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It was probably not what the organisers had hoped for so early, but Simon Gerrans wasn't giving a hoot after his gutsy win on the first day of racing at the Tour Down Under smashed the overall contenders list to pieces here on Wednesday, writes Justin Davis.
Gerrans, in his second season with the French Ag2r team, made a final decisive move with less than five kilometres to race in the 148km stage held between Mawson Lakes and Angaston in the hilly Barossa wine valley.
The 25 year old had assured he would be in the reckoning by catching up with Robbie McEwen and Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez, the 22-year-old reigning champion, when they had attacked with around 40km to go, leaving the rest of the bunch trailing.
Gerrans then attacked with a little over 4km to race. Sanchez eventually responded but could only finish second, two seconds behind. McEwen, the winner of Tuesday night's 50km criterium which had no bearing on the race standings, struggled to finish in third place at 11 seconds. He later complained: "I had cramps."
Gerrans' efforts in winning the second of the day's two intermediate sprints added to the six-second bonus for winning the stage means he now leads Sanchez by seven seconds overall, with McEwen third at 18 seconds.
William Walker, the Rabobank ace who won the national championships at the weekend only to miss out on wearing the senior jersey because he is still an under-23, is fourth overall at 46 seconds, and is the only other likely contender for the title.
Having missed out on a chance to win the national jersey at the weekend Gerrans, the winner of the 2005 Herald Sun Tour, said the victory had lifted his spirits. "I was disappointed with the national championships last week so to come up with the win today is just great," said the France-based pro who grew up in Victoria near to Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson.
"It's going to be difficult to defend the lead for the rest of the week, although we've got a pretty strong team here." Gerrans added: "This tour is always won with a matter of seconds so it was important for me to get that second sprint bonus, and getting the time bonus at the end was a big advantage. Our team is motivated so we'll be going out to defend it definitely in the next few days."
None of the peloton had stopped for a quick drink on the way to Angaston in the Barossa, although it appeared that way after most of them ambled over the finish line 20 minutes behind. Thursday's stage is 146km from Stirling to Hahndorf.
Stage 1, Mawson Lakes-Angaston
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prvoyance 148km in 3.38.33 (40.63kph)
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.02
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.11
4 William Walker (Aus) United Water-Australia U23 0.37
5 Gene Bates (Aus) UniSA-Australia 1.39
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r
7 Chris Jongerwaard (Aus) UniSA-Australia 3.10
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS Cycling
9 Sbastien Chavanel (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 3.32
10 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Milram 4.09
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r Prvoyance 3.38.24
2 Sanchez 0.07
3 McEwen 0.18
4 Walker 0.46
5 Bates 1.45
6 Dumoulin 1.48
7 Jongerwaard 3.19
9 Chavanel 3.41
10 Visconti 4.18
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