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2007 Tour Down Under Race Roundup
 
By Staff
Date: 1/26/2007
2007 Tour Down Under Race Roundup
 

2007 Tour Down Under Race Roundup
The 9th edition of the Tour Down Under took a turn for the European visitors with Tazmanian Karl Menzies second to Switzerlands Martin Elmiger.

By Mark Sharon

The 9th edition of the Tour Down Under took place last week from the 16th January to 21st January contested between fourteen 8-man teams: 9 European, 1 US, 1 South African, 2 Australian, and 1 New Zealand, with riders representing 19 nations.

Despite losing both winemaker Jacob’s Creek as title sponsor and eye-care provider Laubman and Pank as KOM sponsor, the race had lost none of its character, and hit the streets with its usual atmosphere of fun mixed with serious racing.

Ahead of the 112 riders lay five stages through Adelaide’s wine-growing hinterland, amounting to 667 kilometres (414 miles) – not including the 50km opening Tour Down Under Classic criterium in Adelaide City.

The obvious question at the outset of this year’s event was could the Aussies manage two wins on the trot on their home soil? But before a race when nothing was certain until the final stage, no one could have predicted that after 667 kilometres of racing it would be the former Swiss Champion, Martin Elmiger, who would win with a margin of just three seconds.

Down Under Classic, 50km.
Many early season races suffer from a mix of rider apathy, “it’s a long season ahead”, and post winter lack of form. TDU generally suffers much less from these afflictions, with its Southern Hemisphere participants warmed up in more ways than one by the fact it is their mid-summer. Though racing in an Aussie summer is a hard test for even the most hard-baked rider.
Certainly, if the Southerners were expecting the Europeans, pasty faced and fat from their Christmas dinners to roll over and die in the heat then good reason to be smug after the 50km opening Down Under Classic ending with Australians, led in by Crédit Agricole’s Mark Renshaw in 1h 03m01m, snatching the first eight places.

Admittedly, it wasn’t the most competitive of openers, with racing hampered by strong winds and heat. What breaks there were extended little more than ten seconds on average and provided more in the way of crowd entertainment than a serious threat. All pressure was on the Predictor-Lotto squad keeping things under control for defending champion Robbie McKewn, while the rest of the sprinters concentrated on staying out of trouble in the bunch long enough to wind it up in the finishing straight.

In the closing kilometres the pace was being set by Barloworld in a bid to put Enrico Degano in contention, with Predictor-Lotto and CSC keeping their men, McKewn and Stuart O’Grady respectively, in close contact. As it was, in the chaos of the finish none of these men was strong enough to hold back Renshaw who nailed the win in 1.03.01.

Stage One: Mawson Lakes – Tanunda, 152km.
With the previous day’s preamble out of the way, the Tour Down Under was set for the opening stage from the North Adelaide suburb of Mawson Lakes North-East to Tanunda. Defending champion Australian Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prévoyance) was back again, along with two-time winner Stuart O’Grady riding for CSC.

Many were predicting that in a repeat of last year’s opening stage, a sizeable break would manage an early getaway, and stay away until the finish. Nobody though would have stuck their neck out and predicted that in a carbon copy of last year’s finish the first four men home would be occupying the top four places on General Classification five days later. The main difference was that unlike last year in wouldn’t be in the same order they arrived on stage one.

In effect, and with only the benefit of hindsight, the final contenders for GC were already selected just 25km into the race when an 18-man break was able to make good their escape. The next 127km was just a debate as to how big the lead would be, and who would still manage to be in contention when the race hit Tanunda.

What was definitely clear was that defending champ Gerrans had missed the break, and the boat, happy to pass the responsibility onto team-mate Elmiger who definitely had made it into the lead group, along with the likes of Australians Karl Menzies (Australia-UniSA ) and Matthew Lloyd (Predictor – Lotto), Dane Lars Bak (Team CSC) and Swede Gustav Larsson (Unibet.com).

