Germany’s Andre Greipel won the Tour Down Under cycling race in dominant fashion, powering to victory in a contentious final 88km stage through the streets of Adelaide here Sunday.
The man Australian newspapers have dubbed Andre the Giant beat Allan Davis by 15 seconds to take the opening ProTour race of the season.
Spain’s Jose Joaquin Rojas Gill (Caisse d’Epargne) was third, 33 seconds behind Greipel.
Greipel later said one of Davis’s UniSA teammates had deliberately obstructed him leading into the crucial first intermediate sprint. The 25-year-old German, from Team High Road, and Davis were separated by just seven seconds at the start of Sunday’s final stage.
Davis made things interesting when he won the first intermediate sprint, gaining three bonus seconds, while Greipel finished fourth and out of the points.
Greipel said a UniSA rider had deliberately obstructed him, despite what he said was an agreement between the two teams beforehand to “have a fair race.”
“I was disappointed by (Allan Davis’s) teammate,” Greipel said. “It was not fair — we said before the race we wanted a fair race and at the first sprint, it wasn’t fair.
“After that we decided to do our own lead-outs, and it was the best choice.”
The disagreement at the first sprint spurred on Team High Road, with the German team then controlling the lead-up to the second sprint, won by Greipel ahead of Davis.
A five-man group broke away with five laps remaining but were chased down three laps later, with UniSA being forced to do all the work.
After regathering the breakaway, the Australian team had nothing left and Davis was virtually on his own for the last 5.5km lap, while Greipel had his whole team helping him.
Davis went hard for the finish, but as he has done most of this week, Greipel came home the strongest and claimed the stage and the overall win.
“I’m really proud of myself, my team’s proud of me, everyone trusted me,” he said.
Davis said he couldn’t have done any more. “I said before I’d go down fighting no matter what… I hit the front with 200 metres to go in the bike race, the chance to win, but Andre was too good once again. As soon as I saw him go past I knew that was it.”
Team High Road was known as T-Mobile until the end of last season, when the German telecommunications giant withdrew its sponsorship due to the doping controversies surrounding the sport.
Greipel said winning the first ProTour race to be held outside Europe was the perfect way to start a new era for the team. He will now have a break in Germany before a training camp in California, at which he will decide what his next race will be.
“I have the white jersey now (for leading the ProTour) and I think the next race is the Tour of Flanders, and it is two-and-a-half months away, so I’ve the white jersey and I’m the leader of the ProTour.”
The race was held in perfect conditions in the South Australian capital, with another huge crowd lining the streets to cheer on the riders.
Police estimated the total crowd figure for the six days of the Tour at over 500,000, a record for this race in a state with a population of 1.5 million.
1. Andre Greipel (GER) Team High Road 18:46:182. Allan Davis (AUS) at 00:00:153. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (ESP) 00:00:334. Mickael Delage (FRA) 00:00:375. Mickael Buffaz (FRA) 6. Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (ESP) 00:00:397. Kjell Carlstrom (FIN) 8. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (ESP) 00:00:419. Richie Porte (AUS) 10. Stuart O’Grady (AUS) 00:00:42Selected: 13. Martin Elmiger (SUI) 00:00:43 38. Mark Renshaw (AUS) 00:01:15113. Robbie McEwen (AUS) 00:16:35
1. Andre Greipel (GER) Team High Road 38 pts 2. Allan Davis (AUS) 34 3. Mark Renshaw (AUS) 24King of the Mountain1. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Francaise des Jeux 38pts David Moncoutie (FRA) 22 3. Mathieu Perget (FRA) 18
UCI ProTour rankings (as of January 27)
1. Andre Greipel (GER) Team High Road 62pts 2. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (ESP) 38 3. Mickael Delage (FRA) 30 4. Mickael Buffaz (FRA) 25 5. Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (ESP) 21
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008