Santos Tour Down Under Defending Champion Simon Gerrans snagged three bonus seconds during the intermediate sprints on stage one of the Australian Tour. With the 2012 edition of the race decided by a tie-breaker after Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished on the same time, the bonus seconds Gerrans secured today could become crucial as the general classification battle unfolds over the six day race.
“One second means a lot in Adelaide,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “To get three already is really good in that respect. We planned from the start to go after the bonus seconds. Today was the best day to do it. Once the GC is more set up, as it will be after tomorrow, anyone on the overall will be marked during intermediate sprints.”
The peloton set off from Prospect under sunny skies. Attacks began immediately after the neutral section gave way to the official start. Within the first five kilometres of stage one, Jordan Kerby (UniSA) managed to launch himself up the road in a solo breakway.
Kerby maintained a 2:30 advantage through the stage’s only KOM and into the first of three intermediate sprints. He won the first intermediate sprint, good for three seconds, while Gerrans was the best of the rest to take second in the first sprint. Gerrans was rewarded with two seconds for his effort.
Kerby remained ahead of the bunch through the second intermediate sprints. Gerrans managed fourth in the second sprint, missing out on the time bonuses awarded to the top three.
Jérôme Pineau (Omega Pharma QuickStep) attacked after the second intermediate sprint and bridged up to Kerby. The Frenchman quickly passed the young Australian to become the new on-the-road race leader. Once dropped by Pineau, Kerby was swallowed up by the bunch.
Pineau’s advantage dwindled as the peloton approached the third and final intermediate sprint. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked on the run in towards the sprint line and overtook Pineau on the line. Gerrans jumped from the bunch to take third in the sprint and added one additional bonus second to his tally.
“Simon’s performance in the sprint was a really positive thing today,” said Wilson. “It sets him up well for his overall ambitions.”
While Gerrans concentrated on the intermediate sprints, Matt Goss stayed safety ensconced within the bunch, saving himself for the projected bunch kick.
“This stage was a really good one for Matt Goss, and we had planned from the beginning to give him the chance to win,” said Wilson. “Our plan unfolded well for the majority of the race until things got hectic coming into the finale.”
During the final 20 kilometres, the bunch was back together, flying towards the finish in Lobethal. Teams with an interest in the sprint fought for control at the front of the field over the last lap of the finish circuit.
“It’s quite technical at the finish,” explained Wilson. “This circuit is new to the race – they’ve never done it before. The undulating roads and the tight corners presented some challenges. We did our best to stick to the plan, but it didn’t really work out for us today. The boys got separated at the end and never got back together again. The sprint didn’t happen for us.”
André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) won the stage ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Mark Renshaw (Blanco). The trio secured time bonuses at the finish to occupy the first three spots on the overall classification. Gerrans slots into fourth place overall, seven seconds behind Greipel in the race lead.
Although slightly disappointed to miss an opportunity to put Goss up for the win, Wilson maintains the day has the team well-poised for its overall objectives.
“Tomorrow may be the most decisive day of the tour,” projected Wilson. “It will certainly set up the general classification early in the race. I think we’ll definitely know at this time tomorrow who is in good form and who is not – and hopefully Gerrans is right up there after stage two.”