The race had effectively become a race within a race with the major teams all having representatives in the break. Realising this, the peloton who now seemed content to idle the day away and let the break decide its own fate, allowed the break’s lead to extend to a massive 24 minutes plus.

With the odds shortening in favour of the strong men in the break, the pressure on its members grew until with the kilometres coming down rapidly the break started to fragment. Finally, just Elmiger, Menzies, Larsson, Lloyd and Bak remained in contention.

After juggling for places in the final five kilometres it came down to an exhibition of power sprinting which saw Menzies win in 3.50.51 (an average speed of 40.42km/h) and grab enough time to celebrate ahead of Elmiger, Bak and Lloyd in that order. With just one second between them, the stage was now set for a titanic battle between Elmiger and Menzies for the winning spot when the race made it back to Adelaide in four day’s time.

Stage Two. The consequence of stage one’ massive break was to split the leader board in two. Barring incident, the eventual winner would be one of those in the top eighteen places. For the remainder the fight was still on for individual stage wins, the KOM and the points jersey. In some ways the situation favoured lower placed riders, because the leaders’ teams would be too busy locking down their rivals to effectively counter challenges.

This was proved true shortly into stage two, a 150km stretch from Mannum to the Germanic town of Hahndorf. With Australia-UniSA, AG2r Prévoyance and CSC tied up watching each other, Stuart O’Grady launched the first serious attack of the day just after the 15 kilometre mark. Despite being caught quickly this set the tone for Stuey’s day. The only barrier to success was orchestrating a break that didn’t include anyone in the top eighteen.

Unhappily for would be escapees this was not to happen until just 20 kilometres to go when a bunch of twenty-one riders manages to gain a lead that could be protected, mainly because Australia-UniSA had worked out it wasn’t posing a threat to their man Menzies.

Prominent amongst this group was again Stuart O’Grady, who was by now favouring his chances of the stage win. The flies in the ointment were a foursome from Belgian team Chocolade Jacques, who must have been starting to think not “if” but who amongst them would win the stage.

In the closing kilometers, battled out over four laps round Hahndorf, the odds of a win started to shorten in favour of Chocolade Jacques. While fans enjoyed traditional German fare, the group was splintering rapidly and taking on a distinctly Belgian flavour. Finally, with one lap to go the group had been whittled down to just twelve riders still in contention.

Stuart O’Grady managed to take advantage of the fragmentation and with Hilton Clarke (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) and Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) established a tenuous lead. Unfortunately, perhaps because of his efforts throughout the stage, O’Grady was to miss out as the Chocolade Jacques riders steamed by. The final result saw O’Grady knocked into third place, behind Steven Caethoven, winning in 3.36.29, and Pieter Ghyllebert.

While the O’Grady was enduring the bitter taste of defeat, his compatriot Menzies enjoyed the sweet smell of success and maintained his tenuous lead over Martin Elmiger on GC.

Stage Three. The average South Australian could be forgiven if they had forgotten how to operate an umbrella. Having endured weeks of drought the skies finally opened on Stage 3, 128km Stirling - Victor Harbor. However, while it dampened the road conditions it had the opposite effect on the race.

The eventual winner was Baden Cooke (Unibet.com) whose winning time of 2.37.55 meant an average speed of 48km/h, over 6km/h faster than the previous day. After the race Cooke explained that his incentive for being in the winning break was as much to do with getting home and drying off as much as grabbing the stage.

While a new name was added to the list of stage winners, the General Classification remained resolutely fixed in position at the top with Menzies clinging on to a one second lead over Elmiger.

Stage Four. While the weather had obviously done its worst on stage three, it remained a significant factor on stage four, a 147km loop from Willunga back to Willunga. While the dark clouds loomed and strong winds made bunch riding precarious, the scene was being set for some re-jigging of the various classifications.

The most significant of these was the replacement at day’s end of Menzies as leader, supplanted by Elmiger who had squeezed a three second time bonus out of being in third place on the line. Another stage win went to Chocolade Jacques, this time to Pieter Ghyllebert, who had been second on stage two. His winning time was 3.25.38, just ahead of Uzbek Sergey Lagutin (Navigators) and Elmiger.

