Gerrans one-step closer to fourth Santos Tour Down Under title

Sat 23 Jan 2016

Former Australian champion Simon Gerrans is one step closer to a record breaking fourth Santos Tour Down Under victory, retaining his overall lead with one more stage to go.

Gerrans started the penultimate day of racing with a 14second advantage to Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) and 26seconds to Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).

The 35-year-old finished eighth on the stage, 17seconds behind Richie Porte (BMC Racing) who won his third consecutive Willunga stage to move into second overall, nine seconds behind ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Gerrans.

“One stage to go and anything can happen but I tell you what, I’d prefer to go into that stage in front rather than behind,” Gerrans said of tomorrow's race finale.

“This is the toughest stage of the race and where the GC is generally decided each year so if I’ve come out in front, hopefully that’s enough.”

Asked if there was a moment of panic, Gerrans said the key was staying calm.

“I thought if I just kept my cool and ride my own pace, even when they attacked me in the final, it should be enough to hang on and I was just right,” he said.

“You never discount Richie Porte, especially on a finish like that, that he obviously loves. That’s three from the last three for Richie here.

"But my team were again there for me all day today and they delivered me in the perfect position and as fresh as possible into the final climb."

How it happened:

The all-important Willunga climb was front of mind for the peloton as they rolled out of McLaren Vale for the penultimate stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.

A group of four riders escaped off the front and rode to a six-minute advantage, taking both sets of bonus seconds on offer at the intermediate sprints in the process.

Behind, Michael Hepburn took his familiar position at the head of the peloton to keep the break in check.

The break survived the first ascent of Willunga but their advantage had dropped right down to just two minutes.

Team Sky and BMC Racing started to put the pressure on but Gerrans was still ably supported by multiple teammates.

Having won the previous two Willunga stages, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) again got the better of the rest with an unmatched attack up the final climb.

Others tried to bridge from behind, but for Gerrans it was about keeping the gap in check to maintain the lead, which he achieved with nine seconds to spare.