprint," he admitted. "It was a perfect one for us. Simon nipped in front of Bennati and took a bit of his morale I think.
"But Bennati could have still won the race with the 10-second bonus on the line so it wasn't over until the finish. The rest of the team they did a great job supporting and taking care of Simon, making sure he was in position at all times.
"We were joking that we started a bit slow in this race but as it has gone on it has been really good. All in all a great result."
Adding to the sweetness of the win was the fact that Gerrans was able to emulate the achievements of his mentor, Phil Anderson who won the Tour of Denmark in 1988.
"Not only is this my first stage race win in Europe but it's also the first of Phil's palmarès I've been able to replicate," he said.
The 31-year-old's next race is the GP Plouay later this month, which he won in 2009.