January 23/03 5:46 am - Tour Down Under
Posted by Editoress on 01/23/03
Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under - Australia
Queensland's Robbie McEwen, 30, (Lotto - Domo) today unleashed a blistering sprint into Hahndorf to claim victory on Stage 3 of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in a near dead heat with Sydney's Graeme Brown, 24, (Ceramiche Panaria - Fiordo).
McEwen, the 2002 Tour de France sprint champion and world ranked number four, was awarded the win after officials viewed the finish photo which split the pair by less than a centimetre. South Australian Stuart O'Grady was close behind in third place.
"I had a feeling I'd won and I was fairly confident but you can't go running around claiming it," said McEwen after his win was confirmed. "You've just got to wait for the judges to have a look at the photo."
McEwen and Brown are far from friendly rivals and on the opening stage of this year's Tour Brown crossed the line first but was relegated to last place when officials ruled he did not hold his line and impeded McEwen's sprint.
After being penalized a brash Brown boasted that he would beat McEwen the next time but his more experienced rival demonstrated why he is considered one of the world's best sprinters timing his final lunge to perfection to shut down Brown's challenge.
"I was able to see on some television pictures that I'd started to throw for the line first and that gave me a pretty good idea that I'd got it," said McEwen. "As a sprinter sometimes in a very close finish you're not quite sure if you've won but if you've lost you do know.
"When he (Brown) rides a straight line you can see what he can do," said McEwen. "He's done a very good sprint today and I think if he can keep going in one direction in the sprint he'll be good."
Brown was philosophical in defeat and admitted a grudging respect for McEwen.
"As much as I dislike Robbie he is a true champion and he's one of the best in the world so to just be up there mixing it with him is great," said Brown. "I stuffed up a bit as I didn't see the signs but I'm not making any excuses (because) Robbie did it perfectly."
"Oh well - Sunday," he added signaling his intention to try and outpace McEwen in the final stage.
The 164km longest stage of this year's Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under set off from the beach side Adelaide tourist suburb of Glenelg where fans turned out in force to cheer the 94 strong international field on their way..
"International and interstate tourists were out in force with locals as Glenelg hosted the Breakfast with the Stars," said Belinda Dewhirst, General Manager, Australian Major Events. "The riders traveled under controlled conditions right through the heart of Adelaide as office workers, families and shoppers flocked to the road side to view the spectacle."
The flag dropped for the action to begin outside the Adelaide SuperDrome and the cyclists wasted no time and the attacks came thick and fast in the first 30 kilometres of the day. But the Saeco team of overnight race leader, Italian Fabio Sacchi with help from Stuart O'Grady's Credit Agricole team, was quick to close them down.
At the bottom of Checker Hill, the 38 kilometre mark, the peloton was all together. Victorian Cadel Evans (Telekom) churned his way up the climb to claim 16 points in the Laubman & Pank King of the Mountain classification as first over the summit but it was third across the line, Lennie Kristensen (DEN - CSC) who claimed the category lead and will wear the jersey tomorrow.
"The mass of people who arrived early at the mountain to secure the best possible vantage point were vocal and enthusiastic as they urged on their favourite riders," said Ms Dewhirst. "I'm sure the cyclists appreciated the support."
After the climb a group of 8 riders established a lead. Amongst them was Italian Andrea Tafi (CSC) who despite a bandaged wrist as a result of a crash yesterday came through to claim the first SA Lotteries intermediate sprint at Mt Torrens (62km).
"Some die hard cycling fans, who had traveled from New South Wales, were very excited to see one of their favourite Italian cyclists claim the points on the line," Ms Dewhirst said.
Tafi, with the overall sprint title in his sights, then surged to the front 20 kilometres later to win the second sprint in Balhannah and in the process took over the SA Lotteries Sprint classification lead.
The eight leaders extended their advantage to 3min30sec before the big guns in the field reacted and the chase began. The pace told on the lead group which whittled to five as Tafi and two others lost contact with the leaders. Saeco continued to do the lion's share of the work and 15 kilometres from the finish the remaining leaders were back with the main field setting up a sprint showdown for the finish.
"And what a finish it was," said Ms Dewhirst. "95,000 people came out to see the action today along the course and in Hahndorf the crowds were incredible."
"There was overwhelming support for the event today and the vibrant atmosphere reached it's peak when the world's best cyclists thundered down Main Street treating fans to a thrilling finish," said Ms Dewhirst.
The stage results did not impact on the overall lead with Sacchi still wearing the Jacob's Creek Leader's Jersey but McEwen has narrowed the gap to ten seconds.
Third across the line after today's 3hr53min04sec stage, O'Grady, has now moved to eighth overall, 27 seconds behind Sacchi. Stage 4, a 144kilometre ride from Unley to Goolwa, will begin at 11.00am tomorrow. The riders are expected to reach the finish at around 2.50pm.
Jersey Wearers for Stage 3
Jacob's Creek General Classification - Fabio Sacchi (ITA - Saeco)
SA Lotteries Sprint Classification - Andrea Tafi (ITA - CSC)
Laubman & Pank King of the Mountains - Lennie Kristensen (DEN - CSC)
Share the Road Best Young Rider - Gene Bates (Aus - UniSA)
Century 21 Most Aggressive Rider - Steve Cunningham (AUS - UniSA)
Monroe Leading Team - Ag2R - Prevoyance
Stage 3: Glenelg to Hahndorf, 164km
1. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto Domo 3:53:04
2. Graeme Brown (Aus) Panaria Fiordo
3. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
4. Allan Davis (Aus) ONCE Eroski
5. Luca Paolini (Ita) Quickstep-Davitamon
6. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Davitamon
7. Jaan KirsipuuÂ (Est)Â Ag2R
8. Dirk Reichl (Ger) Telekom
9. Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2R
10. Mark ScanlonÂ (Irl) Ag2R all s.t.
1. Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport 8:24:34
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto Domo at 0:10
3. Cedric Herve (Fra) Credit Agricole 0:18
4. Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2R 0:20
5. Mikel Astarloza (Esp) Ag2R
6. Lennie KristensenÂ (Den) CSC both s.t.
7. Russell Van Hout (Aus) UniSA 0:23
8. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 0:27
9. Xavier Florencio (Esp) ONCE Eroski s.t.
10. Daniele Nardello (Ita) Telekom 0:28