Sanchez shines in winner's jersey
By winning the Jacob's Creek Tour Down under at only 21 years of age, Spain's Luis Sanchez (Liberty Seguros) has shown that he is the early bird of this season and also possibly a great name for the future. Today's final stage in Adelaide was held over 18 laps of a 4.5 km circuit, crossing the river Torrens twice each lap, and with no major difficulties provided along the course, it was no big surprise that Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen managed to snatch the victory once again.
After the finish line, Robbie explained his tactics. "I didn't make the mistake I did last year of getting caught on the left hand barriers with the wind coming slightly from the right. I just moved myself out into the open and just wound it up from there.
"I felt someone coming just beside me, but he was a bit too late. My teammates are so dedicated to getting me to the finish. I just can't thank them enough. They always do a super job and it just motivates me to want to win the races for them."
McEwen also praised the large and colourful crowd, that turned out in force to watch the final stage on the picturesque circuit. "I think it is great to see so many people come out to watch us going around on our bikes. They're not just coming out to have a look but they're so enthusiastic. They're yelling the riders names, even the foreign guys, cheering for everyone and it's just such a great atmosphere and I'm just happy to get another win because there's nothing like that feeling of crossing the line."
How it unfolded
As predicted, the race was nervous from the start as riders were looking to get into a break, but it got more relaxed as Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step), Jan Kuyckx (Davitamon-Lotto), Jonathan Clarke (United Water), and Corey Sweet (UniSA) managed to get away. The four man breakaway was caught with 12 laps to go as the Navigators went to the front as they had been declaring they would before the stage.
Robbie McEwen explored the uphill finishing straight as he secured his sprinter's jersey by winning the first intermediate sprint ahead of Aaron Kemps and Javier Ramirez (Liberty Seguros), and 2003 JCTDU winner Mikel Astarloza was quick to counter as the speed was raised. Local UniSA rider Russell Van Hout joined him in the break, but they were both brought back as the riders approached the first KOM sprint at Montefiore hill. The leader of the climber's classification, Gene Bates of UniSA was on equal points with Navigator's David O'Loughlin and needed to be ahead over the summit if he was to be presented the final jersey on the podium later. Although Navigators did a good job leading up the climb, Bates was right in place and won the sprint in impressive style.
David Betts (United Water) and Steve Cunningham (UniSA) attacked shortly after the climb, and for a while it looked as if their attack could hold all the way to the finish. While out there, Betts took the second intermediate sprint, ahead of Cunningham and Ciaran Power of Navigators. That did little harm to McEwen who had the sprinter's jersey secured even before he started today. Unfortunately for both of the riders in the break, Cunningham punctured and David Betts wasn't able to fend off the strong peloton alone.
Heading up the Montefiore for the second sprint, the peloton was all back together again, and Bates was probably relieved when he secured the climber's jersey by winning also the second sprint up the hill. "I definitely thought I had a chance of winning the jersey," Bates said after the stage. "I was gonna give it a go. O'Loughlin hasn't been that fast during this race, but today his team gave him really strong support. Mine has done the same thing though, they have really supported me in the pursuit of this jersey."
O'Loughlin, who eventually finished second in the climbers classification, 12 points down on Bates, accentuated Bates words. "I just happened to end up in such a good position for the climbers jersey. I was in the first break, and then the second, and there I was. I figured I could give it a go today, as we had nothing else to ride for in the team, but I was aware that Bates would be very fast today."
From this point on, the peloton was under the strict control of first Davitamon and later FDJeux.com. The French team looked as if they were finally setting up the sprint for Baden Cooke, but as the riders approached the line, controlling McEwen just wasn't an option. Over the line, McEwen fought off Panaria's Paride Grillo and Liberty Seguros' Allan Davis, the latter noticeably disappointed.
"I didn't win," Allan told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I really wanted to win today. I felt I deserved a win all week. I should have hit out a bit earlier. I thought I got to the line with a bit too much left. They jumped past me and then I had to go past them. He's a hard man to beat, Robbie, so I tried my best and that's all I could do. I am pleased with mine and my team's overall performance though, but I need to win a race. That's what I need to do. I'm sick of running second or third. Maybe I can get a win in Paris-Nice, in one of the bigger races."
The fast Paride Grillo benefited from a leadout of sorts from his Panaria team, but his teammate Graeme Brown admitted to Cyclingnews that there was some confusion as to whom they were actually working for. "It was sort of a bit up in the air...we're not master tacticians. It was a bit chaotic," said Brown. Grillo was second, while Ruben Bongiorno was fourth and Brown ninth. But it's questionable as to whether anyone could have beaten McEwen today, even if things had gone according to plan for the orange outfit.
Yellow jersey Luis Sanchez finished safely in the peloton, but admitted after the race that he had been nervous during the stage. "Since the stage was held on an urban circuit, you can always expect it to be very fast, so I was really nervous during the stage that something should happen ." Sanchez told the media crowded around him that this was indeed his biggest win so far, and that it meant a lot both to him, and to the team, since it is important to them to get a win under the belt as soon as possible in the season. "It has worked out really well for me during the race. I knew I was in for a good ride, but I didn't actually expect I'd go this well. Today my team had it under control every metre of the race."
On the comparison to Spanish great Miguel Indurain, Sanchez laughed out loud. "I wish I had half of his qualities, and I dream about a career half as good as his," Sanchez said, before admitting that it was now back to reality in Europe where he will work for his team leaders in the big races.