Geraint Thomas catapulted from fifth to third overall at the Tour Down Under today after an especially aggressive ride from his Sky team in the final stage that German sprinter Andre Greipel won.
Tom Slagter (Blanco) became only the third cyclist in the event’s 15-year history to win both the overall and best young rider classifications, etching his name in the record books alongside Luis Leon Sanchez and Cameron Meyer, who achieved the same feat in 2005 and 2011, respectively.
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“It’s really strange for me, I never won a race like this,” the 23-year-old Slagter said.
“My first win was on (stage three) Stirling and I take the jersey now. It’s really amazing. I can’t believe it, actually.”
Andy Schleck did not finish the 90km criterium and was not with his RadioShack Leopard teammates at the podium to collect the team classification prize. A team spokesperson said the Luxembourger, who is on the comeback from an injury that ruined his 2012 season, suffered a “mechanical”.
Sky bounced back from the disappointment of losing the leader’s jersey yesterday and with Bernhard Eisel and British national road champion Ian Stannard driving at the front, covered every move to ensure Thomas picked up bonuses at both sprint primes.
The 26-year-old was equal third with Ben Hermans (RadioShack Leopard), but the latter lost time at the finish where he was nine seconds adrift of the stage winner.
“There was still one more day of racing left and we still had a chance to get third,” said Thomas who won stage two and, to his surprise, the points classification.
“The boys were just incredible again. All I had to do was try and get past (teammate) Eddy (Boasson Hagen) for the points. It’s been a successful week. We go to Qatar next so hopefully we can keep that ball rolling.”
The British-based team changed down a gear having done its initial job with Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol amongst the teams that took over the pace making at the front of the peloton.
Australian sprinter Jonathan Cantwell (Saxo-Tinkoff) had hopes of challenging Greipel in a bunch finish but crashed on a corner of the 4.5km circuit in Adelaide near the business end of the race.
There were several breakaways that animated the sixth stage with Swiss national road champion Martin Kohler (BMC) as well riders from the ever opportunistic Uni-SA -Australia team up the road at stages.
But it all inevitably came down to a sprint finish as Adam Hansen began the Lotto-Belisol lead-out within the final kilometre.
Boasson Hagen succeeded in the fight for Greipel’s wheel with Slagter’s teammate Mark Renshaw fifth wheel behind the Norwegian and the peloton strung out behind.
Renshaw came around the group and accelerated ahead of Greipel, who was still tucked behind pilot Greg Henderson, in a long-range sprint. But the Gorilla easily responded, passing the Australian to win his third stage of the tour and increase his race record to 14.
It capped off an impressive week for the four-time Tour de France stage winner, who also won the prelude criterium. Renshaw finished the stage second with Boasson Hagen third. Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), both racing with depleted teams, were fourth and fifth, respectively.
“It’s always nice to get another win and I think we always took the responsibility during the week for the sprints,” Greipel said.
“We did four sprints, we won four. Our team always made a big effort to bring me to the front and keep me out of trouble. Of course we would have liked to have Adam Hansen in the top 10, it didn’t work out. I think with four victories we can be really happy.”
Greipel’s has identified Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Milan-San Remo as his next big early season objectives.
Tour Down Under 2013, stage six: Adelaide criterium, 90km
1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) 1-52-59
2. Mark Renshaw (Blanco)
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
4. Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge)
5. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)
6. Geraint Thomas (Sky)
7. Klaas Lodewyck (BMC)
8. Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM)
9. Yauheni Hutarovich (AG2R La Mondiale)
10. Kenny van Hummel (Vacansoleil)
Final general classification
1. Tom Slagter (Blanco) 18-28-32
2. Javier Moreno (Movistar) at 17secs
3. Geraint Thomas (Sky) at 25secs
4. Ion Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi) at 32secs
5. Ben Hermans (RadioShack Leopard) at 34secs
6. Wilco Kelderman (Blanco)
7. Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi) at 36secs
8. Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-Merida)
9. Tiago Machado (RadioShack Leopard) at 38secs
10. Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ) at 41secs
Start of the final stage of the 2013 Tour Down Under in Adelaide
Luke Durbridge and Sky chase
Andre Greipel wins the final stage
Overall winner Tom Slagter flanked by Geraint Thomas (left, third place) and Javier Moreno (right, second place) on the podium