Dennis shows his form before Corkscrew Hill showdown- Tour Down Under Shorts
Ulissi squeezed out in Stirling, Puccio abandons while Thomas survives late scare
Dennis pleased with form ahead of Corkscrew Hill
Defending Tour Down Under champion Rohan Dennis (BMC) showcased his fine early-season form with a third-place finish in Stirling. The Australian now lies fourth overall on general classification, 6 seconds down on Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff).
“That's the best I've gone in Stirling before,” said Dennis, who came home just ahead of teammate Danilo Wyss, having avoided the crash in the finale. “Every other year I've struggled, especially in the last 300 metres. So it's just amazing what happens when you're in the right place at the right time. Your confidence and everything goes up and you just feel better about the race."
Stage 3 from Glenelg to Campbelltown is expected to be the first major rendezvous for the general classification contenders at this Tour Down Under, and Dennis struck an optimistic note following his performance in Stirling.
“Today was another opener and another ticked box before tomorrow's first real GC hit out. That's going to be the real test of how my form is," he said. "I've got a little bit more confidence going into tomorrow. Being able to sprint at the end of the stage still fairly strong in the last 300 metres does give me confidence for Corkscrew and then downhill into the Campbelltown finish."
Puccio abandons Tour Down Under while Thomas survives scare
Salvatore Puccio (Sky) was forced out of the Tour Down Under through illness on stage 2 to Stirling. Already unwell following the opening stage, the Italian looked to battle through on Tuesday but eventually had to give best.
“We were sorry to lose Salvatore today,” Sky directeur sportif Kurt Asle Arvesen told the team website. “He didn't feel good after the stage yesterday. He got through the night okay and felt a little bit better this morning. He was fighting for a long time but he couldn't finish the stage. We'll look after him now and get him back on track.”
Sky’s best finisher on the stage was Sergio Henao, who placed 8th in the uphill sprint behind winner Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff). Geraint Thomas crossed the line 1:24 down after he was caught behind a crash with 500 metres remaining, but lost no time on GC as the incident took place in the final three kilometres. After two stages, Thomas and Henao are 10 seconds behind the new race leader McCarthy.
"The three guys who were up there at the end are all feeling really good so I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do tomorrow - especially G [Thomas] and Sergio - but it was great to see Pete [Kennaugh] out there attacking today,” Arvesen said. “G was held up behind the crash but he didn't suffer any injuries."
Pelucchi abandons early on stage 2
The other non-finisher on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under was Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling), who climbed off after just four kilometres of racing. The Italian fast man had missed out on the previous day’s bunch finish after suffering a puncture in the finale, but he was struggling from the outset on Tuesday.
IAM Cycling directeur sportif Kjell Carlström was direct in explaining Pelucchi’s travails in Australia, and said that the Italian will return home immediately in order to resume training. Pelucchi won four races in 2015, including a brace of stages at the Tour de Pologne in August.
“Matteo Pelucchi was forced to abandon the stage after only four kilometres of racing. He was just not in shape,” Carlström said. “I think it is best for him to return to Europe to continue his preparation for his next goals in races that will take place on the old continent.”
Ulissi has to settle for second in Stirling
Winner on the corresponding finish in 2014, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) had to settle for second place in Stirling on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under behind new overall leader Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff).
McCarthy opened his effort early in the uphill sprint to the line and though Ulissi managed to close the gap dramatically in the final 100 metres, he was unable to overhaul the Australian and had to settle for second.
“To win would have been fantastic, a big result at the start of the season is always valuable,” Ulissi said. “But I’m satisfied nonetheless, because it shows that my condition is excellent.”
The Tuscan was generous in his praise of McCarthy’s winning effort. “McCarthy did a great sprint. He gambled by going from distance and his legs didn’t fade. I was well positioned. The whole team and my last man Pibernik supported me very well, it was hard to do any more than that.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.