Any notions that the Tour Down Under is too early in the season for ?real? racing was firmly dispelled by today?s 136km third stage, from Unley to Victor Harbor.
Graeme Brown (Rabobank) led home an Australian one-two-three in a bunch sprint, but that told only part of the story.
It was a day when, perhaps due to the windy conditions, the gloves came off. There were several crashes, with Andre Greipel (Columbia), the winner of stage one, taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder after hitting a parked motorbike. A second big crash also ended the race for Baden Cooke and Danielle Nardello, among others.
Amid the mayhem a 14-man break rode clear, and it included several big names, including Lance Armstrong (Astana), Michael Rogers (Columbia) and Stuart O?Grady (Saxo Bank).
Rabobank and Garmin both failed to place any riders in the move, and they led the pursuit, which continued for almost 50km. The lead stretched to a minute-and-a-half but the chasers ? in a reduced bunch of only around 30 riders ? persisted, and eventually the junction was made.
Then Cameron Meyer (Garmin), who had dislocated his shoulder in a crash the previous day, attacked, bridging the gap to lone escapee Glenn D?Hollander (Silence Lotto), and promptly leaving him behind on the final climb before the finish.
The 21-year old Meyer, a triple world junior champion on the track, cut an impressive figure battling into the wind, and built a lead of 1.40.
But with 6km remaining it was game over, and Brown was a convincing winner at windswept Victor Harbor, over a length ahead of Allan Davis (Quick Step) and O?Grady. Davis, who crashed with Greipel but was unhurt, retained the leader?s ochre jersey.
TOUR DOWN UNDER STAGE THREE: RESULTS
1. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank in 3 hours 15 mins 35 secs
2. Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Saxo Bank
4. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia
5. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Ag2r
7. Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8. Alexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox-Bouygues Telecom
9. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre
10. Mickael Cherel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux all same time
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1. Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step in 10 hours 47 mins 11 secs
2. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank at same time
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Saxo Bank at 5secs
4. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Ag2r at 14secs
5. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia at 18secs
6. Matthew Wilson (Aus) UniSA at 19secs
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre at 20secs
8. Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Slipstream
10. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Francaise des Jeux all at same time.
Graeme Brown scored a great victory in stage three, and moved up to second overall behind race leader Allan Davis
Matt Lloyd and Lance Armstrong in the day’s big break
Graeme Brown on the podium
TOUR DOWN UNDER 2009
Stage four: Davis wins again in Tour Down Under
Stage three: Brown leads Aussie charge
Stage two: Davis takes gruelling stage
Stage one: Greipel wins first stage
Cancer Council Classic: McEwen gets Katusha’s first win Down Under