Simon Gerrans became the first three-time winner of the Santos Tour Down Under in front of a home crowd in Adelaide on Australia day. Gerrans went into the final stage with a lead of just one second over Cadel Evans (BMC) and ended the day with the same narrow margin. Gerrans finished on the same time as André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who bested Mark Renshaw (Belkin) and Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in the stage six sprint. After a dream start to the 2014 season, in which he also won the Australian National Road Race title, Gerrans is now the number one ranked rider in the world.
“The guys did a fantastic job,” said Gerrans. “They kept me right at the front and out of trouble, so it worked out beautifully. It’s a huge honour to win the Tour Down Under. For it to be on Australia Day and racing for an Australia team, it just doesn’t get much better.”
“I guess today’s win is a combination of relief and excitement,” added Gerrans. “It’s a big thrill to have won for a third time. But it’s also a relief because there was a huge amount of expectation on the team this time. So it’s great to finish off with a win, and to back that up and win all these other classifications is just a massive thrill.”
With 16 possible bonus seconds available over the course of the final stage, ORICA-GreenEDGE was prepared for a nervous day on the road. But Gerrans’s single second lead over Evans never looked in doubt throughout the 85.5 kilometre street circuit. An early breakaway suited the Australian team’s plans on the 18 lap course, with the three rider move mopping up both of the intermediate sprint bonuses and relieving some pressure ahead of the finish.
“It was a pretty nervous day,” noted Gerrans. “The race was still there to be won for a number of riders. We made sure we stayed up the front and out of trouble and I’m really happy to make it through unscathed.”
“It never really got out of control today,” added Sport Director Matt White. “We just had to pay attention, go for the intermediate sprints if we had to but mainly just make sure there were no splits in the last couple of kilometres. Yesterday was obviously the big pressure day and it took the stress off having that one second advantage because we didn’t have to chase the time bonuses like we’ve had to in the past.”
Today’s win wrapped up a perfect week for the Australian outfit. Gerrans won stage one, the points classification and the overall victory. South African Daryl Impey took seventh place overall, and ORICA-GreenEDGE handily sealed the team’s classification.
“The team this week was just fantastic,” Gerrans noted. “We’ve actually received a lot of praise from everyone here at the race, and that’s a real credit to the guys. Everyone was fully committed and had the same goal of winning the overall in mind. And from day one until today, it’s just been incredible in the way that they managed to do that.”
“It can’t get much better,” echoed White. “We really wanted to win a stage and the overall and obviously ticking those other boxes is very gratifying. We put a lot of emphasis on this race. It’s our home tour and we brought our A-Team. Everyone committed 100 percent to Simon here. It makes it much easier when you have a leader like Simon who is always on the mark when he targets a race. He delivers time and time again.”
It was at this race in 2012 that ORICA-GreenEDGE took their first WorldTour victory in their maiden season. Taking their second Santos Tour Down Under win offered a moment to reflect on how far the team has come in its first two seasons.
“It was incredible when we won this race for the first time in 2012,” recalled White. “We’re a little bit more relaxed about it now. It’s one more box to tick, but it’s also a really nice one to take back to Europe. It was a huge team effort here this year and that’s the real difference between this victory and 2012. Simon was incredible that year and didn’t have as much support. But this one was really a win for the whole team; the guys have just done an amazing job.”
“This win was probably harder fought for me compared to my past two here; each one been specific and unique,” said Gerrans. “My first was probably a surprise for a lot of people. Then 2012 was GreenEDGE’s first WorldTour event so we were thrilled to get that win. This time there was more expectation. We’ve had our best team ever here this year, so that’s made it really special. This victory is really for the team. It’s a credit to them, I just had fantastic support for the whole race.”
With a WorldTour victory already under their belts, and the Australian National Champions jersey securely on the back of Gerrans for another season, it has already been a successful Australian summer of racing for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
“The win here takes a little bit of pressure off, but we’ve got some really big goals coming up in Europe,” said White. “Now, we’ll start to focus on those.”
With a perfect strike rate so far this summer, Gerrans has one more race left on Australian soil before he starts his European campaign. He will line up at next week’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Victoria, where he is also a two-time former winner.
“I’m looking forward to racing back in Victoria at the Herald Sun Tour," said Gerrans. "We’ll have another strong group of guys there. The goal will be to win the general classification and we’ll be very closely watched there, so the pressure will be on us again. But it will be great to have another opportunity to race on home soil.”