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Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage 3 at the Santos Tour Down Under. I'm Alex Malone and I will be providing comprehensive updates of the 139km race from Unley to Stirling. The race experienced a huge shake-up to the general classification yesterday and today's stage could also prove selective as the peloton tackles multiple laps of the Stirling circuit.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Stage 3 at the Tour Down Under. We are about 10 minutes from the official start in Unley. The riders will have a 5.6km neutral section before undertaking the 139km trip to the finish in Sterling.
The riders have been greeted with a very warm start to today's stage with the temperature expected to reach 38 degrees in Adelaide city. Thankfully it will be a little cooler up in the hills.
The course today is sure to test the legs of the entire peloton with the demanding finishing laps around Sterling. Riders will complete six loops around Sterling before crossing the finish line for the final time. It'll also be hot with an expected temperature of 31-34 degrees. That may suit the local riders who are accustomed to the Australian summer heat.
Just a couple of minutes to go now. All the riders are lined up and ready to go.
Many of the riders should have warmed up before the start today because they begin climbing once the flag is dropped. Unley is approximately 60m above seas level and the first KOM is at 6.2km.
Gerraint Thomas, current race leader is also on the top of the tally for the KOM classification. Will he take a few more points?
The race is now underway with the peloton under the control of race officials.
The start to today's stage is ideal for an early breakaway group. The opening 10km are all uphill, climbing nearly 400m vertical.
Here's a quick recap of the general classification:
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky
2. Javier Moreno (Spa) Movistart @ 0:01
3. Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard @ st
Check out the full details from yesterday's stage from Prospect to Lobethal.
Jane Aubrey spoke to race leader Geraint Thomas at the start this morning and he was confident ahead of day' stage. You can follow her on Twitter @janeaubrey
Geraint Thomas: It was a good day yesterday and the team are strong. Everyone’s looking forward today. It’s a tough start though, i think we’ve definitely got our work cut out it isn’t going to be easy at all. Especially starting on the climb, it’s always strong guys that get away up there. Hopefully we can limit the numbers and make it easier for us for the rest of the day then. Like i said, everyman and his dog’s going to want to be up the road today.
With the heat as well it’s also going to be a big challenge for everyone.
Jane Aubrey: Tough day in store, that’s for sure? Acclimatised? He’s been here since Dec 29...
GT: It takes me a bit longer than three weeks to get used to this sort of temperature being Welsh. I’ve got a better advantage than if I’d just dropped in, for sure.
It was fresh Argos-Shimano recruit Will Clarke who won the stage into Sterling last year. He did it from a breakaway and spent much of the stage alone. He might not have the energy to do it again today after being in the break yesterday. Anyone willing to pick a winner from today?
Maybe check out a re-cap from last year's stage. Few of the top finishers are not here this year but some of them are...
The race has officially begun with 131 riders taking the start.
The bunch has been strung out immediately with this uphill start. Small groups looking to get off the front early.
A number of teams missed out yesterday and with the general classification seemingly out of reach expect plenty of attacks.
There is already a large group of about 13 riders trying to get away. They've got about a 200m gap at the moment. That will be a difficult one to control for team Sky.
The first riders are rapidly approaching the first and only KOM of the day. It's a category 2 climb with 10 points on offer for the first rider across the top.
Unfortunately Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ was not at the start this morning. He broke his collarbone in the crash that occurred in the final 10km downhill run into Lobethal yesterday.
That lead group has swelled to 23 riders but they have a slim gap over the bunch. I would expect this to be brought back with a small group to counter the move.
Team Sky are already on the front controlling the gap to the lead group. Most of the teams are represented in the break but no confirmed riders yet.
Today could be a very long day for the Sky team if they don't shut this move down. More riders are trying to bridge the gap before the KOM at 6.2km
Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge) and Jack Bobridge (Blanco) have sensed the group is too large and have launched off the front. The leading duo have a slight advantage over the chasing riders.
Impey and Bobridge are clear of the chasing 23-rider group with the peloton only 200m behind. Team Sky is chasing hard.
Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) and Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) have now taken over the lead at the front of the race.
Orica GreenEdge said they would be aggressive from the start today and it certainly seems like they want to put Sky under pressure.
Australian national road champion Luke Durbride explained some of the tactics for the day's stage:
Durbridge: I think we’ve got good options. Gerro’s always finished pretty highly. It was a bit unfortunate yesterday, [he had] a bit of breathing issues and things like that. He’s still got good form.
It depends on how the circuits are raced but Gossy’s always good in an uphill kick.
