Tour Down Under: Stage 6. McEwen second
Queensland’s Allan Davis (Quickstep) has been crowned champion of the 2009 Tour Down Under and leader of the UCI ProTour after an impressive week of racing that saw him win three of the event’s six stages.
Today’s 81 kilometre stage,18 laps of the 4.5km Adelaide City Council Circuit was effectively a victory procession for Davis and 144,000 fans, the highest ever one day crowd for an Australian sporting event, turned out to congratulate him.
Davis was protected by his Quickstep team mates throughout the stage and crossed the line with the main field in 33rd place to secure his victory in a total race time of 19hrs26min59sec.
He finished 25 seconds clear of South Australian Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank) and 30 seconds ahead of Spaniard Jose Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne) who was awarded third place on a countback with 2007 winner, Switzerland’s Martin Elmiger (AG2R-Mondiale) with both at 30 seconds off the winner’s time.
“I’ve finally done it, I can’t believe it. I would like to thank my team, Quick Step, they have been wonderful and have done a great job all week,” said Davis who is the only rider to have contested all eleven editions of the Tour Down Under.
A 13 man break escaped early in the stage and included two Spaniards, Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) and Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who were within striking distance of Davis on the overall rankings as well as Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia – High Road), René Mandri (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank), Vincent Jérôme (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Wesley Sulzberger (Française Des Jeux), Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d’Epargne), Christian Knees (Team Milram), Emanuele Bindi (Lampre – N.G.C), Jos Van Emden (Rabobank), Gianni Da Ros (Liquigas) and the ever attacking teenager Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia)
“It wasn’t like we planned it and when Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) was in that group we were a little concerned but my team again, I have to thank them, they had it under control,” said Davis. “Throughout the race, once we got closer to the finish they picked up the pace to chase it back, to set up the bunch sprint.
“It was very fast out there and I didn’t expect the riders to go up the road like they did,” he said. “I got a bit nervous, but it ended up okay.
“I would like to thank my beautiful wife and children back in Spain, the organisation and the South Australian government for making this a great race,” said an elated Davis. “This win is very important to the team, it is the first ProTour race of the season and with three stages and the overall it has been an unbelievable race.
“The crowd have been amazing all week, I want to thank them for coming to support this race.”
The stage win went to Italian Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) who won a controversial sprint for the line in a time of 1hr42min00sec. Queensland’s Robbie McEwen (Team Katusha) was second ahead of Sydney’s Graeme Brown (Rabobank) with the pair clipping bikes in the final metres resulting in Brown pulling his shoe from the pedal.
“I have won here a few times before and we were set for the finish again,” said McEwen. “I was coming up on Brownie’s wheel but he stepped into me and nearly knocked me over.
“He pushed me way out, he nearly knocked himself off in the process,” said McEwen. “He opened up the gap in the middle (and) I had to regain balance and get going again, but it was too late.”
However officials spent considerable time reviewing both head on and aerial replays of the finish and allowed the placings to stand.
The big improver on the overall after today’s stage was Tasmanian Wesley Sulzberger (Francaise des Jeux) who was in the early break and won the first intermediate SA Lotteries Sprint of the day at the end of eight laps. The three second winning time bonus moved the 22 year old from 12th overall up into fifth place.
Sanchez also benefitted from being in the breakaway claiming second place on both the first and second (at the end of lap 12) SA Lotteries intermediate sprints to collect a four second bonus but it only moved him up from 14th to 12th overall because of the countback system that adds each rider’s stage placings together to split those tied on time at the end.
In the Skoda King of the Mountain the see-saw battle between Spanish Euskaltel-Euskadi team mates Andoni LaFuente and Markel Irizar continued. Irizar went with the breakaway and collected the maximum 16 points for the first climb over Montefiore Hill at the 42.5km mark to wrest the classification back from Lafuente.
Neither rider contested the next climb for points at the 64 kilometre mark leaving Estonian Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) to pick up his first climber’s points of the Tour.
The 13 leaders gained a lead of more than a minute by lap eight with Quickstep on the front of the bunch keeping the pace high enough to avoid any danger for Davis.
On the second last lap seven times Tour de France Champion, Lance Armstrong, attacked sparking riotous cheering from the crowd but it was always going to be a sprinter’s finish and the fast men’s teams chased down the Armstrong break and every other threat in the final kilometres.
Sulzberger’s attacking style earned him the title of Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider of Stage 6 while Spaniard Jose Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne), who finished third overall took out the Cycle Instead Best Young Rider (U25) category.
Francaise des Jeux won the Quit Smoking Teams Classification by an eight second margin from Caisse d’Epargne and South Australian Stuart O’Grady was the recipient of the Tanya Denver Memorial Award as the highest placed South Australian overall
1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas 1.42.00 2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha 3 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank 4 Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team Columbia - High Road 5 José Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 6 Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank 7 Willem Stroetinga (Ned) Team Milram 8 Guillaume Blot (Fra) Cofidis 9 Jacopo Guanieri (Ita) Liquigas 10 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale