Comeback complete for Valverde as Spaniard out sprints Gerrans on Willunga

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has taken his first win since his return from suspension, with the Spaniard out sprinting Australian Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) in a two-man dash to the line at the top of Old Willunga Hill.

Valverde's Movistar teammates rode with supreme confidence in their leader, taking to the front before the base of the first climb up Old Willunga before timing their run perfectly in the final two kilometres to bring back the at one point dangerous escape of Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) and Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan).

Gerrans, who looked the most comfortable in the elite front group, was the first to open up the sprint, but tired in the final 50 metres allowing Valverde to pin him back. The two rode side-by-side with the finish beckoning - both unwilling to relent - but it was Valverde who pulled through in the end, ultimately winning by half a wheel over the Australian.

"I'm super happy," said Valverde at the stage finish. "My team has been perfect today. I couldn't have won without them. It's a really emotional moment for me. This win is for all those who have supported me during my time off the bike.

"The stage suited me - we put the team at the front, and to finish it off - it's a perfect comeback for me."

Gerrans was consoled with taking the ochre jersey on countback, though both riders are on equal time going into the final stage, setting up a thrilling finish to the 14th Santos Tour Down Under on Sunday.

"I gave it absolutely everything I had, but unfortunately Valverde had that inside line and he caught up," said Gerrans. "I’m rapt to have the lead going into the last stage.

"It’s such a big deal for GreenEdge to take the lead into the last stage in their first world tour outing so I’m thrilled and really rapt with the whole team’s performance, they have really supported me all week so I really can’t thank the guys enough."

The points classification battle is also tight with Boasson Hagen and Greipel both with it all to ride for tomorrow.

Rohan Dennis did enough to secure himself the King of the Mountain classification courtesy of picking up third over the first time up Willunga and fifth on round two. Dennis also wrapped up the young rider jersey.

"I’m a little bit stuffed now but it was all worth it in the end," said Dennis. "I guess sometimes you need a little bit of form as well to have that confidence to actually go up the front but sometimes it’s just sort of a gut feeling, you just sort of hope for the best."

How it unfolded

130 riders lined the start in McLaren Vale for the longest and hardest day in the Tour Down Under's 14-year history. The race had never finished atop Old Willunga Hill, and with 45 riders within 12 seconds of the race lead today it was always set for fireworks.

After a flurry of early attacks, the first escape formed without much fuss. The break was; Stuart O'Grady (GreenEdge Cycling Team), Takashi Miyazawa (Team Saxo Bank), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Barracuda), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) and Kristof Goddaert (AG2R La Mondiale) with the sextet quiclkly building an advantage of more than 3 minutes.

The peloton, led by Martin Kohler's team BMC seemed content to let other teams take control, with their false tempo at the front very early replaced by a rider from Movistar. De Gendt was the highest placed rider in the break, some 7:51 down on Kohler but even with the advantage of the escape approaching 8 minutes there was very little reaction from the main field.

The gap did eventually stabilise around that mark however with BMC finally deciding that enough was enough. Burghardt was prevalent at the front for his team as were RadioShack-Nissan and Movistar. The break meanwhile looked smooth, with each of the day's intermediate sprints at Snapper Point uncontested in favour of keeping the best part of their advantage in tact.

Crosswind Drama

Going into the final 75 kilometres Lotto-Belisol, RadioShack-Nissan and BMC made an attempt at splitting the peloton in the gusty cross that had been barraging the peloton in the valley behind McLaren Vale.

Their efforts were rewarded with Matthew Lloyd (Lampre-ISD) the biggest name to be caught out, off the back with another 30 riders. Though he eventually re-joined the peloton, the pace at the front had brough the break's gap down from 8 to just over 3 minutes.

Movistar and RadioShack-Nissan retained control at the front, while GreenEdge and BMC were also making their presence known.

As the peloton left the McLaren Vale circuit and entered the section of the course up Old Willunga Hill the drama really began.

Haas makes his presence known

Going into the Tour Down Under Nathan Haas (Garmin-Barracuda) had explained that he didn't want to just be in Adelaide to make up the numbers. His performance today had similarities to WIll Clarke's gutsy solo victory on stage 2, with a determined ride additionally fuelled by the massive crowds on Willunga.