Jump around in the breakaways a bit. We’ll see how hard it goes up the highway.
LD: We’ll see. I’ll be attentive at the start. I’m seven and a half minutes down and not really a GC threat. If I can get up the road I’ll be more than grateful.
Results of the KOM at Mt Barker Road: Bobridge (Blanco), Impey (Orica GreenEdge), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Javier Moreno (Movistar).
Simon Clarke (Orica) and Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) are pushing their lead out. They have pushed the advantage to 1:07 @ 17km.
Will Clarke (Argos) won the stage into Sterling last year when he was riding for the UniSA - Australia national team. Can he do it again?
@TommyBick made a good call earlier today. Simon Clarke has a good strong rider for company in today's break.
Simon Clarke is the best-placed of the two leading riders. He started the stage in 39th-place @ 1:28 from Geraint Thomas. Will Clarke paid for his efforts in the breakaway yesterday and currently lies in 117th @ 9:12.
Clarke's presence in the lead means team Sky won't allow him too much freedom. The Australian ProTeam's best rider for GC is currently Clarke.
The result of yesterday's stage has meant a number of the pre-race favourites find themselves out of contention for the overall win. While the lead two extend their advantage, it's time to take a drink and do a little light reading:
Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) is actually the best-place Australian after Stage 2. The bunch has witnessed his power while leading-out teammate Andre Greipel but he showed his climbing skills yesterday. He's in 14th @ 0:14 behind race leader Thomas. There are actually 12 riders on the same time as fourth-place overall Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-Merida) @ 0:14.
Adam Hansen: As the top Aussie? It’s kinda nice. It’s unexpected. They wanted me to do a good GC here with Tim Wellens. It gives our team better cards to play.
The leading two of Clarke and Clarke are now on the Sterling circuit with the peloton less than 1km from passing through the finish line for the first time. The riders will now complete five full laps.
Stuart O'Grady knows these road better than most and gave his opinion on today's race.
"It's a touch circuit around Sterling and it seems like every year we are doing more and more laps. This year we have five [after coming through the finish line the first time]. Three was already extremely hard and five is just going to be very, very difficult.
For me, Corkscrew on Stage 2 is going to be selective and this day is going to be quite decisive. There's no where to recover. It's like a world championship circuit and the pace is going to get quicker and quicker every lap. We'll see coming into the finish with the final five kilometres, probably not a huge group, maybe 30 or 40 guys.
It may not be the most decisive day of the tour but you could really inflict some damage."
Will Clarke started the day with 10 Jayco Sprint points and he's just taken another 5 at the first intermediate sprint of the day. Simon did not contest the sprint with the two continuing to work together.
There are just two sprints today and Will Clarke should also take the next one. Simon would be more interested in the stage win and gaining back time on the general classification.
Geraint Thomas has extended his lead in the general classification - on the road - by taking third-place at the first intermediate sprint.
The gap has remained stead at 3:25 for quite a while now. Team Sky will be happy to leave them out there for quite a bit longer. The pace should start to pick up in the coming laps.
The gap has just come down for the first time today. Not by much, it's still at 3:10 with Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) and Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) in the lead. Clarke is the virtual race leader on the road after starting today @ 1:28 down on Geraint Thomas.
Apologies to all following the race today. It's "Stirling" not "Sterling". Thanks to @jimmybirch for providing the feedback.
Sky are doing a perfect job of setting the pace today, they have let it go back out to 3:25. The leading two will need to hold that margin to have a chance entering the final lap.
David Tanner (Blanco) believes the circuit could suit him today. He's not amongst the GC contenders after yesterday however his team has two riders inside the top-20: Tom Jelte Slagter and Wilco Kelderman. Slagter is leading the best young rider classification.
Tanner: It’s as a good circuit for me. We’ve got the two young Dutch guys who are in a good place in the general so I’ll just be staying with TJ [Tjiallingi] in the whole race and doing what I can for him. I’ll know on the last lap if i’ve got the legs and then we decide how things pan out from there.
One of two things can happen [today]. It can either be completely bananas and the peloton explodes or two guys go up the road and we ride up there at 10km/h.
Tanner also spoke about the change in focus for Orica GreenEdge: "GreenEdge are going to have to completely change their tactics now so they’re going to want to be getting guys up the road and the same with UniSA. It’s going to be a different race today.
It’s good, I’m really enjoying the racing. Yesterday we tried to put it in the gutter and it could have succeeded, it almost did but if you don’t try you don’t know."
