Bonus seconds could decide overall victory at the Tour Down Under
Having started the day 11 seconds behind race leader Cadel Evans (BMC), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) improved his overall position by winning five precious bonus seconds. On tomorrow’s Stage 5 Willunga Hill is sure to test both riders and the sport directors for both teams suggested that the race may only be decided on Sunday’s criterium around the city streets of Adelaide.
A mechanical problem at the second intermediate sprint point today hindered Evans’ chances of limiting his losses as Gerrans took the prize of five bonus seconds. Matt White explained after the race the team was targeting the time bonuses to help Gerrans move up in the overall. "We were always going to focus on the first one [intermediate sprint], but we saw an opportunity to go for the second one. We're in a lot better situation than where we were 24-hours ago, that's for sure," White said.
Speaking with the experience of what has happened in the last two years on Willunga, White knows that tomorrow’s stage will be decisive in deciding who wins the race overall.
In 2012 Gerrans lost the sprint to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) but went on to the win the overall. Last year Gerrans won the stage ahead of Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) who went on to win the Ochre jersey as the Australian finished the race outside the top ten.
"At the end of the day, you still have to beat Cadel tomorrow on Willunga, but I think that's doable. It will come down to speed, it will be good for us. The hardest part of Willunga is at the bottom, but I wouldn't be surprised to see all those top guys come together to the line, or at least very close.
"The priority tomorrow is to win the stage. Simon is more focused on winning the stage. We're a long from finished with this race. We're on a mission, that's for sure."
Out to stop the mission will be BMC and their sport director Allan Peiper who suggested that intermediate sprint time bonus may be just as crucial as the hill top finish.
"Every second does count. We conceded a bit of time today. We still have seven seconds, in a bit of a buffer going into Willunga. With time bonuses atop Willunga at 10, 6 and 4, it's pretty much wide open. I think a lot of it will come down to intermediate sprints on the road, today and Sunday," Peiper said.
"It's going to be an exciting for the race. All in all, we got through the stage fine. There was quite of bit of work for his teammates to try to control the stage, but Willunga is going to be the critical day. A steeper climb would be better for Cadel, I don't know who it favours. It will be a showdown at the top of Willunga."
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