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After a crash had split the peloton inside the final kilometre, McCarthy made a perfect bike throw to hold off Ulissi in the uphill sprint on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under; the Australian took the overall lead

Photo: Tim De Waele / TDWSport.com

DIEGO ULISSI

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NEWS

JAY MCCARTHY

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ROHAN DENNIS

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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20.01.2016 @ 12:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) took the first WorldTour win of his career when he timed his bike throw perfectly in the crash-marred uphill sprint in Stirling on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under. After Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) had been one of several riders to hit the deck, the Tinkoff captain launched a long sprint and narrowly held off Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

 

Originally, Tinkoff were aiming for the win with Michael Rogers in the opening WorldTour race, the Tour Down Under, but when the veteran was taken out by a heart issue, the Russian team had to change its plans. For the first time ever, Jay McCarthy got the chance to lead one of cycling’s biggest teams in a WorldTour race and he made an ambitious plan to target the top 5.

 

McCarthy showed good form at the Australian Championships where he rode to fifth in the road race but he had still flown under the radar in the build-up to the star-studded Tour Down Under. However, the young Australian now looks like a serious overall contender after he won the first battle between the favourites in the traditional uphill sprint in Stirling that has often given the first indications of who’s on form in Australia.

 

McCarthy benefited from an excellent lead-out from his Tinkoff team which allowed him to steer clear of the big crash that split the field in the finale when Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Simon Gerrans touched wheels. He launched a long sprint from the perfect position on the uphill finishing straight and even though he could sense Diego Ulissi getting closer, he held off the Italian with a bike throw on the line.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE had controlled the stage all day to bring back lone attacker Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) and make sure that the catch was made with 19km to go. Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge had been riding on the front almost all day and were still in charge when it all came back together.

 

The Australian duo stayed on the front as the peloton headed around the lumpy circuit in Stirling while the fight for position started behind them. Gradually, more team moved into position just behind and next to the Australians.

 

It was an intense fight for position and Orica-GrenEDGE finally had to give up the front positions with 10km when Giant-Alpecin, Lampre-Merida and Trek came to the fore. They stayed in front in the final part of the descent but when the road started to climb with 7km to, it was Sky that wanted to make things hard to improve the chances for their captain Sergio Henao.

 

Ian Stannard first took a huge turn which sent the first riders out the back. Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) was the first to surrender and with 5.8km to go, it was also over for overall leader Caleb Ewan. At this point, Luke Rowe had taken over for Sky and his massive turn made the peloton explode.

 

Rowe ended his with 4.7km to go which left just GC riders Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh and Sergio Henao there for Sky. None of them were willing to commit and so the pace went down dramatically as everybody was watching each other.

 

It was Giant-Alpecin who decided to take the initiative, with Simon Geschke upping the pace for his leader Tobias Ludvigsson with 3.5km to go. 500m later Lampre-Merida took over with Luka Pibernik leading Ulissi.

 

Ulissi realized that it was too early and so allowed his Slovenian teammate to get a gap which was neutralized by Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM). The Latvian took over when Pibernik swung off and stayed in control until they reached the flamme rouge where Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) made a short-lived moved.

 

When Fernandez slowed down, the pace dropped and this opened the door for Kennaugh to take off. He was joined by Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and while the pair got a gap, Tinkoff launched their train, with Michael Gogl upping the pace.

 

While the Russian team were riding on the front and brought the two attackers back, disaster struck for Gerrans who touched wheels with Westra. The pair went down and only a small group of around 10 riders were ahead of the carnage and ready to contest the sprint.

 

Cannondale took control for their captain Patrick Bevin but it was McCarthy who launched a long sprint. Ulissi reacted immediately and after closing the gap, the pair rode side by side in a nail-biting finale. It all came down to the bike throw and here McCarthy edged the Italian out while defending champion Rohan Dennis (BMC) took third.

 

With the win, McCarthy also moves into the overall lead with a 4-second advantage over Ulissi. It was not all bad for Gerrans as the Australian picked up five bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints and that allowed him to move into third, 5 seconds off the lead.

 

McCarthy faces a big test in tomorrow’s third stage which is the first big climbing challenge. A mostly flat stage ends with the steep 2.4km climb up Corkscrew Road before the riders speed down the 5km descent to the finish in Campbelltown where the first major time gaps will have been made.

 

A tough circuit

After the opening sprint stage, it was time for the GC riders to play their cards in the traditional stage to Stirling which brought the riders over 132km from Unley to the well-known difficult circuit around the finishing city. After a short opening section with one categorized climb, the riders got to the finish for the first time where they completed five laps of the 21.5km route that included an opening downhill section and then a gradual rise to the finish where the puncheurs were expected to shine.

 

It was another brutally hot day when the riders gathered for the start but the heat was a little more bearable than yesterday. A Trek rider didn’t have much luck as he went down already in the neutral zone but he was quickly back on his bike and ready when the attacking started right from the start of the stage.

 

Boaro takes the mountains jersey

It was a quartet that used the uphill start to get clear as Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff), Patrick Lane (UniSA) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) escaped and they quickly got an advantage of 30 seconds. Boaro beat Lane, De Gendt and Offredo in the KOM sprint but was quickly reabsorbed by the break. Meanwhile, sprinters like Wippert, Brenton Jones (Drapac) and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) had been dropped on the climb and the latter would abandon the race after just a few kilometres. A little later, a sich Salvatore Puccio (Sky) also threw in the towel.

 

Offredo and De Gendt decided to press on while the rest of the break was caught but Orica-GreenEDGE had their eyes on the first intermediate sprint. Hence, they neutralized the move and it was mission accomplished when Gerrans led Ewan across the line, with Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data) crossing the line in third.

 

Hansen surges clear

The pace went down after the sprint and this was an opportunity for Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) to make one of his trademark attacks. The Australian was allowed to solo clear and he had extended his lead to 2.20 by the time he had completed the first lap of the circuit.

 

Of course Hansen won the second intermediate sprint but there were bonus seconds on offer for the peloton too. After Orica-GreenEDGE had been riding on the front with Durbridge and Hepburn, they set Gerrans up for the sprint and again he would cross the line in first position followed by Ewan.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE in control

Kennaugh made a short-lived attack after the sprint but Daryl Impey marked it for Orica-GreenEDGE. Hepburn and Durbridge assumed their position on the front and as the sprint action had reduced the gap to 55 seconds with 80km to go, they took it a little easier for a while. With 65km to go, the gap was again 2 minutes.

 

With 3 laps to go, Hansen still had an advantage of 1.35 and Hepburn and Durbridge were content to keep it around that mark for a while. It briefly went out to more than 2 minutes again but it was again down to 1.40 when BMC hit the front with Marcus Burghardt with 35km to go.

 

Burghardt upped the pace significantly as they climbed towards the finish for the penultimate time and the gap was only 40 second when the peloton started the final lap. As they again headed onto the descent, Orica-GreenEDGE hit the front with Hepburn and Durbridge and they brought Hansen back in just two kilometres to set the scene for the finale.

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