PIC BY LIBERTY SEGUROS
The celebratory gesture after their finish line sprint said it all, but Liberty Seguros sprinter Allan Davis knows it would be premature to start thinking he has finally cracked the formula of how to beat Robbie McEwen, writes Justin Davis.
On the day that Ag2r's Simon Gerrans successfully defended his five-day lead to win the Tour Down Under's ochre jersey by seven seconds, the fifth and final stage of the season's first notable stage race came down to a four-man sprint.
Davis, who ended an eight-year stage victory famine on the Tour Down Under on Thursday, capitalised on his apparently good form to beat McEwen by a whisker at the finish line of the 80km inner city final stage. The 25 year old had wisely kept close tabs on McEwen's wheel as Italian Simone Cadamuro of Milram led in a small group, which also included Norwegian Thor Hushovd.
Davis pulled ahead in the final metres, the force of his effort sending the back of his bike dangerously close to Cadamuro's front wheel before he pipped McEwen by a wheel rim. 'Albi' knew he had won, and so did McEwen, the 33-year-old Davitamon ace congratulating Davis only moments later.
"I've raced against Robbie and all the other top sprinters around the world and I've gradually progressed every year, so maybe things are starting to pay off," said Davis, one of only two riders to compete in every race here. "I think I took a lit bit of pressure off by getting that first stage and hopefully things will go on well from here."
Davis's team-mate Carlos Barredo also won a stage of the race, leaving Liberty with three stages and second place overall following a failed attempt to unhinge Ag2r on Saturday's difficult fourth stage.
Davis added: "Simon and the Ag2r were too good, we don't have any excuses. We tried our best, and came away with three stages and second place - so it's not bad." Both Gerrans and Davis are likely to be among the six-man road team which Australia will send to the Commonwealth Games this March in Melbourne, with Davis likely to the team leader.
Gerrans, meanwhile, put another feather in his cap for the European season, becoming the first rider to win both the Herald Sun Tour and the Tour Down Under. It was Ag2r's third victory in eight editions of the race, and Gerrans had the pleasure of being the first to lead it from start to finish.
"My Ag2r team-mates had an absolutely fantastic race. They've protected me since the first day on every stage and there's no way I could have done it without them," said Gerrans. "It's just a fantastic start to the season, not only for myself but also for my team."
McEwen had a quieter race this year than he did last, when he took his stage tally to a record 11. He is now set to spend a few days on the Gold Coast before heading to Europe, where he will prepare for the upcoming Classics, which he hopes will lead to competing on the Tour of Flanders.
Hushovd was being tipped for numerous sprint battles with McEwen throughout the week but a decisive breakaway on the first day reduced the chances of that happening, especially as McEwen was still a contender in the general classification. The Norwegian, whose first big objective of the season is Milan-San Remo, also suffered a lot from the searing temperatures this week, and admitted he never really got into his stride.
"Before the race I felt really good, but since it's been so hot I just couldn't," he said after finishing fourth behind Cadamuro. "I hoped to win a stage, but I quickly understood it would be nearly impossible. Today I had a chance to win. The team had a really good lead-out, it was perfect, but I just didn't have the power."
Stage 5, Adelaide circuit
1 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Wrth 81km in 1.49.47 (44.27kph)
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
3 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Milram
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
5 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
6 Jos Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Liberty Seguros
7 Matthew Goss (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS
9 Marco Righetto (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
10 Dennis Haueisen (Ger) Milram
Final overall standings
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prvoyance 16.36.54
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.07
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.14
4 William Walker (Aus) United Water-Australia U23 0.46
5 Gene Bates (Aus) UniSA-Australia 1.48
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 2.42
7 Russell Van Hout (Aus) UniSA-Australia 3.00
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS 3.19
9 Chris Jongewaard (Aus) UniSA-Australia
10 Glenn d'Hollander (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 3.31
PIC BY LIBERTY SEGUROS