Tour Down Under 2008 – Stage 5 – ‘Andre the Giant’ stomps on Australia Day hopes for local win

Source: TDU Website

Germany’s Andre Griepel stomped on hopes of a local win to celebrate Australia Day when he claimed his third stage victory to take over the lead in the Tour Down Under.

The Team High Road cyclist sprinted home in a time of 3hr26min46sec edging out Australian Allan Davis (Australia-UniSA) and Spaniard Jose Benitez (Saunier Duval) after a 147 kilometre stage through the McLaren Vale wine growing region on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. His win has moved him to the top of the classification with a seven second buffer over Davis in second place. Spain’s Jose Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne) is sitting in third overall, 20 seconds off the race lead.

“Last year I would have told you that would be impossible,” said Greipel who hopes be the first rider awarded the UCI ProTour Leader’s Jersey for 2008. “Now I am the leader of the Tour Down Under, this is fantastic.”

Tomorrow the riders contest the sixth and final stage of the Tour Down Under, an 88km race around the 5.5 kilometre Adelaide City Council Street Circuit. A maximum of 26 seconds is up for grabs in time bonuses for the two intermediate sprints and the stage finish with Davis and Greipel expected to do battle right to the line to decide the 2008 Tour Down Under Champion.

“I look forward to tomorrow, I think it will be a fantastic final stage in Adelaide,” said Greipel.

Davis says he’s very pleased with the way his team rode today and the race is far from over.

“We’ve got 88km to go yet and we’ll be fighting to the last centimetre,’ said Davis. “We’ve had a stage win so far and if we pull the overall off … even if we stay second … it’s still an awesome tour for (Australia) UniSA.

“We’re here to win and we’ll sit down tonight with Davo (Team Director Dave Sanders) and talk through a few tactics,” said Davis. “On the day is when it really counts and as long as we go down fighting.”

The stage took riders on three circuits out from Willunga to Aldinga Bay and along the coast before the final 25 kilometres headed up Old Willunga Hill. 85 thousand fans turned out most with Australian flags in the hope of an Australian win.

Greipel’s team mate Adam Hansen (AUS) forced the pace at the bottom of the climb with ‘South Australia – A Brilliant Blend King of the Mountain’ leader Philippe Gilbert (FRA – Francaise des Jeux) and Quickstep’s Alessandro Proni going after him but a big group was close behind. However that group didn’t include overnight race leader Australia’s Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) who was struggling to stay in touch.

As the race approached the summit David Moncoutie (FRA – Cofidis) and former Tour Down Under winner Luis Sanchez (ESP – Caisse d’Epargne) broke away and gained a small gap but there was still 20 kilometres of racing to go and Team High Road was on a mission to get Greipel to the line with the leaders.

“This morning I thought if I am not in the front group, that would be ok, but I felt good on top of the climb and we were able to chase back the front group, for me, I don’t know why I feel really good here,” said Greipel who praised Hansen for his work to keep the race together at the front. “That was awesome, he chased every rider and did a fantastic job.”

“I worked with the UniSA boys to keep the gap because we heard that Renshaw was with the back group at 20-something seconds, so we made sure the gap was as big as possible. I finished with 800m to go, my work was done, I just rode in,” said Hansen.

Renshaw never regained contact with the leaders and crossed the finish line in 50th place, 56 seconds after the stage winner.

“I went over the top 15-20 seconds behind the second group which included Davis and Greipel,” said a disappointed Renshaw. “We worked really hard to get back on and we nearly got there but didn’t have the legs on the climb.

“I’m disappointed now, but I think later on I’ll be okay because never did I imagine I’d come to this week and … I’d hope to win, but never to wear the leader’s jersey and be a chance at winning the race,” said Renshaw who now sits 39th overall at 1min02sec.

Today’s stage was raced in hot, dry conditions with the temperature hovering around the mid 30’s and, as expected, a small group escaped early in the stage and stayed away to nullify the bonus seconds on offer in the two ‘SA Lotteries’ sprints of the day at Snapper Point on lap two (58.8km) and lap three (100.7km).

Three riders, Greg Henderson (NZL – Team High Road), Carlo Westphal (GER – Gerolsteiner) and Aitor Glados (ESP – Euskatel Euskadi) broke away at the 20 kilometre mark and were soon joined by Renaud Dion (FRA – AG2R Mondiale) and Julien Mazet (FRA – Astana).

Across the line at the first sprint Westphal took the maximum points ahead of Dion and Galdos. The group continued to build on their leading margin which by the 90 kilometre mark had increased to almost five minutes.

But as the leaders headed into the final fifty kilometres it was as if someone flicked the turbo switch in the peloton. The leaders managed to hang on in front to contest the second intermediate sprint, where it was again Westphal, followed by Dion and Galdos across the line, but the peloton was on the hunt and it was now a case of when not if the lead group would be caught. They were reeled in 33 kilometres from the finish.

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