On the eve of the Tour Down Under, Wouter Wippert identified three stages for victory on his WorldTour debut. On the first stage of the race, the breakaway thwarted Wippert's chances while on Stage 3, the 24-year-old mistimed his sprint to finish third. Having learnt valuable lessons from his first two attempts, it was third time lucky as the 24-year-old sprinted to victory ahead of Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling).
"I got dropped off at the sharp left-hand corner in fourth wheel on a Lampre rider so I was sitting pretty relaxed for the last two kilometres," Wippert told Cyclingnews of how the final kilometres played out. "Orica-GreenEdge came up on the right at the hill and Brownie [Graeme Brown] picked me up with one kilometre to go and I just waited one moment before sprinting to his wheel. He then put me in tenth position in the last corner which was perfect and then the guy in front of me from IAM started with 500m to go and I was just out of the wind so I could follow him perfectly. He brought me in front so I could start my sprint with 200m to go.
"It was a hard sprint because it was uphill with a headwind so I knew I had to wait and that was a key today."
Wippert's chances for victory were boosted by a crash inside the final 10km which drastically slimmed the peloton and ended any aspirations that Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) had for victory although the Dutchman explained he was unaware of the events playing out on behind him.
"I didn't race with a radio today so I didn't know anything about a crash at all," he said. "I was just focusing on myself and you can look to see the others [sprinters] but in the end, you have to do it on your own in the last 250m. It doesn't matter who is there or not, you have to be the fastest. Today it was me and the next time it will be someone else."
In 2014, Wippert picked up stage wins at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan, Tour of Japan and Tour of China II plus a win at the 2.HC Tour of Hainan. A WorldTour stage win now stands as his most significant win yet.
"Actually I passed the finish and everyone was asking me 'why didn't you put your hands in the air?' the first 50m after the finish, I couldn't believe that I won," he said. "It's the biggest win I can get this season so when that happens it is perfect.
When asked whether the win, and the week of racing, suggested his characteristics are that of a WorldTour rider, a modest Wippert responded.
"When you run third on two stages and take a win, actually you cannot say the level is too high [for me to race at] anymore. I hope I can make the step [to WorldTour] with the team and for next year to move up to another level."
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