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9th Tour Down Under - 2.HC

Australia, January 16-21, 2007

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Stage 5 - Sunday, January 21: Adelaide City Council Circuit, 90km

Complete live report

12:18 CST   
Welcome to the fifth and final stage of the 9th Tour Down Under. It is a short but tough 90km stage held on the streets of Adelaide, and today's final stage is a very close affair.

13:00 CST   
As we head into today's stage, the new overnight leader, Martin Elmiger (AG2r Prévoyance) has a one-second lead over Karl Menzies of the composite Australia-UniSA squad, with Lars Bak of Denmark from Team CSC eight seconds behind, and then Matthew Lloyd (Aust) in his first season for ProTour squad, Predictor - Lotto, at 10 seconds.

These slight time gaps are very significant, because there is a total of 12 seconds in time bonuses on offer in this stage, so a final stage procession it is not. Cyclingnews encountered Menzies and his team-mate, Robert McLachlan as they were leaving the Hilton Hotel this morning and they looked very serious and committed. Indeed, the powerful duo would not be out of place as breakaways in the Australian rugby team.

Speaking of breakaways, the weather today is not conducive to a small group going off the front and staying away and stealing the intermediate bonus sprints. It is relatively cold, grey with intermittent rain. Most importantly, there is a strong wind, gusting at up to 50kmh and a block headwind on the slightly-uphill drag to the start-finish line.

The contrast with last year could not be more stark, when the peloton raced in temperatures above 40 degrees celsius for days on end. In 2006, the state of South Australia was encountering its worst heatwave in 60 years, whereas yesterday, the inland of the driest state in the world's driest continent received what locals call "one in 50 year" rain, flooding parts of the state as monsoonal storms from the top-end of Australia drifted south in this wide blanket of rain, stretching across the continent from north to south.

13:04 CST   
So what's in store for today? Well, we have two intermediate sprints - one at 36km and another at 54km, each offering bonus seconds of 3, 2 and 1 second, for each respective placing across the line. Then, those bonuses are doubled for the finish and it's 6, 4 and 2 seconds for the respective placings. Even if the weather isn't that hot, the racing is likely to be on from the gun.

13:12 CST   
There are also two King of the Mountains sprints at the top of Montefiore Hill, which is more of a drag than a proper climb. The KOM competition is pretty much wrapped up by French rider Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prévoyance) on 28 points. The peloton will encounter this climb about one-third of the way through the 4.5km circuit. So with a 90km race that means 20 hard laps and each one tackles this drag.

Of course, the leaders on GC also have to deal with the 'real' sprinters' teams, like that of Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto), Mark Renshaw (credit Agricole) and Hilton Clarke (Navigators) to name a few. McEwen has not had a win in this year's TDU, which must be some kind of non-record for the fiesty Aussie sprinter who's bagged a total of 11 stage wins at the TDU over the years.

13:16 CST   
McEwen won't want to head to Europe without a win, while Renshaw is in good form and primed for today's stage, as he outlined in his diary yesterday.

13:29 CST   
OK - we have just had news that the organisers have reduced the race by two laps, so that means it will be 81km to race this afternoon. The latest weather check from our man on the spot, Mark Zalewski, is that the wind has died down on the main straight and the rain has stopped, however, most of the riders are out warming up in vests and rain jackets. It must be less than half the temperature of this stage last year.

13:32 CST   
So the riders are now all gathering at the start line. We spoke to Ben Brooks this morning, team-mate of sprinter Hilton Clarke. "Not me for today. I reckon we'll work for Hilton today. He's going really well. We won't go for the sprint jersey because of the way the racing will be today - the GC guys will be sprinting for all of the bonuses."

13:36 CST   
And the gun has fired and away they go - a CSC rider leads McLachlan from UniSA on the first lap as the field winds its way through the streets of Adelaide, and the crowds are out in their thousands, despite the bad weather.

