Switzerland?s Martin Elmiger (Ag2r) sealed overall victory in the five-day Tour Down Under on Sunday.
The 28 year-old former Phonak rider finished three seconds ahead of Australian rider Karl Menzies (UniSA) after snatching two vital seconds in the first intermediate sprint of the final 81km criterium stage in downtown Adelaide.
Robbie McEwen (Predictor) used all his experience and sprinting skills to win the stage. Barloworld lead out the bunch in the final kilometres with Geraint Thomas doing some excellent work, but then McEwen took over in the final 500 metres and cleverly closed the door on Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) who tried to come up between McEwen and the barriers. Renshaw protested but the judges ruled in McEwen?s favour, giving him his 12th stage win in the Australian race.
?It’s nice to start the year off on a winning note. I’ve just been thinking all week about this very stage,? McEwen said.
?We went out with a plan and stuck right to it. I was really focused on today’s stage because I knew I was coming into the race a little bit underdone and also just carrying a little bit of illness. I had to ride myself in and try to come up through the race and it went on and I thought this would be the only opportunity for a bunch sprint.?
“I hit the front on the left of Allan Davis and made my way across the left barriers because there was quite a strong wind blowing from the right, so you don’t want to give anyone a free ride along your left-hand side. You’ve just got to make sure you cover your lines without going over the limit and that’s what I did, I won the race. The rest can please themselves….that’s sprinting, that’s racing, you don’t give free rides.?
Elmiger was carried to the winner?s podium and celebrated winning his first ever stage race.
“It’s a real surprise for me because I came here really hoping to fine tune my form for the big races coming up in Europe like Milan-San Remo,” he said.
“We spent 10 days here training before the race but also playing golf and going to the beach.
It’s the first stage race I’ve ever won and it?s a big victory for me. I was very nervous during the last stage but the team was very strong, they had a clever race and I’m very proud of them.”
Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com) and Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) both finished the five-day race. Hunt played a vital role in Baden Cooke?s stage win, while Thomas quickly proved he can help Barloworld?s sprinters with his pursuiting speed in the final kilometers.