If Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEDGE) was feeling the effects of his crash late on yesterday’s stage, he certainly didn’t show it as he summoned every ounce of strength to ride over the top of last year’s winner Rohan Dennis (BMC) and claim the win in Stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under.
At the end of the 139km stage, just ten riders were left at the front to tackle the super fast 5.7km descent from the summit of the gruelling Corkscrew climb into the finish at Campbelltown, and it looked for a while like the duo of Sergio Henao (Sky) and Michael Woods (Cannondale) would fight for the win, the pair cresting the famous Corkscrew with a handy little break.
Richie Porte (BMC) led the small chasing group left to close the gap at speeds touching 104km/hr on the descent, and once Henao and Woods were caught it was left to the main contenders to fight it out.
Dennis looked a certain winner, but Gerrans’ sprint was timed perfectly and, after the judges studied the photo carefully, he was given the win.
Gerrans’ quest for a fourth Tour Down Under title remains on course, the victory strengthening his grip on the Ochre Jersey. As is often the case when wearing the leader’s jersey, Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) rode strongly and managed to stay with the leaders, grabbing fourth on the stage, leaving him 3 seconds behind Gerrans overall, with Dennis in third position, 5 seconds behind Gerrans.
Gerrans admitted the victory wasn’t easy, stating “it was super tough going up the Corkscrew, there are obviously some good climbers in the race and I had to dig deep to stay up there.
“I just came back over the top to the guys in front of me to catch the escapees right at the beginning of the descent”.
Not everyone enjoyed the stage as much as Gerrans, with Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) having to borrow a bike from a spectator after a crash left him without a bike, and neither the team car nor the neutral service was able to reach him. Race officials could have disqualified Farrar for accepting outside assistance, but given the exceptional circumstances the judges have allowed him to continue in the race.
McCarthy picked up two 3rd places in the intermediate sprints, worth 4 points, and he now holds the lead in the Sprint Classification by precisely that margin on 31 points with Dennis 2nd on 27 and Gerrans and Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEDGE) tied for 3rd on 23 points.
The 16 points that Sergio Henao gained by winning the King of the Mountain climb up the Corkscrew has seen him take the lead in the KOM Classification, with Michael Woods in 2nd (14 points) and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) and Sean Lake (Uni SA) both tied for 3rd on 10 points.
Tomorrow’s stage of the Tour Down Under takes the riders from Norwood to Victor Harbor, a distance of 138kms. The riders tackle the nasty Norton Summit climb early, though the King of the Mountain climb comes late in the stage, on the 4km climb up Crows Nest Road near Port Elliot (average gradient 5.8%). It’s another stage for the main contenders to try and gain some bonus time, as one of the most even Tours for many a year heads into a thrilling conclusion.