PIC BY LIBERTY SEGUROS
Two years ago Allan Davis came within a couple of bike lengths of winning a medal at the world road race championships in Verona. On Thursday, the prestige on offer was significantly smaller but the reward was huge for the Liberty Seguros sprinter as he finally won a stage on the Tour Down Under, writes Justin Davis.
If race leader Simon Gerrans' analysis of how things went on the 146km undulating stage two are to be believed, Davis's team will have to be watched carefully - they still have grand designs on getting defending champion Luis Sanchez into the leader's jersey.
Gerrans enjoyed his first full day in the race lead, thanks in part to the peloton allowing an 11-man break to escape at the 35km mark, and finished it with his seven-second lead over the talented Spaniard intact.
However despite his "growing confidence", he admitted that Sanchez, and even sprinter Robbie McEwen - who is third in the general classification at 18sec - still pose a major threat.
The Ag2r team were happy to see that early break go, although there was some questioning as to why they did not ease up just a little more. After all, they will need that energy in the days ahead. Gerrans admitted as much, but said: "The team rode absolutely perfectly, I couldn't fault them. They could have backed off a little bit but that was the pace they were happy to set so that was good. I'm even more confident after today's ride. I'm really impressed about how the boys rode so I think we'll defend the jersey for another few days."
Sanchez, considered an emerging talent in Spain, McEwen and Walker are all still in contention, as are Gene Bates and Ag2r sprinter Samuel Dumoulin, who are only 1-45 and 1-48 behind respectively.
Despite McEwen's status as a sprinter with eyes only for stage wins, Gerrans said he would not rule out the 33-year-old Davitamon team ace. "Liberty put two in the breakaway there, and obviously won it with Allan (Davis). But they're still really looking after Sanchez. I'd never count Robbie McEwen out either. Even going up that one-kilometre climb he was comfortable. He can still be there."
Davis, meanwhile, was just happy to finally break his duck in his home race. He is one of only two riders, the other being Estonian veteran Jaan Kirsipuu, to have competed in all eight editions - but had still never bagged a professional win in Australia.
His decision to chase and join the early breakaway eventually led him to attack the 11-man lead group with fellow Australian Paul Crake, whom he comfortably held off in a two-man sprint for the finish. "I can't tell you how hungry I was for a win this year. My wife just had a baby five weeks ago, and I would like to dedicate it to my family," said an ecstatic Davis.
"We were the only team with two men in the break and you have to make the most of that advantage," said Davis, who benefited from the support of Eladio Sanchez throughout the day. "I knew I had strong legs today so I went across to the lead group by myself early in the race and thought, 'I'm going to have a go - if I'm going down, I'm going down boxing.
"So I had a go and I won," he said. "Full credit to Crakey as well cause he had a go and it's a great result for both of us."
Friday's stage is another undulating one over 154km from Strathalbyn to Yankalilla.
Stage 2, Stirling-Hahndorf
1 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 146km in 3.27.21 (42.25kph)
2 Paul Crake (Aus) UniSA-Australia
3 Eladio Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.38
4 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators 0.54
5 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
6 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crdit Agricole 2.00
7 Matthew Goss (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS
8 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Milram
9 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
10 Jens Renders (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prvoyance 7.12.55
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.07
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.18
4 William Walker (Aus) United Water-Australia U23 0.46
5 Gene Bates (Aus) UniSA-Australia 1.45
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 1.48
7 Chris Jongewaard (Aus) UniSA-Australia 3.19
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS
9 Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 3.41
10 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Milram 4.18
PIC BY LIBERTY SEGUROS