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Welcome back for stage three of the ProTour opening Tour Down Under here in Adelaide, Australia. Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) leads the race having dominated the bunch sprints on the first two stages.
Today's stage three of the Tour Down Under takes us on a 132.5 kilometre trip from the town of Unley through to the finishing circuit in Stirling. As it's one of Les Clarke's favourite stages, we've let him loose as the man on the ground today and I, Greg Johnson, will be here keeping you up to date throughout the day.
Anyone out on the route wanting to drop me information throughout the day can contact me at email@example.com, as can anyone else throughout today's stage.
While they roll through the radio checks prior to letting the peloton roll out, we've got a weather update from Les Clarke. It's pretty muggy outside this morning, with temperatures expected to be dry and hot, really hot. The temperature is expected to rise to around 40 degrees throughout the day.
As today's stage starts pretty close to the city we've got one of the longer neutral zones to sit through before action commences. The peloton will roll over 10 kilometres of road before hitting the kilometre zero mark.
Fingers crossed there’s no repeat of Tuesday’s opener when half the peloton - including world champ Cadel Evans - was brought down in the first two hundred metres.
While we wait for the race to commence, you might be interested in reading how Team Sky's Greg Henderson is planning to beat Andre Greipel should today's stage end in another sprint.
Jens Voigt provided some one-liner gold in the lift earlier this week – which we shouldn’t repeat here – and it seems he’s got some local fans with a couple wearing WWJD shirts on the first stage. That’s right: What Would Jens Do?
Our out and about man spoke with him this morning. “Out of the sprinters we’ve got here Baden Cooke’s best suited to today’s finish, we hope that he can get up there today,” he said. “In terms of the overall it just depends on how the race develops, but bonus seconds are crucial. Every second counts.”
We will see two sprint points throughout today's stage, the first in McLaren Flat some 30.9 kilometres into the race. The second will come at kilometre 74.1 in Echunga.
In between the riders will face a King of the Mountain climb at kilometre 38.5. There the riders will tackle a 7% climb three kilometres in length.
Thankfully we're only one kilometre away from the race's proper start.
131 riders have crossed the start line for stage three, after Rabobank's Pieter Weening withdrew from the race.
Looks like we’re in for a wrestles start to what’s could be a crucial stage in the formation of this year’s race. A group of 10 has moved off the front, but is being brought back by the peloton.
Well they made it to the start of the race before crashing today. Big (and we mean big) George Hincapie (BMC Racing) fell along with riders from Quick Step and Team Sky. All riders are going again without injury.
Well, we didn't see this coming, Euskaltel-Euskadi has put a rider off the front in Gorka Izagirre. Shock, horror! The Basque squad loves to be in the breaks when Down Under.
Gorka has been joined by seven other riders off the front, while the speed has started shedding riders out the rear. Kasper Klostergaard (Saxo Bank), Hincapie and Wim Stroetinga (Milram) are trying to re-join with the peloton after their crash.
It doesn't look like it's Gorka's day today. He tried to get away yesterday without luck and the race is back together again today.
Greg Henderson (Team Sky) has stopped for a new rear wheel. Hendy is sitting in second position on general classification.
There's a gorgeous view of the city as the riders head up the highway, however they won't be looking back to see it - particularly the 12 riders trying to get back on. George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team) is seeking some medical attention back in that group following the crash.
All 6'3" of Hincapie is back in the peloton now. Henderson has also re-joined after his untimely wheel change.
The peloton is all back together - including the 12 riders involved in the crash - as it bids farewell to Unley. Quick bit of trivia, Unley first held a stage start in 2000 but that stage didn't head to Stirling, instead it finished in Modbury. Who where the top three riders on that stage?
Anthony Ravard (Ag2r) has a short lead on the peloton after a failed breakaway attempt by Juan Ripoll Horrach (Katusha), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions).
Ravard too has been caught. With this stage expected to be important in the race's outcome, the peloton is being picky about who it lets go clear.
The peloton is still all together as it exits the highway.
Seven riders have a short gap over the HTC-Columbia led peloton, while Lance Armstrong has called for a new wheel from his RadioShack crew.
I'll preempt the e-mail flood: Don't worry, it's just a wheel. Armstrong will have it changed and will get back in the peloton without an issues as Henderson did. Calm down.
We've got nine leaders in that group now, including out mate Gorka! The riders are: Andriy Grivko (Astana), Sebastien Rosseler (Team RadioShack), Juan Ripoll Horrach (Katyusha), Thibaut Pinot (Française Des Jeux), Perget Mathieu (Caisse d'Epargne), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions), Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) and Peter Mcdonald (Team UniSA).
The group has a 20 second lead and you can't help but note a couple of strong riders in there. You've got two Australian champions in Wilson and McDonald, both of which have big engines.
