TOUR DOWN UNDER STAGE 5: GREIPEL JUST CAN'T STOP WINNING
Video highlights for stage five>>
Five bunch sprints, three won by André Greipel ? the first ProTour race of the season is in danger of being criticised as one-dimensional.
The hill at Willunga, the last chance to split up the race and thwart the sprinters, did cause havoc but it didn?t shake things up in the way it was expected to.
Although it was undoubtedly the toughest stage of the race but there were not the opportunities for a small group to get away because of the way High Road took control.
Instead the lure of another stage win and a chance to catapult Greipel into the overall lead meant Team High Road used their power and experience to distance the leader, Mark Renshaw on the hill.
With just the 88-kilometre criterium to go tomorrow, Greipel is now in pole-position to win the race overall and if he does so, he will hold the ProTour leader?s jersey until the next race, the Tour of Flanders, in April.
He could even make it four stage wins in six, too, such is his dominance. What is certain is that he needs to hold off Allan Davis ? his most dangerous challenger ? in tomorrow?s sprints and ensure the Unisa-Australia rider can?t leapfrog him by taking the time bonuses.
There is the slightly amusing scenario of Davis winning the first ProTour race of the season, although he would not be awarded the ranking points or the jersey because he is not with a ProTour team.
Should he sign a contract in the next few weeks it will be interesting ? having tweaked the rules to allow a non-trade team like Unisa-Australia to ride ? to see if the UCI would let him take the points with him. There is no provision for this in the regulations.
|Has the Tour Down Under risen to its ProTour status, or has the ProTour sunk to the level of including an early-season training race?|
Team High Road and Greipel have dominated. With an Australian directeur sportif, Allan Peiper, in the team car, there has been no shortage of motivation.
But there is the nagging concern that a race that culminates in six bunch sprints in as many days should not share the same stage as the Tour of Flanders or Amstel Gold Race, which are two of the next events in the haphazard series.
Has the Tour Down Under risen to its ProTour status, or has the ProTour sunk to the level of including an early-season training race?
Is this the final confirmation that the ProTour as a concept is dead? It would seem so. After all, will Greipel, Davis, Joaquin Rojas and Mickael Delage go head to head in the Tour of Flanders, or indeed in any other race this season? Almost certainly not.
To the racing, then, and a five-man breakaway of Greg Henderson (High Road), Carlo Westphal (Gerolsteiner), Aitor Galdos Alonso (Euskaltel), Renaud Dion (Ag2r) and Julien Mazet (Astana) made most of the racing, opening a gap that reached almost five minutes.
Their advantage tumbled as the peloton gave chase and they were caught shortly before Willunga Hill, where Team High Road took control, driving the pace.
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) was first to the top but behind the boy in black were causing havoc. The bunch split into two main groups, with Renshaw in the second.
Adam Hansen, the Australian time trial champion, drove the front group for much of the final 15 kilometres for High Road, keeping the gap hovering between 30 seconds and a minute.
Renshaw, isolated from his Crédit Agricole team-mates, could not organise a chase and his overall ambitions were dashed.
In the sprint Greipel was the strongest, again.
1. André Greipel (Ger) Team High Road 3-26-46
2. Allan Davis (Aus) Unisa-Australia
3. Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (Spa) Saunier Duval
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
5. Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas
6. Stuart O?Grady (Aus) CSC
7. Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux
8. William Walker (Aus) Rabobank
9. Jerome Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
10. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d?Epargne all same time
76. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Crédit Agricole at 2-27
1. André Greipel (Ger) Team High Road 16-55-18
2. Allan Davis (Aus) Unisa-Australia at 7sec
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d?Epargne at 20sec
4. Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux at 24sec
5. Mickael Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis same time
6. Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (Spa) Saunier Duval at 26sec
7. Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Liquigas same time
8. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d?Epargne at 28sec
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Unisa-Australia same time
10. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux at 30sec
64. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Crédit Agricole at 2-57
Video highlights for stage five>>
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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