13:38 CST   
Speaking of the weather, it's probably easier to handle for both riders and spectators alike, compared to the hot temperatures and hairdryer-like wind that was blowing last year.

13:40 CST   
Interestingly, McEwen was last wheel as the field rolled off the line. He told us this morning, "I still have some of the chest cold - it hasn't gone away because of this weather. I feel about the same as I did at the start" of the race.

His team-mate Matt Lloyd told us, "I'd like to think I could pull some seconds back today, but I can't outsprint guys like Menzies. So I'll be working to get Robbie across the line."

13:43 CST    4.5km/76.5km to go
So that's the first lap down in 5.51 at an average of 46.15kmh, and current GC leader Martin Elmiger said to Cyclingnews, "We definitely want to get a break up the road - that will make it much easier for us. I'm much better at sprinting than I am at climbing, so I am happy with the KOM" in today's stage.

13:46 CST    6km/75km to go
And a break has gone clear with Matti Breschel (CSC) and a Bouygues Telecom rider, plus Mitchell Docker from Uni SA. Docker's team-mates are on the front of the main field.

13:48 CST    9km/72km to go
As they went through with 16 laps to go, the break was clear by a few seconds. The Kiwi riders are being very aggressive and one is trying to bridge, along with one of the US-based Navigators crew, but the lead is only slight.

13:49 CST    11km/70km to go
This morning Karl Menzies told Cyclingnews, "I'm fully motivated, the team are really motivated to win this tour. Elmiger is a classy rider so he's going to be tough to beat."

13:55 CST    13.5km/67.5km to go
More attacks off the front as the earlier attack was brought back, with the UniSA team working hard at the front, while Glenn d'Hollander from Chocolade Jacques has managed a five-second lead off the front.

13:57 CST    15km/66km to go
Gordon McCauley from New Zealand has gone across to 'Dolly' the Belgian and looks over his shoulder - no-one esle is interested. Their lead is about 3 to 4 seconds.

13:59 CST    17km/64km to go
The UniSA team are pounding away at the front of the main field and it's basically single-file. McEwen has made his way into the main field and was in the first 20. Dolly and Gordy at 3-4 seconds off the front.

14:00 CST    18km/63km to go
The field all back together as the UniSA boys just strangled the life out of that break. They're motivated today.

14:05 CST    22.5km/58.5km to go
Now with the reduction in the race distance, the all-important sprint laps have changed, too, with the field now sprinting on lap 8 and then lap 13. Matt White from UniSA (and Discovery Channel) is showing why he's one of the world's best domestiques as he hammers on the front. The pace is very high and the field remains together.

14:07 CST    24km/57km to go
Frederik Veuchelen (Chocolade Jacques) has attacked - the team director has them fired up today. Frederic has about 100 metres on the bunch as he scales Montefiore Hill.

14:09 CST    26km/55km to go
Veuchelen gets a quick comment and smile from Matt White - probably not 'welcome back to the bunch' - as his attack is snuffed out by UniSA.

14:11 CST    27km/54km to go
The UniSA crew are on the front with Allan Davis and Robert McLachlan directly in front of Menzies. The team DS Dave Sanders has them working well, but can they keep up this kind of control? Not long to the bell for the first intermediate sprint.

14:14 CST    29km/52km to go
This intermediate sprint is shaping up to be quite brutal; the field is racing like there is only a few kilometres to race, rather than 50km or more.

14:16 CST    31.5km/49.5km to go
It's the UniSA street race today, as it is dominating the front of this final stage. The green-and-gold jerseys lead the field up to the bell for the sprint lap, and Elmiger pokes his nose into the action.

14:18 CST    33km/48km to go
The UniSA are on the front with Matt White keeping the pace high. AG2R are in the thick of it now for Elmiger.

14:20 CST    35km/46km to go
UniSA have regained control after AG2R tried its hand. Elmiger follows Menzies, with McEwen in attendance.

14:21 CST    35.5km/45.5km to go
Russell Van Hout (UniSA) buries himself on the front in the lead to the line.