The gap has already started to come down under the pace-setting of team Sky. Clarke and Clarke have a 2:52 advantage over the peloton.
The gap is starting to come down but did Will Clarke think he could repeat his victory into Stirling today?
"Can I do it again? Never say never, but it’s pretty hard today. Knowing there would be six laps to do in Stirling instead of four, I tried my luck yesterday. I don’t expect a bunch sprint today."
The Powerade Hydration Station is a dangerous place today. Team helpers are all over the rode trying to hand out bottle to their riders but it's making it difficult for those in the middle and toward the back of the bunch. Race officials have already instructed soigneurs to stay to the far side of the road.
A crash has occurred involving Astana and Vacansoleil.
Will Clarke has taken the second sprint at the 56.6km point and is now the virtual leader in the Jayco Sprint competition. He has accumulated 20 points and sits one point ahead of Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-Merida) who wears the jersey today on 19 points.
Blanco has been active in the last few kilometres. They have two riders within the top-20. Tom Jelte Slagter is the best young rider and is in 4th overall. Here's what he has to say prior to the start:
"We want to win. Today’s finish is very good for me. The good sprint I did yesterday for fourth place gave me the confidence for winning today. I want to keep the best young rider jersey and be high on GC at the end of the Tour Down Under."
Bernie Eisel has been doping much of the pace-setting with the entire team on the front. Edvald Boasson Hagen is sitting in third wheel, suggesting the team may use him later on to protect Thomas' lead. The circuit may be too difficult for him at this time of year.
The official results from the second and final intermediate sprint is: Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano), Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEdge) and Maarten Tjallingii (Blanco).
Philippe Gilbert was one of the riders caught in the crash yesterday and the GC is all but lost for the world road race champion.
"I’ve lost any hope of winning the TDU in the crash yesterday but I’m fine. I’ve been told that today’s finish is good for me but I haven’t done it before. I’ll have six laps to get to know it. The race is more open now."
Another one of the victims from yesterday was Movistar's Giovanni Visconti. He was touted as a potential winner but crashed on the decent along with many others.
"I went to hospital yesterday to get x-rays for my head and my back. I came out with good news, but it would be a big word to say that I’ve slept last night. The positive outcome of yesterday’s stage is that I started the climb in last position and I finished with the best riders at the top…. Before crashing. Fortunately, we’ve had Javier Moreno taking second place, now we’ll defend that position. Movistar is among the strongest teams in the climbs here."
You will have to excuse my errors today. First full day doing live coverage. Not disrespect intended to Bernie Eisel.
Sky are setting the tempo and looking after their leader Thomas perfectly. It's a tough run into the finish line but after his showing yesterday Thomas could win the stage. It's still a long way to go but which other riders will be there in the final few kilometres? Send me some suggestions on Twitter using #cntdu.
The race has entered the second half of the day and the gap has dropped again to 2:20.
Simon Gerrans was third on this stage last year but he struggled yesterday with breathing problems. He's not much better today but he's got a teammate up the road. It's all about stage wins for the team now.
"I’m not feeling better today than yesterday when I woke up being sick," said Gerrans prior to the stage. "Asthma usually doesn’t catch me at this time of the year. It’s disappointing. I’ve prepared for this race just as well as last year but my health is not good. It’s out of my control. For Orica-GreenEdge now, it’ll be all about winning stages."
Both Simon and Will are looking good in the break. Neither of them appear to be struggling but the question of whether they can up the pace or hold on remains to be seen.
The leading two have entered the third of five laps around Stirling. Two minutes is not a lot of time around this circuit but there's two very capable riders ahead who could still spoil the day.
The temperature is just sitting around 30 degrees which may start to take its toll in the next few laps.
Sky have let the gap go out again, or the two Clarke's have picked up the tempo. The gap has jumped out to 3:20.
You would have noticed Lachlan Morton (Garmin Sharp) riding near the front through the feezone earlier. He's a bit too far down the standings in 22nd @ 0:31 but he's also one of the strongest climbers in the bunch.
The bunch has come to life and there's been a flurry of attacks. Two Movistar riders have pulled away with a RadioShack Leopard plus a couple of others. No confirmed numbers yet.
Jack Bobridge (Blanco) has gone in pursuit of the leading duo and the bunch has reacted. Movistar riders are chasing him and the gap to the break drops to 1:45.
Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEdge) has bridged to the small chase group as the peloton speeds up behind.
Approximately 12 riders have joined together and are in pursuit of the two-man break. The gap back to the peloton is only around 200m but the group is pushing hard.
Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma), Brian Vandborg, Tomas Marczynski(Vancansoleil-DCM), Jack Bobridge (Blanco), Luke Dubridge (Orica GreenEdge), Jesse Sergent (RadioShack Leopard), Andrey Amador, Jose Herrada (Movistar), Simon Stortoni (Lampre-Merida) and Calvin Watson (UniSA) were those who attacked the group but they were brought back together.
Those attacks have seen the two-man group come within sight. They will be caught very soon.
Brain Vandborg is actually from the Cannondale team and he's continued the attack. He's with a few others.
There's been a re-shuffling at the front but the bunch is still within sight. Sky will be working extremely hard to keep this all together.
8 riders have formed at the front now. Rider names to be confirmed soon.
The attack has been shut down by the Sky team. Who will go next?
That lead group of eight is in fact still away. They have pushed out the lead to 0:25.
That break is being chased by the peloton and the gap has dropped to less than 20 seconds.
Those eight riders are all pulling through nicely now but the bunch won't be letting them go far.
The bunch has them in their sights now. The attacks are going to be relentless. Does Sky have the fire power to keep it all together until the finish?
U.S champion Tim Duggan (Saxo-Tinkoff) was involved in a bad fall a little earlier. Still waiting on an update but it doesn't look good.
Let's hope Duggan is ok after going down.
Both Clarke's have done well to stay with this group. Simon is rolling through while Will is sitting on heading up one of the climbs.
Will Clarke's Argos-Shimano teammate Thierry Hupond is pulling strong turns in the break while a few riders are starting to struggle with the tempo. Both Orica GreenEdge riders looking good.
Sky are still on the front with Boasson Hagen taking his turn. The Lotto Belisol team is also hovering near the pointy end. Could Andre Greipel be the man for today?
The leading 8-man group has pushed the advantage to nearly 30 seconds. They have been covered by the Shimano neutral spares vehicle. Race officials feel like this could stick for a while.
The gap has dropped to 15 seconds as riders near the finish line. They will then receive the bell to signify the start of the final lap.
Look out for the UniSA team today. They have been riding near the front for most of the loops around Stirling.
The average speed for the day has been 42km/h. That's very impressive around this tough circuit. It's proved too much for Vandborg. He's sat up and is going back to the peloton.
Damien Howson (UniSA) is trying to bridge to the leading seven riders.
Howson was involved in a crash on the fast run-in to the bottom of Corkscrew yesterday and lost over 6 minutes to the day's winner Geraint Thomas. He's out for revenge today.
The work of Sky's Chris Sutton has nullified Howson's move. Now just to catch those seven at the front to set up a bunch sprint. Lotto Belisol are also contributing to the pace now.
Morabito has attacked the breakaway and has Amador just behind.
That acceleration has split the front group. Will Clarke (Argos) has been dropped along with Boy van Poppel (Vancansoleil).
Amador grabbed a bottle from the car and used a cheeky hand-sling to increase the pace.
The leading five are really committed to this move. Simon Clarke has ridden superbly today but it appears the move could be over. The bunch is once again hot on their wheels.
This group is not giving up and that's been enough for officials to award Simon Clarke with the most aggressive rider award. He'll be stepping onto the stage regardless of the stage result.
I would have to put my money on Daryl Impey for the stage win - if they can stay away. He's one of Matt Goss' lead-out men and can put in a strong sprint himself.
Amador doesn't want to help out anymore while Impey is really giving it everything. Clarke has been in the break all day and still looking very good.
The bunch is just 50m behind. It's finished for these five riders.
Two riders are now away as the leading eight are caught.
Valerio Agnoli (Astana) is giving it a real go but the bunch won't be giving up now. There's less than 5km remaining.
Agnoli is caught and another attack has been launched. Tiago Machado (RadioShack Leopard) is going it solo.
Machado finished third-overall at the Tour Down Under last year and has opened a good gap. He will have to give it everything to stay away.
A couple more riders have attacked from the bunch. Garmin Sharp and a rider from Omega Pharma - Quick-Step are hunting down Machado.
There is less than 40 riders left in the main field and they have caught Machado.
A rider from Cannondale has now given it a dig. Cam Wurf has a small margin with less than 1km to go.
They are lining it up for the finish now.
It's really strung out with 300m to go.
Tom Jelte Slagter takes the win!
Brief results are:
1. Tom Slagter (Blanco)
2. Matt Goss (Orica GreenEdge)
3. Philippe Gilbert (BMC)