Haas decided to go on his own as the climb hit it's first 500 metres of difficulty, leaving De Gendt scrambling behind.

The peloton meanwhile which had motored along the flat leading into Willunga was going at break neck speed when it hit the bottom of the climb some 90 seconds in arrears.

Haas however was giving it everything at the front of the race, holding a little over 40 seconds as he crossed the top of the climb he took the maximum 16 points and began the descent. De Gendt picked up second, while Rohan Dennis jumped out of the peloton to grab third, and seal himself the king of the mountain classification.

All down to once up Willunga

Haas descended like a man possessed but the 130 plus kilometres behind him had taken their toll - and the chase behind were hardly slowing up. Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) were monstering on the front behind. Their efforts had whittled the select front group to less than 20 riders, and notably there was no Cameron Meyer (GreenEdge) nor Matthew Lloyd (Lampre-ISD).

The selection did include - Dennis (UniSA-Australia), Machado (RadioShack-Nissan), Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Movistar Team), Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge Cycling Team), Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan), Michael Rogers (Sky Procycling), Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar Team), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling), Bernard Sulzberger (Team UniSA-Australia), Danny Pate (Sky Procycling),
José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Movistar Team), Michael Matthews (Rabobank Cycling Team), Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team), Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar Team), Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team), Geraint Thomas, Moreno (Movistar), and Bauer (Garmin-Barracuda), Ciolek (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Gerdemann (Radioshack-Nissan).

Coming onto McMurtie Road Haas was finally swallowed up, trying his best to tag on the speeding front group though inevitably with his fatigue unable to.

That left it coming all down to the final climb with an isolated Simon Gerrrans up against no less than four Movistar riders along with Valverde himself. A puncture put an in-form Bernard Sulzberger out of contention at the bottom of the climb.

It was Dennis, Machado, Pate and Gutierrez who opened proceedings quickly gapping the leaders on the early grippier part of the climb. Though Pate started things, Dennis and Machado quickly showed they were going to be among the strongest and went it out alone in front.

Behind, Movistar was shelling riders to keep Valverde in touch, with the team counting on the possibility of small sprint finish at the top that would favour the Spaniard's kick.

Dennis and Machado both looked really strong, but inside the final kilometre they were caught prompting Michael Rogers (Sky) to launch an attack.

Movistar's Moreno kept the Australian within Valverde's reach as Gerrans decided that finally he was going to make his move.

His acceleration initially had Valverde in trouble, but he couldn't sustain it and Valverde clawed himself back into range of the the GreenEdge rider. The sprint was almost in slow motion with both Gerrans and Valverde eyeing eachother off as they slogged it out over the final 200 metres. Valverde triumphed - just - by a little over half a wheel setting up an interesting final stage tomorrow with both riders equal on time.

