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The Orica-GreenEDGE rider makes it into a 17-rider breakaway that is whittled down to just a trio on the Mt. Alexander and takes an easy sprint win to become the new leader in the race

Photo: Sirotti

CAMERON WURF

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HERALD SUN TOUR

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SIMON CLARKE

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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07.02.2014 @ 07:22 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Simon Clarke made sure that Orica-GreenEDGE lived up to the lofty expectation when he broke Garmin-Sharp's stranglehold on the Jayco Herald Sun Tour by taking both the stage win and the leader's jersey on stage 2. Having made it into a 17-rider breakaway, he used teammate Mitchell Docker to make sure that it stayed away to the bottom of the Mt. Alexander where he whittled it down to just a trio. He easily beat Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Jack Haig (Avanti) in the sprint to take the stage win and the leader's jersey of the shoulders of Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp).

 

When the Jayco Herald Sun Tour kicked off on Wednesday all eyes were on Orica-GreenEDGE who were expected to dominate the race, with recent Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans having a major favourite role. After the opening prologue and the first stage, however, Garmin-Sharp had taken a stranglehold on the race by taken both wins and a comfortable grip on the leader's jersey.

 

With Nathan Haas having shown impressive strength on stage 1, Orica-GreenEDGE admitted to having been disappointed and there was a sense of resignation in their voices after his demonstration of power. 24 hours later, however, the tables have been completely turned after Simon Clarke took the win and the leader's jersey on today's second stage.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE came out with all guns blazing and put Garmin-Sharp under pressure by launching several early attacks. With a small 6-rider team, Haas' team was unable to prevent a big 17-rider group to go clear and as several strong riders were up the road, Haas found his lead under threat.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE had both Clarke and Mitchell Docker in the break and the latter did a huge job to make sure that the group stayed clear to the bottom of the day's main challenge, the category 1 Mount Alexander whose top was located 47.5km from the finish. At the base, the breakaway was within sight of the peloton and the gap was down to just 38 seconds but the junction was never made as Clarke put down the hammer on the steep slopes.

 

When the dust settled at the top of the climb, Clarke, Cameron Wurf, and the best young rider in the Tour Down Under, Jack Haig, had escaped. The trio reopened their gap and despite the best efforts of Garmin-Sharp, they were never reeled in by the 20-rider peloton.

 

The three escapees worked well together all the way to the finish, with everybody seemingly content with a sprint finish. However, the outcome was never in doubt as Clarke showed his fast finish by taking a very convincing win.

 

Clarke's teammate Gerrans led the peloton across the line with a time loss of 1.11, meaning that Clarke, Wurf, and Haig now occupy the three podium spots on GC. Clarke takes an 8-second lead over Wurf into tomorrow's third stage whose start has been moved forward one hour due to extreme heat in Victoria. The 156.1km stage from Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie contains two smaller climbs but unless the wind plays a role, a sprint finish is expected.

 

A fast start

The 163km second stage from Ballarat to Bendigo was mostly flat but an early category 4 climb and the category 1 Mount Alexander were expected to test the riders' legs. The final 47.5km were, however, either descending or flat, providing ample opportunity for riders to recover any lost ground ahead of the expected sprint finish.

 

A sprint may have been part of the expected script but the riders headed out with the intention of putting Garmin-Sharp under pressure. Facing a block headwind, several riders tried to go clear in the opening part of the race but all attacks were unsuccessful.

 

Haas in the move

As the peloton hit a crosswind section, a 14-rider group containing yellow jersey Haas got clear but that move was too dangerous to allow any leeway. At the 10km mark, things were back together, opening the door for new attacks.

 

The break had still not been established at the 16.8km mark where the first intermediate sprint was won by Jonathan Cantwell (Drapac) ahead of his teammate William Clarke and Tom Scully (New Zealand). Clarke tried to use the opportunity to go clear in a 6-rider group that also contained Samuel Spokes (U23 national team) and race favourite Gerrans.

 

The group goes clear

Garmin-Sharp could not allow Gerrans to go up the road and after 20km things were again back together. That was when the elastic finally snapped as Garmin-Sharp was unable to prevent a 17-rider move to go off the front.

 

Wurf, Rhys Gillett (African Wildlife Safaris), Jack Anderson (Drapac), Joe Cooper (Avanti), Harry Carpenter (U23 National Team), Docker, Clarke, Haig, Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale), Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp), Eric Sheppard (OCBC), Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare), Jeff Louder (Unitedhealthcare), Lachlan Norris (Drapac), KOM leader Thomas Hamilton (U23 National Team), Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) and Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp) made up the move and as the peloton took a short breather, they were quickly 3 minutes ahead of the main group. Budget Forklifts had missed the move and were the first to start to chase and they were quickly joined by Garmin-Sharp.

 

Norris scores points

At the day's only category 4 climb, Norris beat KOM leader Hamilton in the battle for points, with Gillett taking 3rd. At the seconds intermediate sprint, Norris was again first the line, followed by his teammate Anderson and Docker.

 

The peloton had now started to chase in earnest and when they reached the feed zone at the 85km mark, their deficit was down to 1.41. The main group continued to keep the pace high and was clearly intent on bringing it back together before Mount Alexander.

 

The break is within sight

As they started the climb, the break was just 700m ahead and within sight and the gap even came down to just 38 seconds on the lower slopes. That was, however, as close as they would get as Clarke put down the hammer on the feared ascent.

 

Hamilton and Haig were the only to match his speed, with Hamilton taking maximum points ahead of Haig and Clarke on the top to comfortable defend his overall lead in the mountains classification. The trio decided to wait for Wurf who was not far behind and when the quartet got going again, Hamilton fell off the pace.

 

A fierce pursuit

From now on it was a fierce pursuit between the front trio and the peloton which had been whittled down to just 20 riders on the climb and had picked up all chasers. However, the front trio was clearly the strongest and even managed to open their gap up to as much as 1.27.

 

Towards the end, they lost a bit of ground but 9km from the finish they were still 1.09 ahead. As the cooperation worked perfectly all the way to the finish, they could decide the stage in a sprint with a comfortable lead over the peloton. Clarke emerged as the strongest and with the 10-second time bonus and a solid prologue result, he is now the overall leader with two stages remaining.

 

Result:

1. Simon Clarke 4.05.01

2. Cameron Wurf +0.01

3. Jack Haig

4. Simon Gerrans +1.11

5. Gillaume Boivin

6. Jonathan Cantwell

7. Nathan Haas

8. Alberto Bettiol

9. Neil Van Der Ploeg

10. Pat Shaw

 

General classification:

1. Simon Clarke 7.12.08

2. Cameron Wurf +0.08

3. Jack Haig +0.11

4. Nathan Haas +1.09

5. Neil Van Der Ploeg +1.21

6. Jonathan Cantwell

7. Simon Gerrans +1.22

8. Glenn O'Shea +1.23

9. William Clarke

10. Cameron Meyer

 

Points classification:

1. Simon Clarke 14

2. Jonathan Cantwell 12

3. Nathan Haas 10

4. Cameron Wurf 8

5. Matthew Goss 8

 

Mountains classification:

1. Thomas Hamilton 52

2. Jack Haig 16

3. Alberto Bettiol 16

4. Simon Clarke 12

5. Lachlan Norris 8

 

Youth classification:

1. Jack Haig 7.12.19

2. Harry Carpenter +1.17

3. Alex Clements

4. Robert Power +1.20

5. James Oram +1.21

 

Teams classification:

1. Orica-GreenEDGE 21.39.20

2. Avanti +0.06

3. Cannondale +0.12

4. Drapac +1.20

5. Jayco U23 National Team +1.23

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