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Timing his uphill sprint in Stirling to perfection, Lobato came around Impey to take the biggest win of his career in stage 2 of the Tour Down Under; Bobridge defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti












21.01.2015 @ 11:48 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) again proved that he will be a force to be reckoned with in future uphill sprints when he took a breakthrough first WorldTour win on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under. Having been perfectly positioned by his Movistar teammates, he timed his move to come around a surging Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) and claim an emphatic sprint win while Jack Bobridge (UniSA) dug deep to not lose any time and defend his overall lead.


Last year Juan Jose Lobato took two wins in his first year with Movistar and they both came in tough uphill sprints. Today he proved that he is now one of the best in the business for that specific discipline when he took his first ever WorldTour win in the famous uphill finale in Stirling on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under.


After finishing second in the People’s Choice Classic and sixth in stage 1, Lobato had already indicated that he is in great condition at the moment and he had done nothing to hide that today’s stage was a massive goal for the Spanish fastman. While Sky, IAM and the UniSA team did all the work to chase down another very strong breakaway to prevent a repeat of yesterday’s failure, he knew that it was important to save energy for the final hard 2km uphill drag to the line and that’s what he did for most of the race.


In the finale, Cannondale-Garmin strung things out with the Orica-GreenEDGE train on their wheel while Lobato and his fellow Movistar teammates Gorka Izagirre and Ruben Fernandez had been brought into position. Orica-GreenEDGE briefly took over with Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman and Simon Clarke taking turns on the front but it was Moreno Moser who finally hit the front to lead out his Cannondale leader Nathan Haas.


Haas launched a long sprint but Orica-GreenEDGE leader Daryl Impey had slotted into second position and when the strong South African easily passed the Australian to distance everybody, it seemed that the home team would salvage their race by taking an important stage win.


However, Lobato was in a perfect position a few positions further back and when he put down the hammer, he passed everybody at a much faster pace. A disappointed Impey could look to the left to see the charging Spaniard pass him, with the Movistar leader even having lots of time to sit up and celebrate his win. To make things even better for the Spanish team, their GC rider Gorka Izagirre finished third and so picked up valuable bonus seconds.


Jack Bobridge dug deep to avoid any splits in the hectic finale and he crossed the line in 20th in the same time as Lobato. As he went into the stage with a 13-second lead over the Spaniard who picked up 10 bonus seconds for the win, the local hero defended his lead but has now seen Lobato move into second with a deficit of just 3 seconds.


However, other riders are expected to come to the fore in tomorrow’s third stage which will be the first big GC battle. After an uphill start and a mostly flat stage, the race comes to an exciting conclusion in the new summit finish in Paracombe where a short climb with an average gradient of more than 9% is set to produce the first time gaps between the overall contenders.


A hilly stage

After the surprise in the flat opening stage, it was time to head into hillier terrain for stage 2 of the Tour Down Under that brought the riders over 150.5km from Unley to Stirling. After an uphill first 20km, the riders travelled along flat roads – with just a single categorized climb along the way – until they hit the hilly 21km finishing circuit around Stirling. Having gone up the climb to the finish for the first time, the riders ended the stage by doing two full laps of the circuit, with the final 2km being a tough uphill drag to the line.


Yesterday’s surprise had put many riders in a determined mood and lots of them wanted to go on the attack in the tough uphill start. This set the scene for a very fast beginning to the stage and the many attacks and the tough terrain combined to send many riders out the back door.


An aggressive start

Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) was the first rider to get a significant gap and when he was brought back, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Robert Power (UniSA) tried their luck. It didn’t pay off though and when they were brought back, the peloton had split into three bigger groups.


Meyer and De Gendt were part of the first really promising move when they joined forces with Peter Stetina (BMC), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) and Oliver Zaugg (Tinkoff-Saxo) to forma a very strong group. That was too dangerous for Sky though and they brought it back together.


Evans tests his legs

Surprisingly, Cadel Evans (BMC) was the next rider to go on the attack when he joined forces with a determined De Gendt. Evans’ teammate Campbell Flakemore bridged the gap and now Evans realized that he had to drop back to give the break a chance to survive.


With Evans back in the peloton, Meyer bridged the gap and now the peloton finally slowed down. While the three groups came back together, the gap grew quickly and at the 22km mark, the escapees were 2.45 ahead.


De Gendt picks up points

De Gendt beat Flakemore and Meyer in the only KOM sprint of the day while Miles Scotson (UniSA) sprinted out of the peloton to take the remaining points on offer. At this point, the gap had reached 3.35 and now it was time for Sky to control the situation.


The British team was joined by Bobridge’s UniSA team and those two teams combined forces to keep the gap between 3.00 and 3.30 for most of the day. Meanwhile, De Gendt continued to win the sprint primes as he beat Meyer and Flakemore in the first intermediate sprint.


IAM start to chase

At the halfway point, the gap was still 3.35 but now the peloton accelerated. The gap briefly dropped to less than 3 minutes but the break responded well and brought it back up to 3.25.


Heinrich Haussler had made this stage a big goal and it didn’t take long for his IAM teammates to join forces with Sky and UniSA in the chase. The effort paid off and with 54km to go, the gap was down to less than 2 minutes.


The break is caught

De Gendt again beat Meyer and Flakemore in the final intermediate sprint but it was clear that their time in front was about to end. Under the guidance  of Sky and IAM, the peloton hit the finishing circuit and the gap was now down to 1.35.


With 27km to go, IAM had brought the gap down to 48 seconds and moments later De Gendt sat up to wait for the peloton. Just before the start of the final lap, it was also over for Flakemore and Meyer but IAM didn’t slow down.


A new attack

Nonetheless, Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Calvin Watson (Trek) made a gutsy move and they managed to build an advantage of a dozen seconds. With 11km to go, however, Sky was back in control and had brought the two late escapees back.


Steele Von Hoff came to the fore to set the pace for the UniSA team as they headed down the descent while further back, the fight for position was intense. As the road start to climb gently, Peter Kennaugh took over for Sky while the peloton was now splintering to pieces.


When the British champion swung off, Cannondale-Garmin lined out their train on the front, with Lasse Norman and Jack Bauer both taking some huge turns. The American team remained in control until the flamme rouge when they were passed by Durbridge and the rest of the Orica-GreenEDGE team. Hayman and Clarke both took turns before Moser led Haas out but in the end it was a fast Spaniard who took the win.



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