Poised on the same time as the Spaniard heading into Sunday's stage, a 90 kilometre criterium in the heart of Adelaide, Simon Gerrans needed only to finish ahead of his challenger in a bunch sprint and nullify any raids on sprint bonuses to secure victory. The pair again finished the day equal on time.
Gerrans standing in ochre was another box ticked, with the WorldTour neophytes’ two biggest season goals coming in their first month of racing – the 31-year-old had claimed the national road title before heading to Adelaide.
Gerrans, a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, said that he had planned his assault on the Australian summer upon signing with GreenEdge for their inaugural season.
"I knew it was going to be so important for the team to start out in good shape and get some results on the board really early," he explained. "So I made it a target of mine to win the Australian Championships and the Tour Down Under. I've ticked those boxes so it really is a dream start to the season."
The day started with criticism from Sky's directeur sportif Sean Yates, who labelled the GreenEdge team's performance at the Tour Down Under as below par, and questioned the seriousness of the outfit's preparation for the event, while admitting that Gerrans was an exception.
Gerrans later admitted that he hadn't read the piece published by Fairfax. Meanwhile, the team's veteran sprinter Robbie McEwen was rallying the troops for their day in the sun.
"I just told them how grateful I was to be a part of it with them and how much I was looking forward to it," McEwen said of his pre-race speech. "At the time I said 'let's get this job done', so now we've done it I think we deserve a cold one.”
Criticism had been levelled at GreenEdge throughout the week, with no stage wins to their name despite the inclusion of Milan-San Remo winner and 2011 runner-up on GC Matt Goss in the team. GreenEdge and Goss had been making the point clear for some time that the focus would be on the GC rather than on the sprints, but still the rumblings of discontent were audible nonetheless.
"I suppose I'm a little bit surprised as to how critical the media's been because for 15 years people have been asking for a team, but because we didn't win on day one, people have got the knives out for us," GreenEdge sports director Matt White admitted to Cyclingnews.
Pressed about the comments made by Yates, White said: "At the end of the day we won the bike race and he's got the biggest budget in world cycling."
Gerrans too seemed miffed by Yates' statement, having been a part of Sky's first two seasons.
"Sean's all too familiar with the situation," he said. "In our first year at Team Sky we copped plenty of criticism for not being super-competitive right from day one as well. Maybe it's all a part of being a new team."
GreenEdge financier Gerry Ryan could not hide his joy standing on the edge of the circuit and the businessman was not afraid to take a swipe at Yates.
"I'm disappointed we didn't get a stage win, did we? Aw..." he chuckled. "That was all we were looking for, probably a stage win or two."
Ryan maintained that Yates’ comments were invalid.
"We had a bit of an injury [problem] – Julian Dean, Jack and then Cookey. We were down on numbers for who had prepared for this race. But hey – we won."