Simon Gerrans looks set to win a record fourth Santos Tour Down Under with a second straight stage win. The Orica GreenEDGE star was able to hold off Ben Swift (Sky) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Segafredo) in a tight sprint in front of a massive crowd in Victor Harbor.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with that,” Gerrans said after today’s stage win. “A lot of people would be surprised, myself included, that I can beat some top sprinters and get a back-to-back victory at the Santos Tour Down Under.”
It was a tough stage for the peloton, with the iconic Norton Summit climb coming just 7kms after the start. The riders then had to battle wind and rain, with race officials having to ready contingency plans as a nasty storm battered much of Adelaide.
Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) kept his hopes of a top 3 finish in the General Classification alive by finishing fourth on the stage and pocketing a 2 second time bonus. McCarthy remains second overall but finds himself 14 seconds behind Gerrans and will need something special on tomorrow’s climbs up Willunga Hill if he’s to secure an unlikely Tour victory.
McCarthy has, however, retained the lead in two classifications. Gerrans is 3 points behind McCarthy’s tally of 46 points in the Sprint Classification with Dennis in third on 27 points. McCarthy also has a lead of 14 seconds over Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) and a gap of 36 seconds to Patrick Bevan (Cannondale) in the Young Riders Classification.
Reigning champion Rohan Dennis finished 8 seconds behind Gerrans on the stage and although he remains in third place overall, the gap of 26 seconds to the race leader will be tough to overturn, especially considering how good Gerrans’ record is in previous Willunga stages.
When asked about his chances of overall success after another dominant stage win, Gerrans said “I’ve increased my lead but I’ll still have to be very attentive before Willunga Hill tomorrow. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Sergio Henao (Sky) backed up yesterday’s King of the Mountain win up the Corkscrew by winning today’s climb up Crows Nest Road near Port Elliot, ahead of Richie Porte (BMC) and Lucas Hamilton (Uni SA). Henao now has 26 points in the KOM Classification and has a handy lead of 14 points over equal 2nd placed riders Porte and Michael Woods (Cannondale), however with 16 points available on both climbs up Willunga tomorrow it’s a long way from over.
Tomorrow’s 151.5km ride around McLaren Vale includes 2 climbs up Category 1 Willunga Hill (3kms at 7.5% average gradient), with the summit of the 2nd climb doubling as the finish line. Gerrans seemingly has one hand on the title, so expect his rivals to attack and attack often tomorrow.