“I had an idea of the opportunity I could get in Corkscrew climb and I knew what to do.”
Cadel Evans is back at the Tour Down Under and, for the first time in his career, he leads the GC of the Australian race. It’s been a few years since his previous appearance and a lot has happened in that time but the 36-year-old has won in Australia again and it happened largely because of a climb that was introduced to the route in 2013.
The Corkscrew made the difference. And for all that Simon Gerrans did to defend the ochre leader’s jersey, he netted fifth in the stage and surrendered his advantage over Evans who had started the stage ranked fourth overall.
“My team did a fantastic job to position me where I had to be,” said Evans immediately after finishing 15 seconds ahead of a group of 12 that was led home by the runner-up in the 145km stage from Norwood to Campbelltown. “Nathan Haas I had been training well but winning is what we are here for. It’s amazing to be back racing in Australia and win. A stage race is all about the leader’s jersey. Time bonus is the key to win this race overall. We’ll see how it goes in the next stages. I haven’t won the GC yet.”
The winner of stage two, Diego Ulissi, was third and the rider in the polka-dot jersey, Adam Hansen, finished fifth.
“Jack Bauer and Steele von Hoff brought me into the bottom of that climb in about fourth wheel,” said Haas. “I didn’t have to do much. I was just trying to recover and then BMC hit out on the right and I moved up with them but I was at my threshold so I let myself get to about 15th through the steep bit on the climb and I knew I was at my limit or out the back so I stayed at that and I’m glad I did because I ended up going over the climb in fourth.
“I was the one to lead my group over the top to chase Gerrans and Porte.
“I was pushing with Gesink and bloody BMC kept getting in the way and slowing things down, of course. It made it a little bit difficult. It was kind of unprofessional in that there were guys pulling to bring it back and they’d hop into the wheels, get to the front and stop pedalling and that would screw up the chase because everyone was pretty much on the limit anyway. It’s a bit annoying but that’s their prerogative, they can do what they want and they got the stage win and GC now. Kudos to them.
“In the end, I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to win a bunch kick.
“I’ve always wanted to have a bit of a run at Simon [Gerrans] in a sprint – and this is for no reason other than me respecting him so much; I’ve always wanted to know how I might go in that setting and it was nice to see a gap open up on the right.”
All is not lost for Gerrans. The Tour Down Under has been decided on time bonuses more often than not. He and his team owner, Gerry Ryan, were amongst several to remind the media that the race has not yet been won.
“I didn’t maintain the overall lead but that doesn’t mean the race is lost yet,” said Gerrans, “definitely not. Once in the climb it was everybody for himself, but the climb was so steep… In the downhill, that’s where Cadel showed his strength. I’m disappointed to lose the ochre jersey but it’s not over.”
“Cadel deserves it,” said Ryan. “You look at how strong he was and we now have got to chase him. It’s a shame for the team today but it’s great for the sport.”
Does the CEO of Cycling Australia still believe there’s hope of regaining the ochre leader’s jersey. “There’s always a chance.”