French Domination
Meanwhile Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) had powered into the lead in the Points Classification, while Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prévoyance) maintained his grip on the KOM competition. With just the final stage remaining, French teams were dominating the major classifications.

Stage Five. While the order at the top of the leader board might have changed putting Martin Elmiger in top spot, the final outcome was still far from certain. At 90km, the final stage comprised 20 laps of a City Centre circuit. As well as time bonuses on the line, two intermediate sprints offered further opportunities to move up the standings.

Theoretically there were enough time bonuses on offer to propel Lars Bak, and Matthew Lloyd if Elmiger crashed out, into the winning slot. However their respective positions (third and fourth on GC) were by dint of their presence during stage one’s winning break. No doubt also Lloyd’s ambitions were running a distant second to the aim of putting team-mate Robbie McEwen first across the line.

Despite the confidence he might have felt on the start line, Menzies knew his chance of winning had been snuffed out when Elmiger won the first sprint of the day, with Menzies relegated to third place. Having banked his three second bonus Elmiger now had a two second lead overall. While, the remaining bonuses left Menzies within reach of a win, he knew that he was at the mercy of other forces.

One was Laurent Brochard who had started that morning as leader on points and knew his only chance of guaranteeing he kept his jersey to the line was to win the next sprint. He did this decisively, ahead of Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) and CSC’s Matthew Goss.

The other was the small matter of the stage. Having been absent from the top ten of each stage thus far, Robbie McEwen pulled out the stops to take a spectacular win, his twelfth in the Tour Down Under. Despite a valiant effort by fellow Aussies Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) and Allan Davis (Australia-UniSA), who finished in second and third places respectively, McEwen took the stage right on the line.

However despite, taking a clean sweep on the stage, the Australians had to finally concede overall victory to the flying Swiss Martin Elmiger, who finished the stage in tenth spot.

The final standings saw Elmiger crowned winner of the 2007 Tour Down Under with an overall time for the five stages of 15hr46min38sec, three seconds ahead of the unfortunate Menzies, with Dane Lars Bak of CSC and Australian Matthew Lloyd (Predictor-Lotto) maintaining their third and fourth places respectively.

The final results also saw Europeans claiming not just the General Classification, but the Points (Laurent Brochard) and the KOM (Serge Pauwels - Chocolade Jacques) jerseys too. Australia salvaged pride with SouthAustralia.com-AIS managing to garner both the team classification and the Under-23, the latter won by Simon Clarke (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS.

Stage Five Placing
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 1.44.26 (46.50 km/h)
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole
3 Allan Davis (Aus) Australia – UniSA

4 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen
5 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Barloworld
6 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
7 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com
8 Gene Bates (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS
9 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC
10 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2r Prévoyance

11 Karl Menzies (Aus) Australia – UniSA
12 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram
13 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld
14 Fred Rodriquez (USA) Predictor – Lotto
15 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS

Final General Classification
1 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2r Prévoyance 15.46.38
2 Karl Menzies (Aus) Australia - UniSA 0.03
3 Lars Bak (Den) Team CSC 0.11
4 Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 0.13
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Unibet.com 0.21
6 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC 0.50
7 Gene Bates (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS
8 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld 0.55
9 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Crédit Agricole
10 Simon Clarke (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS 1.43

Mountains Classification
1 Serge Pauwels (Ned) Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 32pts
2 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2r Prévoyance 28
3 Gianpaolo Cheula (Ita) Barloworld 24

Points Classification
1 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 26 pts
2 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2r Prévoyance 18
3 Pieter Ghyllebert Bel)Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen 14

Team Classification
1 SouthAustralia.com-AIS 46.59.14
2 Team CSC 3.35
3 Unibet.com 15.04

Under-23 Classification
1 Simon Clarke (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS 15.48.21
2 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Unibet.com 9.02
3 Matthew Goss (Aus) Team CSC 12.17

 

 
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