Lance update: He's back in the peloton. See, no need to worry!
Feeding has commenced early today due to 'extreme conditions'. Ironically, someone from the South Australian Tourism Commission just handed me a lunch pack!
The gap isn't growing much. It had been out to 22 seconds but is back to 18. Perhaps the peloton is worried about some of the riders in the group. They should be, according to Cameron Meyer from Garmin-Transitions, who said his team will make today difficult.
"It was a good finish for Robbie Hunter yesterday, I definitely think he’s one of the fittest here. We hope the hill can hurt Greipel and Hendy, but if it’s too hard we have the likes of Sanchez and Valverde to content with," he said. "Don’t know about the other teams but we want to blow it up today. Around the 35 kilometre mark we’ll start making some moves."
The gap has been brought back to 15 seconds with one kilometre remaining to the first sprint. Guess who's leading the peloton? HTC-Columbia.
Seems some of the lead group have sat up after the first sprint.
Only Sebastien Rosseler (Team RadioShack), Juan Ripoll Horrach (Katyusha), Perget Mathieu (Caisse d'Epargne) and Peter McDonald (UniSA) remain out front now.
Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) have joined the leaders, making it six up front. There's only five kilometres remaining to the king of the mountain sprint, which means we should be close to the bottom of the climb. You'd think by now we'd have sprint results, wouldn't you Mr Radio Man.
Perget Mathieu (Caisse d'Epargne) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) have dropped the other riders at the climb's base.
Perget Mathieu (Caisse d'Epargne) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) have now been caught by the peloton. Me thinks we're going to see some big moves on this climb.
Thomas Rohregger (Team Milram) and Luke Roberts (Team Milram) have attacked the group in the early stages of the climb.
Valeriy Dmitriyev (Astana), Perget Mathieu (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) and Christian Meier (Garmin-Transitions) have formed a chase group behind the Milram duo.
Must note that as Meyer predicted, there's been a Garmin-Transitions rider in every move so far today. It's a tactic that worked well for team director Matthew White at the Australian Open Road Championships earlier this month.
Just 400 metres remaining on the King of the Mountains. Looks like Milram is hoping to take that jersey off UniSA-Australia National Team today.
Another group of riders has moved forward an joined the chase group as the climb up Wickhams Hill Road kicks up. That group now contains 15 riders, chasing the two Milram boys.
Milram riders have been caught by a large group that includes a certain German. I guess Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) is starting to like the idea of winning two Tour Down Under general classifications.
Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cameron Meyer (Garmin Transitions) have attacked the race and hold a lead over three chase groups.
Sprint results: 1) Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel - Euskadi), 2) Peter Mcdonald (Team UniSA), 3) Matthew Wilson (Garmin-Transitions).
Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cameron Meyer (Garmin Transitions) are over the climb and have a 26 second lead. Guess a few of the team directors should have been following us, they would have known when Meyer would make his move!
King of the Mountains results: 1) Thomas Rohregger (Team Milram), 2) Luke Roberts (Team Milram), 3) Valeriy Dmitriyev (Astana), 4) Timothy Roe (Team UniSA) and 5) Mauro Finetto (Liquigas-Doimo).,
Chris Froome (Team Sky) said his team leader Greg Henderson will be following any move by Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) during today’s stage. “Having second place on GC we’re obviously going to try protecting that, but it depends on how today pans out. We’ll take it from there. It’s not all on Hendy’s shoulders to try and defeat Greipel, we unite together and try to beat him,” he said.
“I think the climb today and Willunga will give us some work to do but anything Greipel can do Hendy is right there on his shoulder.”
The lead of Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cameron Meyer (Garmin Transitions) has grown as the race heads through a sheltered section of the course. The pair now have 1:08 minutes over the peloton.
The gap has edged out slightly to 1:14 minutes, 58 kilometres into the race.
The gap has been reduced a little to 1:02 minutes. The peloton knows these two can't be allowed too much room.
It's a case of young and old out front at the moment. Meyer is one of Australia's new generation of cyclist and was recently crowned national time trial champion, a title added to his many track exploits. Gutierrez is also a handy time trial rider, having won the Under 23 World Championship in 1999 and is also a national champion in the discipline. He's also a Spanish champion in the road race - a title claimed by Meyer's brother Travis in Australia earlier this month - and has won many stages in races around the world throughout his career.
The duo is working well together too, with the gap expanding out to 1:35 minutes. That's 33 seconds they've picked up in three kilometres.
Congratulations to Paul who was our first correct trivia question respondent. The podium from stage four of the 2000 Tour Down Under was:
1 Steffen Wesemann
2 Padcal Herve
3 Stuart O'Grady
Shannon has asked why the Euskatel riders are so motivated to be in moves at TDU, perhaps we can workshop some answers? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Three riders have moved out of the peloton to chase the leaders, they are: Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux), Rohan Dennis (Team UniSA) and Jonathan Cantwell (Team UniSA).
