Luis Leon Sanchez won stage five of the Tour Down Under in Willunga today as Andre Greipel’s lead came under serious threat for the first time in this race.
Sanchez escaped on the second accent of Willunga hill as he and team mate Alejandro Valverde went off in pursuit of world champion Cadel Evans who was on brilliant form.
The Australian, not known for his attacking riding, set the race alight as he rode clear of the bunch that split under the pressure. By the top of the climb, Sanchez, Valverde and Peter Sagan had bridged the gap and the group started to build up a lead that grew to 33 seconds.
With time bonuses of 10, six and four seconds on the line, Cadel Evans became the virtual leader on the road. But with Sanchez being the better sprinter, the Spaniard was in the running to take the lead if he could win the stage and take the bonus seconds ahead of Evans.
Suddenly the race was alive.
The move put race leader Greipel under serious pressure. The German was down to just three team mates and may have lost the race had Katusha and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) not assisted in the chase.
The closing kilometres played out a nail-biting chase as the small group of 40 or so riders slowly brought back the leading group of four riders.
But HTC Columbia could not quite close the gap, instead bringing it to within just a handful of seconds, and were obviously unable to maintain their speed all the way to the line as Luke Roberts (Milram) seized his chance and jumped clear in the final kilometre with his team mate Markus Fothen.
The pair caught all but Sanchez, and although the move went unnoticed at the time it moved Roberts up to third place overall behind Greipel and Sanchez.
Evans moved up to fifth on general classification as Robbie McEwen dropped to fourth and Team Sky’s Greg Henderson – who won the small bunch sprint – dropped to sixth. The big loosers of the day were Gert Steegmans and Greame Brown who both lost over two minutes and dropped out of the top 30.
Luis Leon Sanchez takes stage 5 at the Tour Down Under and moves up to second overall
Curse? What curse? A galvanised Cadel Evans goes on the attack, much to the delight of the Australian fans.
Alejandro Valverde drags Sanchez and Sagan clear of the bunch on Willunga hill
Tour Down Under stage 5: Snapper Point – Willunga, 148km
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne 3-29.39hrs
2. Luke Roberts (Aus) Milram 2 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne 4 secs
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at same time
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas at 6 secs
6. Markus Fothen (Ger) Milram
7. Sebastien Rosseler (Bel) RadioShack
8. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Garmin-Transitions
9. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky at 9 secs
10. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas at same time
1. André Greipel (Ger) HTC Columbia 16-53.45 hrs
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne 11 secs
3. Luke Roberts (Aus) Milram 17 secs
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha 20 secs
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC 21 secs
6. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky 24 secs
7. Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha 25 secs
8. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto 26 secs
9. Markus Fothen (Ger) Milram 27 secs
10. Andriy Grivko (UKR) Astana 29 secs
Tour Down Under 2010: Race reports
Tour Down Under, stage four: Greipel takes his hat-trick
Tour Down Under, stage three: Cardoso takes win ahead of Valverde
Tour Down Under, stage two: Greipel takes win number two
Tour Down Under, stage one: Greipel takes back sprint crown
Cancer Council Helpline Classic: Team Sky off to perfect start as Henderson wins
Tour Down Under 2010: Related links
Armstrong surprises field with late attack on TDU stage four
Tour Down Under 2010: Photo galleries