14:24 CST    36km/45km to go
McLachlan leads Menzies and the field up the hill, but Elmiger rolls Menzies on the line! Alby Davis is right in there but pulls his bike back to give Menzies second place - still to be confirmed. Menzies and Elmiger shook hands after that sprint. That could be it?

14:28 CST    40.5km/40.5km to go
So with that sprint, Elmiger took the three seconds, and it was Davis who got seemed to get second (unintentionally) over Menzies, so that gives the Swiss rider from AG2R a three second buffer over Menzies. The handshake following that sprint could be significant, because that pace was brutal.

14:31 CST    40.5km/40.5km to go
One lap after that sprint the field split apart and five (non-threatening) riders have gone clear. This could be the breather the GC contenders are looking for; it's unlikely Menzies will be satisfied with only losing by three seconds.

14:31 CST    42km/39km to go
The break crosses the KOM line and nobody sprints.

14:33 CST    45km/36km to go
The break of five is now eight - we're confirming its composition but Laurent Brochard is in there, and McLachlan has bridged across.

14:35 CST    47km/34km to go
The gap is now at 12 seconds as the field finally catches its breath after that mega-effort intermiediate sprint and begins to chase it down. There are still a few laps to go before the next intermediate sprint.

14:36 CST    48km/33km to go
Correction - that's Mitch Docker from UniSA who's bridged across. McLachlan is strong, but perhaps not *that* strong.

14:40 CST    49.5km/31.5km to go
The break is growing in numbers - there are 10 in there. The bell rings for the second intermediate sprint.

14:42 CST    52km/29km to go
So it looks like the bonus seconds from this next intermediate sprint will have no impact on the final standings. We're not sure if it's Docker or McLachlan in the break, but he's a big lad in red Drapac-Porsche knicks and a green-and-gold jersey. The break is now at 30 seconds.

14:44 CST    53km/28km to go
The break makes its way to the line for the next intermediate sprint, and Brochard may go for the points to secure the sprinter's jersey.

14:46 CST    54km/27km to go
Brochard sprints alone for the 6 points and now has 28 points, with Elmiger in second on points with 18. The peloton is back together after that sprint because the Navigators - which didn't have a rider in that break - led the chase.

14:48 CST    56km/25km to go
The Navigators and CSC chase worked well for Menzies and UniSA, not so good for Elmiger and AG2R. While the rain has held off, our men on the course report that it's started to sprinkle on the course.

14:52 CST    58.5km/22.5km to go
The rain - light as it was - has stopped. Simon Gerrans from AG2R is on the front as the field crosses the line for 5 laps to go.

14:54 CST    60km/21km to go
The field's tempo has dropped from the chaos of those early laps leading into the first intermediate sprint, with AG2R on the front.

14:56 CST    62km/19km to go
Matteo Carrara from Navigators, it looks like, has stopped and passes his bike over the barricades to spectators, as he abandons with 20km remaining in the whole race.

14:57 CST    63km/18km to go
Handlers wait in the feed zone to hand out bottles with four laps to go. Unlike previous years, the riders are probably not quite as thirsty.

14:59 CST    61km/20km to go
The field stays together on the second KOM sprint for this stage, and final one for the race. Dumoulin from AG2R has that competition wrapped up.

15:03 CST    67.5km/13.5km to go
The field is still together as no opportunist attacks try to take advantage of the slightly-less intense pace of the main field. With 6 seconds up for grabs in the fnal sprint for first place, and Elmiger leading by three, the overall win is by no means in the bag.

15:06 CST    71km/10km to go
Serge Pauwels from Chocolade Jacques actually won the KOM, even though Dumoulin from AG2R just sprinted over the KOM ling on Montefiore Hill.

15:08 CST    70km/11km to go
Matt White from UniSA was miked up before the start and just spoke to TV commentators. There is no deal. "It's going to be a hard task but we're going to go down fighting." And what bad luck, he's just flatted!

