Day of drama as Davis survives crash to retain lead

A dramatic day of racing on stage three of the 2009 Tour Down Under has ended with Queensland’s Allan Davis (Quickstep) still in the ochre race leader’s jersey but only after a superb chase to regain the race in the wake of an early crash.

Davis also had to wait for a countback by officials after Rabobank’s Graeme Brown (AUS) won the stage and scored a ten second bonus outsprinting Davis who collected a six second time bonus to leave the Australian pair locked on time at the top of the classification.

“Hats off to my team, definitely a team victory there was an awesome break up the road it went early, had everyone in it that should have been in it but I held the boys up a bit and they just rode unreal and put themselves in a line – they’ll be coming in about 30 minutes – I think they were that tired but in the end Matty Hayman did an unreal job,” said Brown. “I’m ecstatic about the win and the team has worked really hard all day.

” It was originally supposed to be for Matt Hayman but he came with me to the finish and did an unbelievable job.”
To break the tie between Brown and Davis for the overall lead officials added together the rider’s placings on each of the three stages contested so far with Davis (6th, 1st and 2nd) ending with a total of nine while Brown (1st, 2nd and 15th) had a total of 18. The tie break awards the race lead to the rider with the lowest aggregate.

“That was probably one of the hardest stages I’ve done here in years – my day started with a crash into a motorbike – with Andre Greipel,” said Davis. “I just followed him and there was a parked motorbike on the left hand side.

” Andre I know was going to hit it so I moved over to the right but he hit it and his bike just flew out in front of me and Nick Roche and we both went down which was unfortunate cause it was a time when the race was really splitting up and we had no friends there today there,” he said. ” I’d like to thank my team because without them I’d still be coming, yeah – so once we got back on we made sure we stayed in the front (and) there was another big crash and we were lucky to miss that one – but second again so its not too bad.”

Third across the line at the end of the 136km stage from the Adelaide suburb of Unley, along the Fleurieu Peninsula to Victor Harbor was South Australian Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank) who now sits third overall five seconds back.
“I am happy with how things progressed today,” said O’Grady. “The conditions were hard, when I knew it was blowing a gale out there today, I know the area and I knew that it would get nasty and it did.

“Normally this is one of the easier days on paper and it turned out to be one of the hardest of the tour.”
The same crash that felled Davis sent last year’s winner Germany’s Andre Greipel (Columbia – High Road) to hospital suffering a dislocated right shoulder. He also needed stitches in his right arm, left leg and surgery under local anaesthetic to treat a deep cut in his right elbow. He will fly back to Germany on Friday for an operation on his shoulder and is expected to be out of action for up to 12 weeks to recover from the surgery.

Gale force, blustery conditions played havoc with the race today as riders struggled to find a wheel and a place out of the wind which blew at them from all directions but it didn’t deter the fans with police estimating 88,000 turned out today.

The early kilometres saw the peloton contend with some tough, testing climbs prompting a flurry of attacks but the one that stuck featured a host of heavy weight contenders. Lance Armstrong (Astana) , Michael Rogers (Columbia High Road), Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank) and Matthew Lloyd (Silence Lotto)were just four for of the favourites in a 14 strong pack that boasted riders from 12 teams.

Davis’ Fuji Servetto team worked to get him back in the race after his crash and Rabobank, having missed the break, got organised on the front to try and bridge the gap to the leaders. The pace and confusion saw the race split apart with the lead group kilometres ahead of the tail lights.

Over the first Skoda King of the Mountain Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Markel Irizar picked up the maximum points ahead of Thomas Rohregger (Milram) and Stuart O’Grady and for the next fifty kilometres the leaders maintained a buffer of around a minute and a half. At the first SA Lotteries Sprint at Meadows (57km) Matthew Wilson (UniSA-Australia) scored the points and a three second time bonus with O’Grady scoring a two second time bonus for second across the line and MIchael Rogers a one second bonus for his third place.

After the sprint Garmin-Slipstream, who had also missed the break, joined Rabobank on the front of the chasing peloton and they began to gain ground on the 14 leaders. Not enough though to stop the lead posse contesting the second SA Lotteries Sprint at Goolwa (92km) where O’Grady surged to the front for a three second time bonus ahead of Wilson and Rogers.

But as the race headed into the final forty kilometres the leaders were caught.

“We were very concerned, the team rode for nearly 80km to bring the break back, we got them right near Goolwa,” said Brown. “When they hit the head wind, it is hard to ride on the front when you hit the head wind when you are in the breakaway.”

The regrouping of the peloton sparked a number of opportunistic attacks. Belgian Glenn D’Hollander (Silence Lotto) struck out on his own and soon after Australia Cameron Meyer (Garmin Slipstream) rode after him catching and passing him as the race neared the second and final Skoda King of the Mountain of the day at Crows Nest (92km). Meyer crested the summit first with D’Hollander second, Frenchman Moncoutie (Cofidis) third. Markel Irizar claimed the fourth place points and in the process took over the lead in the climber’s classification from his Euskaltel Euskadi team mate, Andoni LaFuente.

Meyer, 21, who yesterday suffered a dislocated shoulder in a crash only to pop it back in himself, rejoin the race and finish the stage, was proving youth overcomes all as he forged ahead solo gaining almost a minute’s lead with 30 kilometres to go. However the big boys in the bunch had other ideas and the scene was set for an evential sprint showdown that produced an Australian clean sweep of the placings.

As a result of the two crashes today nine riders abandoned the race leaving 124 to line up for tomorrow’s 143km stage four from Burnside Village through the Barossa Valley winegrowing region to Angaston.


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