Simon Gerrans delivered an Australian win on Australia Day in Willunga. The Tour Down Under defending champion narrowly edged out Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) in the uphill sprint to secure the first WorldTour win of the year for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
“I was pretty disappointed to drop of out contention for the overall on stage two,” said Gerrans. “I had one chance to make up for it, and that was today. To win here on Australia Day was a fantastic feeling. A big thanks to my ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates. They laid it on the line for me today, so it was great to finish it off.”
Jens Mouris kickstarted the team’s plan to back Gerrans for the stage five win when he put himself into the early breakaway. The move was caught on the first ascent of Old Willunga Hill.
“We needed to have someone in the break today,” explained Sport Director Matt Wilson. “We had hoped whoever made the break would make it over the climb the first time to help position Gerro up the second climb. Unfortunately, the break got caught a little early, but it still took the pressure off the rest of the team. They didn’t have to chase and were able to save their energy to help Simon in the last lap.”
The field didn’t stick together for long. The counter-attacks came almost immediately. With 25 kilometres left to race, a new four rider break formed up the road. Ten kilometres later, the quartet continued to enjoy a slim lead. Stuart O’Grady and Luke Durbridge took to the front of the bunch to set a punishing tempo that would reel back the break and reduce the field size.
“We used everybody we had in the last lap,” said Wilson. “Everyone had a job, and everyone helped put Gerro in a good position.”
Just inside the final kilometre, with riders still up the road, Gerrans jumped from the field. He pounded the pedals past riders about to be swallowed up by the bunch in pursuit of Javier Moreno (Movistar) who had attacked a half kilometre earlier. Gerrans latched onto Moreno’s wheel just as Slagter powered around the duo.
“I never gave up until I was right to the line,” said Gerrans. “When the young Blanco guy [Slagter] jumped past us, I had to get on his wheel and come past him on the line. I was second here last year, and I won here today. It’s a nice way to round out the week.”
Storming to victory on Australia Day proved extra satisfying from Gerrans who said he drew extra motivation from the crowd.
“It was an absolutely fantastic crowd today,” he said. “It was bigger than any Tour de France stage. There were people around the whole course cheering us on. It was a great atmosphere.”
Wilson was elated that the team’s hard work paid off in such a huge way.
“I’m just so happy after all the disappointment we’ve had here this week,” he said. “We came in with such good form and have had some unlucky moments. To win like this makes even more sweet than if we had no problems at all. The boys gave it their all every day. The win today is their just reward.”
Stage 5 Brief Results:
- Simon Gerrans (Australia / Orica) 3:36:25″
- Tom-Jelte Slagter (Netherlands / Blanco) ST
- Javier Moreno (Spain / Movistar) +10″
- Jon Izagirre (Spain / Euskaltel) +12″
- Tiago Machado (Portugal / RadioShack) +13″
- Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Blanco) +16″
- Gorka Izagirre (Spain / Euskaltel)
- Rafael Valls (Spain / Vacansoleil)
- Daniele Pietropolli (Italy / Lampre)
- Ben Hermans (Belgium / RadioShack)
General Classification After Stage 5:
- Tom-Jelte Slagter (Netherlands / Blanco) 16:35:33″
- Javier Moreno (Spain / Movistar) +13″
- Ben Hermans (Belgium / RadioShack) +25″
- Jon Izagirre (Spain / Euskaltel) +28″
- Geraint Thomas (Britain / Team Sky) +29″
- Tiago Machado (Portugal / RadioShack)
- Gorka Izagirre (Spain / Euskaltel) +32″
- Daniele Pietropolli (Italy / Lampre)
- Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands / Blanco)
- Jussi Veikkanen (Finland / FDJ) +37″