15:09 CST    72km/9km to go
White gets a wheel-change as the peloton goes past the start-finish line with two laps to go.

15:11 CST    74km/7km to go
Now the attacks start! Simon Clarke from South Australia.com-AIS goes off the front and gets a lead of 200m. Russell Van Hout from UniSA has abandoned and will not be in the mix for Menzies. The last lap was knocked off in 5.45.

15:12 CST    75km/6km to go
Clarke - the best U23 rider - has actually pulled a decent lead; OK, four seconds. But it's not bad given the interest in this stage.

15:14 CST    76.5km/4.5km to go
The young Australian is swept up as the crit-racing experts from Navigators haul him back. The sprinters' teams are on the front and some Unibet jerseys of Baden Cooke's team are also in there. The bell rings! There's one lap to go!

15:15 CST    77.5km/3.5km to go
It's back to single-file racing and all of a sudden, there are more Unibet jerseys, and the ever-present Navigators.

15:16 CST    78.5km/2.5km to go
The field climbs Montefiore Hill and it's single-file, hunched over the 'bars. No rider goes clear.

15:17 CST    79km/2km to go
Fred Rodriguez is in there for McEwen, while Barloworld riders clog up the front.

15:18 CST    80km/1km to go
The Barloworld boys of Robbie Hunter lead while the field dodge red trsaffic cones.

15:19 CST    80.5km/0.5km to go
Barloworld have saved everything - impressive - they still have two riders on the front.

15:20 CST    81km/0km to go
As the field rounds the corner for the sprint to the line, Alby Davis cranks it up and McEwen is on his wheel, with Renshaw from Credit Agricole coming up closely on the inside, but McEwen holds him out and gets it. Renshaw protests but it looked OK.

15:25 CST    81km/0km to go
So Martin Elmiger from AG2R takes the overall win in the 9th Tour Down Under by only three seconds, due largely to his all-round sprinting capability, as it was his throw at the line in yesterday's stage that claimed a precious two seconds, and again in the very competitive first intermediate sprint, he showed his class and finished speed with a fine burst that secured another three seconds.

This also gives his French team two of the main jerseys on offer, as Dumoulin will take out the KOM jersey for AG2R.

15:34 CST    81km/0km to go
Correction - Dumoulin did not win the KOM competition as on a countback, it is Serge Pauwels of the Chocolade Jacques team who takes out the climber's competition. In the points competition, it is the 39-year old Frenchman, Laurent Brochard, from Bouygues Telecom, who takes the sprinter's jersey.

So in the overall classification, it is Elmiger from Menzies by three seconds, and then Lars Bak from Team CSC is at 11 seconds, while Simon Clarke (South Australia.com-AIS) won the best young rider and his young team-mates also took out the teams classification, an excellent result for what is arguably a development squad that lost Matthew Goss to Team CSC, and Matthew Lloyd to Predictor-Lotto, at the end of last year. Lloyd showed his potential for the future by finishing in fourth overall.

15:47 CST    81km/0km to go
So as the winners receive their flowers and kisses, in front of a very large and enthusiastic crowd that has remained for the presentations, we bid you farewell from the Tour Down Under.

The 9th TDU was held in starkly different conditions to last year, where the field battled its way through a heat-wave. This year, it was cooler, milder and then quite a lot of rain fell on the Friday and Saturday, which brought smiles to the faces of the local farmers, as well as the Belgians in the race.

If anything, the racing was more aggressive as the conditions allowed the riders to go deeper at this time of year. It also showed how the TDU is evolving into a race that even the top professionals have to be in very good form to not just win, but even secure a minr placing. Until today, it looked like even McEwen would go away without a win, but he pulled one out of the bag on today's final stage.

Thanks again for joining us in the Hindenburg V-2; we saved a great deal of energy as we were able to switch off the air-con for this year, which will allow us to re-stock the mini-bar.

'Til next time, in the balmy climate of a Belgian spring, and thanks for reading.

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