German sprinter Andre Greipel produced another powerful performance to claim the eleventh Tour Down Under stage win of his career, but Sunday’s plaudits belonged to GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans after the Victorian rider claimed his second Tour Down Under title.
The sixth and final stage of the 2012 Tour Down Under comprised 20 laps of a 4.5km circuit around the city streets of Adelaide and it was expected to be relatively straightforward, but several breakaways ensured the race would go down to the final lap.
A three-man group that unsurprisingly contained Vacansoleil-DCM rider Thomas De Gendt managed to stretch their lead to 12 seconds before being engulfed by the peloton, with a 16-man breakaway also being quickly reeled in by the peloton being driven by GreenEDGE.
But it was the third breakaway of the stage that looked to be a concern for Gerrans and his GreenEDGE team.
Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Barracuda) and Cameron Meyer (GreenEDGE) formed a three-man group that race for bonuses at the second intermediate sprint, before Bauer relented and Euskaltel Euskadi’s Romain Sicard joined the breakaway.
With five laps of the circuit to go, the group were 51 seconds ahead of the peloton and the peloton had plenty of work to do, with Bakelants threatening to snatch the title should he have managed to stay five seconds ahead of the main group.
GreenEDGE’s Cameron Meyer was in the three-man group and as he began to look over his shoulder to get a sight of the peloton, it looked momentarily like GreenEDGE may have been looking an extremely embarrassing tactical mixup.
But Meyer then dropped to the back of the breakaway, forcing Bakelants and Sicard to do the pace-setting, allowing the peloton to claw vital seconds off the clock, with FDJ and GreenEDGE doing the work at the front.
With two laps to go, Meyer then launched an astonishing attack on his own, leaving the other two in his wake and going for the stage win, while simultaneously denying Bakelants the time bonuses he would need for the overall win.
It was an impressive show of tactics from GreenEDGE team director Matt White, and soon after Bakelants and Sicard were swallowed up by the main group.
That left defending champion Meyer as the only rider out the front but the tidal wave of the peloton once again surged, and Meyers was gone with less than 2km to go.
That set up the race for another entertaining sprint finish and despite the best efforts of Rabobank’s Mark Renshaw, an impressive lead-out from Lotto-Belisol put the stage on a platter for Greipel and he made short work of the final few hundred metres to claim his third stage win of the race.
But the story was Gerrans and his fledgling all-Australian team, GreenEDGE.
The team had raced strongly throughout the race and while Gerrans was perhaps fortunate to claim such a narrow win ahead of Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde after yesterday’s sprint finish, a strong performance from his GreenEDGE team ensured the win.
The team now head to contest the European season which includes the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana and after starting the season in the best fashion possible, is certain to be keenly followed by a growing Australian audience.