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Full Results
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar3:45:48
2Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEDGERow 1 - Cell 2
3Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan0:00:02
4Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling0:00:04
5Rohan Dennis (Aus) UNI SA - Australia0:00:07
6Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling0:00:12
7Javier Moreno (Spa) Movistar0:00:13
8Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-NissanRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Barracuda0:00:26
10Eduard Vorganov (Rus) KatushaRow 9 - Cell 2
11Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank0:00:29
12Linus Gerdemann (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan0:00:32
13Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:00:43
14Danny Pate (USA) Sky Procycling0:00:55
15Angel Madrazo (Spa) Movistar0:01:05
16Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:01:18
17Martin Kohler (Swi) BMCRow 16 - Cell 2
18Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) MovistarRow 17 - Cell 2
19Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC0:01:50
20Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:02:22
21Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank0:02:23
22Xavier Florencio Cabrè (Spa) KatushaRow 21 - Cell 2
23José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) MovistarRow 22 - Cell 2
24Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 23 - Cell 2
25Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) UNI SA - Australia0:02:25
26Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto-BelisolRow 25 - Cell 2
27Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ - BigMatRow 26 - Cell 2
28Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 27 - Cell 2
29Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ - BigMat0:02:33
30Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank0:02:35
31Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Lampre - ISDRow 30 - Cell 2
32Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda0:02:55
33Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Saxo Bank0:03:15
34Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:23
35Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:03:31
36Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-NissanRow 35 - Cell 2
37Oscar Freire (Spa) KatushaRow 36 - Cell 2
38Hayden Roulston (NZl) RadioShack-NissanRow 37 - Cell 2
39Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-BarracudaRow 38 - Cell 2
40Jay Mccarthy (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 39 - Cell 2
41Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-NissanRow 40 - Cell 2
42Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMCRow 41 - Cell 2
43Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) KatushaRow 42 - Cell 2
44Gorka Izagirre Inausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:04:02
45Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ - BigMatRow 44 - Cell 2
46Mathias Frank (Swi) BMCRow 45 - Cell 2
47Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 46 - Cell 2
48David Lopez (Spa) Movistar0:05:31
49Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-NissanRow 48 - Cell 2
50Jonas Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 49 - Cell 2
51Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda0:05:46
52Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale0:05:48
53Gatis Smukulis (Lat) KatushaRow 52 - Cell 2
54Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEDGE0:06:38
55Vincente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Lotto-Belisol0:07:09
56Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky ProcyclingRow 55 - Cell 2
57Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 56 - Cell 2
58Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) AstanaRow 57 - Cell 2
59Marcello Pavarin (Ita) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 58 - Cell 2
60Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 59 - Cell 2
61Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin-BarracudaRow 60 - Cell 2
62Mattéo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 61 - Cell 2
63Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) AstanaRow 62 - Cell 2
64Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 63 - Cell 2
65Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 64 - Cell 2
66Lachlan Norris (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 65 - Cell 2
67Sérgio Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo BankRow 66 - Cell 2
68Maxim Belkov (Rus) KatushaRow 67 - Cell 2
69Tom Leezer (Ned) RabobankRow 68 - Cell 2
70Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:07:41
71Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil -DCM0:09:50
72Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:09:52
73Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStepRow 72 - Cell 2
74Stuart O'grady (Aus) GreenEDGERow 73 - Cell 2
75Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto-Belisol0:10:52
76William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ - BigMatRow 75 - Cell 2
77Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISDRow 76 - Cell 2
78Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Procycling0:12:02
79Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 78 - Cell 2
80Matt Goss (Aus) GreenEDGERow 79 - Cell 2
81Mark Renshaw (Aus) RabobankRow 80 - Cell 2
82Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 81 - Cell 2
83Daniele Ratto (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 82 - Cell 2
84Borut Bozic (Slo) AstanaRow 83 - Cell 2
85Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Team Saxo BankRow 84 - Cell 2
86Jos Van Emden (Ned) RabobankRow 85 - Cell 2
87Federico Canuti (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 86 - Cell 2
88Adrián Saez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 87 - Cell 2
89Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 88 - Cell 2
90Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn) Team Saxo BankRow 89 - Cell 2
91Francesco Masciarelli (Ita) Astana0:13:33
92Imanol Erviti (Spa) MovistarRow 91 - Cell 2
93Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Team Saxo BankRow 92 - Cell 2
94Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto-Belisol0:14:02
95Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC0:16:42
96Dmitri Muravyev (Kaz) AstanaRow 95 - Cell 2
97Robbie Mcewen (Aus) GreenEDGERow 96 - Cell 2
98André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-BelisolRow 97 - Cell 2
99Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ - BigMatRow 98 - Cell 2
100Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto-BelisolRow 99 - Cell 2
101Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 100 - Cell 2
102Stefano Agostini (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 101 - Cell 2
103Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 102 - Cell 2
104Davide Vigano (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 103 - Cell 2
105Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 104 - Cell 2
106Leigh Howard (Aus) GreenEDGERow 105 - Cell 2
107Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas - CannondaleRow 106 - Cell 2
108Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 107 - Cell 2
109Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 108 - Cell 2
110Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 109 - Cell 2
111Luca Paolini (Ita) KatushaRow 110 - Cell 2
112Wouter Mol (Ned) Vacansoleil -DCMRow 111 - Cell 2
113Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMCRow 112 - Cell 2
114Graeme Brown (Aus) RabobankRow 113 - Cell 2
115Massimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 114 - Cell 2
116Luke Durbridge (Aus) GreenEDGERow 115 - Cell 2
117Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) AstanaRow 116 - Cell 2
118Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre - ISDRow 117 - Cell 2
119Steele Von Hoff (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 118 - Cell 2
120William Clarke (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 119 - Cell 2
121Victor Cabedo (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 120 - Cell 2
122Tom Palmer (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 121 - Cell 2
123Robbie Hunter (RSA) Garmin-BarracudaRow 122 - Cell 2
124Andreas Klier (Ger) Garmin-BarracudaRow 123 - Cell 2
125Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ - BigMatRow 124 - Cell 2
126Assan Bazayev (Kaz) AstanaRow 125 - Cell 2
127Matthew Brammeier (Irl) Omega Pharma-QuickStepRow 126 - Cell 2
128Adam Blythe (GBr) BMCRow 127 - Cell 2
129Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 128 - Cell 2
130Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStepRow 129 - Cell 2
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Stage finish
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar15pts
2Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEDGE14Row 1 - Cell 3
3Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan13Row 2 - Cell 3
4Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling12Row 3 - Cell 3
5Rohan Dennis (Aus) UNI SA - Australia11Row 4 - Cell 3
6Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling10Row 5 - Cell 3
7Javier Moreno (Spa) Movistar9Row 6 - Cell 3
8Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan8Row 7 - Cell 3
9Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Barracuda7Row 8 - Cell 3
10Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha6Row 9 - Cell 3
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Snapper Point Lap 2 (63.4km)
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale5pts
2Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Stuart O'grady (Aus) GreenEDGE2Row 2 - Cell 3
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Snapper Point Lap 3 (103.4km)
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil -DCM5pts
2Stuart O'Grady (Aus) GreenEDGE3Row 1 - Cell 3
3Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep2Row 2 - Cell 3
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Willunga Hill (Cat 1 at 129.1km)
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda16pts
2Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil -DCM12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Rohan Dennis (Aus) UNI SA - Australia8Row 2 - Cell 3
4José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Movistar6Row 3 - Cell 3
5Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEDGE4Row 4 - Cell 3
6Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Barracuda2Row 5 - Cell 3
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Willunga Hill (Cat 1 at Stage Finish)
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResultHeader Cell - Column 3
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar16pts
2Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEDGE12Row 1 - Cell 3
3Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack-Nissan8Row 2 - Cell 3
4Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling6Row 3 - Cell 3
5Rohan Dennis (Aus) UNI SA - Australia4Row 4 - Cell 3
6Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling2Row 5 - Cell 3
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Young rider's classification
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Rohan Dennis (Aus) UNI SA - Australia3:45:55
2Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling0:00:05
3Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank0:00:22
4Angel Madrazo (Spa) Movistar0:00:58
5Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank0:02:16
6Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:16
7Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:03:24
8Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-NissanRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jay Mccarthy (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 8 - Cell 2
10Gorka Izagirre Inausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:03:55
11Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda0:05:39
12Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Katusha0:05:41
13Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEDGE0:06:31
14Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:07:02
15Lachlan Norris (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 14 - Cell 2
16Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:07:34
17Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep0:09:45
18Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStepRow 17 - Cell 2
19Daniele Ratto (Ita) Liquigas - Cannondale0:11:55
20Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Team Saxo BankRow 19 - Cell 2
21Stefano Agostini (Ita) Liquigas - Cannondale0:16:35
22Leigh Howard (Aus) GreenEDGERow 21 - Cell 2
23Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 22 - Cell 2
24Massimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 23 - Cell 2
25Luke Durbridge (Aus) GreenEDGERow 24 - Cell 2
26Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) AstanaRow 25 - Cell 2
27Steele Von Hoff (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 26 - Cell 2
28Victor Cabedo (Spa) Euskaltel-EuskadiRow 27 - Cell 2
29Tom Palmer (Aus) UNI SA - AustraliaRow 28 - Cell 2
30Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ - BigMatRow 29 - Cell 2
31Adam Blythe (GBr) BMCRow 30 - Cell 2
32Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 31 - Cell 2
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Teams Classification
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Radioshack-Nissan11:18:11
2Sky Procycling0:00:24
3Movistar0:00:31
4Rabobank0:04:40
5Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:04:45
6UniSA - Australia0:05:16
7Katusha0:05:33
8BMC0:05:52
9Garmin-Barracuda0:06:05
10FDJ - BigMAT0:08:13