The leader's margin has been reduced by the move behind, the peloton has pulled back 36 seconds while the chase is sitting 200m ahead of the peloton.
The three chase riders have been caught by the peloton and it's not looking good for the leaders either as HTC-Columbia lifts the pace behind.
It's all over for Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cameron Meyer (Garmin Transitions). The pair knew their fate so have sat up and will be caught by the peloton.
Wouldn't it be nice if those in the photographer bus didn't sit on the microphone for their race radio!
Our man Clarkey out on course has the all important cow update for today. He tells me there's some fresian diary cows and some meat cattle just past a town called Meadows!
Simon Clarke (Team UniSA) and Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) have united to form the next move off the front of the peloton.
Ben has an interesting theory about our Basque friends attacking ways: "To get back to the hotel and hit the beers with the young Adelaide chicks!"
Hmm, there was a study done recently about the impact of such relations on sporting performances, perhaps they consider themselves pioneers of that research.
Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Slipstream) has made a move out of the peloton to try and join leading riders Simon Clarke (Team UniSA) and Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team). These three will likely clean up the sprint points.
Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Doimo) and Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) have moved ahead too and will catch Bobridge.
Arthur Vichot seems to be getting some love from the fans today, I've had many e-mails about him today.
Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Slipstream) has caught leaders Simon Clarke (Team UniSA) and Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team). Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Doimo) and Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) still sit between the lead group and peloton.
Second sprint results: 1) Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team), 2) Simon Clarke (UniSA) and 3) Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions).
The leading three have been caught by the two chasers, giving us a group of five 1:02 minutes ahead of the peloton. So, I guess that's what Jens would do!
Since there's so much demand, a bit of background for those not in the know: Vichot is a French neo-professional with the Francaise des Jeux ProTour squad. He may just be 21 years old but has had some pretty good rides in the French races. He won a Circuit de Saône-et-Loire stage last year and also the Tour du Haut-Berry. A year earlier he won Tour du Charolais, a GP Tell stage and the Under 23 Circuit des 2 Provinces - Le Pertre.
He's just sitting in the peloton today, but I hear there's going to be a fan club out and about for him tomorrow so perhaps he'll honour their efforts then?
The gap for our leaders has grown to 1:25 minutes at kilometre 81. Having big Jens in the bunch can't hurt its chances!
The gap has grown to 1:32 minutes now. Slowly as she goes boys, I think you might have a rough time pulling out much time with Columbia-HTC (or is it HTC-Columbia) holding the peloton's head.
I wonder if Chicken Hat Lady is out on the course today. Having spent all of last year's race on live coverage last year, it almost brought a tear to my eye to see Chicken Hat Lady still out and going yesterday.
The race has just entered the finishing circuit at Mylor. The peloton will complete two laps of around 17 kilometres once it crosses the finish line for the first time.
Caisse d'Epargne has bumped HTC-Columbia back to take control of the peloton. The Spanish team has some strong riders in its ranks, perhaps we'll see a move.
Caisse d'Epargne has put a dent in the leaders' margin, bringing it down to 1:21 minutes.
Anyone who read my report from stage two knows I'm not adverse to poking fun at politicians (I wonder if Mr Sheen is watching today?) but I must say I'm genuinely impressed by South Australian Tourism Minister the Honourable Doctor Jane Lomax-Smith. She's been everywhere this year, stage starts, around the hotel, really looking like she's enjoying it and standing in the background...unlike Mike Rann, or 'Ranny', who seems to only come out when there's a Lance Armstrong photo op.
The peloton has passed under the finish banner for the first time and in so reduced the leader's gap to 1:06 minutes.
The gap is shrinking. First 1:02 minutes, now just 55 seconds. It's almost certain the group won't stay away, but that doesn't mean it will be a bunch sprint. Someone could attack out of the lead group on one of the circuit's climbs or we could see someone attack out of the group when it's brought back together.
The steep approach to the line saw a shattered sprint for last year's stage finish in Stirling, with Allan Davis (Quick Step) and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) slightly gaping the field.
The gap continues to shrink. It's now down to 47 seconds.
The leaders have started the sharp descent, which finishes with a tight turn back on to the climb up to the finish line. Once they finish that climb they will have started the final lap of today's race.
Ouch, Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux) has had to take a wheel off team-mate Yauheni Hutarovich (Française Des Jeux) who is now waiting for the team car. Sulzberger is going again.
The lead group has managed to maintain its 48 second lead so far but it's at the expense of Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Doimo), who is struggling to hold on.
Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Slipstream) and Simon Clarke (Team UniSA) have attacked are in the lead, with Jens Voight (Saxo Bank) chasing behind. The other two riders have been dropped.
