James Raison from the Tour Down Under reports back to us the Stage 3.
Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) out-sprinted defending champ Rohan Dennis (BMC), and unheralded Canadian Michael Woods (Cannondale Pro Cycling) to take the Ochre leaders jersey.
Tour Down Under (TDU) Stage 3 wound from the beachside suburb of Glenelg, 12 km west of the CBD, into the hills south of Adelaide, winding northeast to the critical Corkscrew Road climb, before a flying downhill finish into the suburb of Campbelltown.
Laurens De Vreese (Astana) was the first to jump, the Belgian riding off the field solo as race neutral distance ended.
After the race he was not fazed by a long solo day.
“It’s better to go on the attack than do nothing,” he said.
Race leader McCarthy’s Tinkoff squad took pace making responsibility early.
Intermediate sprint point 1 was taken by De Vreese, JJ Lobato (Movistar) second, and race leader McCarthy taking a single bonus second in third.
The bunch set an unusually sedate pace for the normally “full gas” TDU, the looming Corkscrew Road, an icon amongst cyclists in South Australia, seemingly discouraged a hot pace.
Sprint point 2 was again taken be De Vreese whose advantage had grown to 4 minutes. Behind him, Tinkoff and Orica GreenEdge led out their men for the remaining sprint points and bonus seconds, with Caleb Ewan (Orica GreenEdge) second, and race leader McCarthy third again.
Team trains started to form with 30km to go and the pace lifted as the road plunged down. The bunch then swallowed De Vreese 21km out.
“I felt like we really had to take our lives into our hands,” said race winner Gerrans about the descent.
A crash on the infamous Gorge Road, at 18km to go, split the field. It was a bleak roadside scene with riders Julien Arredondo (Trek-Segafredo), Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), Koen De Kort (Giant-Alpecin), and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) sprawled on the side of the road.
McCarthy’s Tinkoff team masterfully positioned him at the front of the race and took the crucial turn onto Corkscrew Road, followed by Sky and Orica GreenEdge. Lotto NL Jumbo taking over as the gradient pitched up.
McCarthy took control as the gradient went over 10 percent. A flurry of attacks followed from Richie Porte (BMC), then Gerrans, then Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r).
Emerging from the chaos was Porte, Sergio Henao (Sky), Michael Woods (Cannondale Pro Cycling), and Pozzovivo.
Woods’ next surge would only be matched by Henao. The Colombian climber rounded Woods and took the KOM points. The two leaders were soon reeled in by the chasers.
The following descent down Montacute Road averaged 105km/h according to the broadcast. Averaged.
The descent was like watching a cagey boxing match. Riders sparred with each other, but no-one landed a decisive blow to gap the rest.
Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) led the charge through the final corner and opened the downhill sprint. Dennis countered, gaining a small advantage but Gerrans desperately hunted his countryman down, beating him to the line with an epic bike throw. Woods crossed the line third and race leader McCarthy fourth.
Gerrans called it a “super tough day on the Corkscrew”.
“My teammates set me up perfectly,” he said.
McCarthy may have lost the jersey but vowed “I’m gonna keep going for it as hard as I can.” He swaps the overall leader’s jersey for the young rider’s jersey.
Henao has staked his claim as team leader and marked the Willunga Hill stage on Saturday as his next goal.
“I will try to take victory there,” he said.
An elated Woods said it was a thrill to be riding the race he’d seen on TV.
“I’ve always watched the Tour Down Under on TV, and heard Phil Liggett calling the races, and now I am doing it myself,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Stage 4 of the TDU runs from the inner suburb of Norwood, south across the Fleurieu Peninsula to the finishing point after 130km in seaside town Victor Harbor, 80km south of Adelaide.
THANK YOU JAMES.