Show of Strength on Stirling CircuitThu 24 Jan 2013
Having switched focus from overall ambitions to stage wins ahead of the third stage of Tour Down Under, ORICA-GreenEDGE fired constant attacks between Unley and Stirling. Their efforts earned Simon Clarke the Europcar Most Aggressive rider jersey and catapulted Matt Goss into second place in the uphill sprint.
“We had a bad day yesterday,” admitted Sport Director Matt Wilson. “It felt like we had gotten kicked in the guts. We had hoped to come here and win the race. I’m proud of the guys for picking themselves up and going on the attack. We went out swinging today.”
Luke Durbridge made the first acceleration when neutral racing gave way to the stage start. His move was countered by several riders who eventually came together to form a large group during the opening five kilometres. Both Simon Clarke and Daryl Impey had made the break.
“We wanted to see how Simon [Gerrans] was feeling after yesterday,” explained Wilson. “We knew we wanted to keep him in the bunch to give him a chance at the finish. We had the same plan for Matt Goss. We planned to keep them fresh for the finish and then see how they felt. That was Plan B.”
“Plan A was to go on the attack,” Wilson continued. “We wanted to put someone on the front. The boys went with every single attack. Obviously, they liked this plan.”
Ahead of the first and only KOM, Impey launched off the front of the large break with Jack Bobridge (Blanco) on his wheels. The duo gained a slight advantage over the chasers as they crested over the summit. Bobridge edged out Impey for top points in the mountain classification. The duo would not stay ahead for long. A reshuffle from behind saw Clarke and Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) replace Impey and Bobridge up the road.
“We gave Stuart [O’Grady], Durbridge, Clarke and Daryl the chance to go into the break,” said Wilson. “We didn’t plan who would go or when – that happens organically. Everyone needs to be up near the front and moving around to make the right move. They were up there, and they each gave themselves a shot. There aren’t a lot of races where we can give so many riders a chance for themselves. It’s great to see them go for it when they get it.”
As the two Clarke’s extended their advantage, the peloton swallowed up the chasers and settled into a steady pace set by Team Sky. By the time the leading duo hit the first of six laps over the Stirling circuit, they had pushed their lead out to nearly two minutes. The gap would grow to a maximum advantage of 3:30 during lap one.
The next several laps were fairly uneventful until fireworks began to fly just ahead of the penultimate lap. First Durbridge and then Impey tagged onto chase groups attempting to bridge up to Clarke and Clarke. Impey’s group successfully joined forces with the race leaders to form a group of eight during lap four. Each of the riders in the break contributed to the workload, but the breakaway never gained more than 30 seconds on the peloton.
“I was always hopeful that one of the moves would stick, but there wasn’t any one move that I would have called the race winning move because the bunch didn’t give them much of a gap,” said Wilson. "I didn’t have much communication with the riders towards the end of the race, so I had no idea how Gerrans or Goss were feeling.”
Despite the break’s best efforts to hold off the field, the catch came six kilometres from the finish. Several riders put in one last dig. None managed to escape the bunch ahead of the line. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) took the first win of his young professional career ahead of Goss who held off a fast-charging Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the uphill drag to the line.
“I was really happy when I heard Goss got second,” said Wilson. “It’s always a bit disappointing not to get the win, but it’s a great result for him nonetheless.”
“We learned that Simon was awarded the most aggressive jersey over the race radio as well,” he added. “He really deserved it. He went on the attack early. When he got caught by the second bunch, he managed to trade pulls with them until the catch. The jersey is an added bonus for us today – his prize for being out front all day. It’s great to have him on the podium.”