So why is today’s stage so important? Well last year’s race finished with 29 riders separated by just 49 seconds. That means any seconds that can be picked up over rivals are vital. Gaps today might only be marginal but that could be all the difference come the end of Sunday’s criterium.
Both Française Des Jeux riders have made it back into the peloton after the wheel issues.
Caisse d'Epargne still leads the peloton while Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) has managed to stay on Jens Voight's wheel in the chase.
Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Doimo) has been caught by the peloton. He was in the most recent break but bowed out on the climb to the start finish line where Bobridge and Clarke attacked.
Kroon and Voigt have both been caught by the peloton, but Bobridge and Clarke have maintained their 1:04 minute lead.
Someone asked for a Lance Armstrong update: I think he's circling around in his Mellow Johnny's Airways private jet above the peloton. Erm, I mean, he's riding in the peloton.
The Aussies are active today, Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has attacked the peloton and taken a 100 metre lead.
Ouch, Baden Cooke (Team Saxo Bank) has called for a new bike from his team. Now's probably not the best time for a mechanical.
Matthew Lloyd is closing in on the leaders, but the peloton too has made gains. Lloyd's tapping away on those pedals like he did to win the Australian national title in Ballarat in 2008.
Little Lloyd has caught Bobridge and Clarke up front!
The gap has come down to 25 seconds with one lap remaining. The Aussie trio are going to need to dance a little harder on those pedals if they're to stay away.
Turns out that first sprint result we waited forever for was incorrect. Third place was actually Andriy Grivko (Astana). Think we might need to launch the Cyclingnews.com blimp for the rest of the race to ensure better accuracy in our information.
Lloyd and Clarke have dropped Bobridge from the lead group. The local rider sits about 12 seconds behind the pair now.
Bobridge has been consumed by the peloton, quickly followed by Lloyd and Clarke. Caisse d'Epargne is pulling in the peloton. This is getting interesting...
Time to crank up those e-mail accounts office dwellers and tell me who you like for an uphill sprint finish? Who is it going to be? Let me know at email@example.com
Caisse d'Epargne is putting the hurt on and riders are starting to crack under the pressure. Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions) looks like he's in a lot of trouble, as do about three other riders.
There's no clear favourite in your predictions so far, although Caissse d'Epargne's riders are getting a lot of love from our readers. Need a few more responses before I'm willing to call it.
Meanwhile the peloton is still all together as it nears the descent.
There's a Canadian out front, Christian Meier (Garmin-Transitions) has hit the peloton hard.
Seems we're all together on one point, we don't want Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) to win another stage. But who will come out ahead?
Simon Clarke (Team UniSA) has been awarded the day's most aggressive rider. That's a hat trick for the squad!
Looks like we're backing a Caisse d'Epargne win in the form of either Alejandro Valverde, Luis Leon Sanchez and Jose Rojas. Some funny (unrepeatable) comments about Valverde, thanks guys!
Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) has attacked the peloton as out Canadian friend was caught by the peloton...which race radio forgot to tell us. I need a blimp, stat!
Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel - Euskadi) didn't last long. The peloton has see the five kilometre remaining mark and thought it was time to get moving.
Gee, looks like you all didn't like the idea of a Spanish win and are backing Graeme Brown (Rabobank) for the win. Sorry, but you should have spoke up sooner!
René Mandri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is back in the peloton after a tyre swap.
We're inside four kilometres now and the Spaniards are still controlling the action. They've got six guys driving the pace.
Allan Davis is in trouble on the climb. The Astana rider looks like he's going out the rear for the second time this week. I'm sure it's because of the lack of radios.
RadioShack has move on to Caisse d'Epargne's wheel with two riders. Perhaps we could see Gert Steegmans get that victory they've been talking about?
HTC-Columbia is on the move, with RadioShack following through with two riders on the rider's wheel.
Here we go, just one kilometre remaining and the race is all together. We're going for a similar finish to last year with a brutal uphill sprint.
RadioShack has made its move with 500 metres remaining. It needs a victory, can it be done?
Well this is a shock, the horrible kit wins: Manuel Cardoso (Footon Servetto)
Manuel Cardoso (Footon Servetto) is the Portugese champion and is riding a customised gold and white Fuji!
We're just waiting for placing results folks, pretty sure the head of race radio is having a beer and getting a shoulder rub. They should be through any moment now, but for now those who don't know the Footon-Servetto kit, take a peek here (it's not pretty).
Someone is telling me Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) was third, not sure if I believe it.
Well damn, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is second from world champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)!
The top 10 results are in, click here to see them.
Well, that's it folks. Some big names took on the sprint today but in the end it was Portuguese national champion Manuel Cardoso (Footon Servetto) who won the stage. Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) continues to lead the general classification.
We look forward to you returning tomorrow as the race continues with a 149.5 kilometre stage from Norwood to Goolwa.