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10th Tour Down Under - ProT

Australia, January 20-27, 2008

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Stage 2 - Wednesday, January 23: Stirling - Hahndorf, 148km

Complete live report

11:09 CST   
Good morning and welcome to the Cyclingnews' live coverage of the second stage of the Tour Down Under, a rolling 148km affair from Stirling to Hahndorf. This morning the riders were greeted by even warmer temperatures hovering in the low 30s, several thousand spectators and the obligatory kangaroos. And big Mig, of course. As popular as ever and signing many autographs.

11:11 CST    5km/143km to go
Well after only 800 metres of neutral cruising the flag was dropped to really kick off racing and almost from that point, one rider decided to have a crack. It is Yoann Offredo (Fra) from the French team, Francaise Des Jeux. After the first five kilometres, he had opened up a 33 second gap.

11:15 CST    9km/139km to go
The Frenchman Offredo is putting in a big effort and he's now at 1.05 to the peloton, while behind him, two other riders, Stephane Poulhies (Fra) of Ag2R-La Mondiale and Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom have also attacked the peloton. Viva la France indeed - the French riders are really animating this year's Tour Down Under.

11:19 CST    12km/136km to go
So the two chasers are now one minute behind the leader, Offredo, who's built up a lead of 2.10 to the peloton. Offredo has just over 3km to the first intermediate sprint in Echunga.

11:23 CST    14km/134km to go
At the start this morning, CN's Paul Verkuylen noted that a lot of the riders were warming up, so it was expected there'd be a fast start. Milram's Igor Astarloa told him, "I haven't raced since May last year. I feel good but it will be difficult to win. I am hoping to get some good form for the early season races like Amstel Gold, and Liege (Bastogne-Liege)".

11:26 CST    18km/130km to go
Offredo powered through the first intermediate sprint on his own, holding a 1 minute gap to the two chasing riders, Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom who was second, and then Stephane Poulhies (Fra) of Ag2R-La Mondiale. Offredo now has a lead of 3.55 to the main field, while the other two French riders are at one minute.

11:32 CST    20km/128km to go
Offredo is working away at the front and now has a lead of 6.10 to the peloton - within 20km or so!

11:36 CST   
The blistering start this morning by the French rider, Offredo, has really caught out the peloton, although some were expecting a fast start to the day. Matt Wilson from UniSa told CN this morning, "I hope it is hard at either the start or the finish, in order for someone to get away. If not, and it comes back together, then we have Alby (Allan Davis) for the sprint. We'll see how it goes. Yesterday was not the easiest stage, and I am not sure how tough today's stage is." Back on the road, Offredo is holding his one minute advantage to the chasers, Crosbie and Poulhies.

11:38 CST    22km/126km to go
Offredo is now sitting up and waiting for his two countrymen, who are 200 metres behind. The peloton is being controlled by another French team, Credit Agricole, who have the leader's jersey on the shoulders of sprinter Mark Renshaw.

11:46 CST    24km/124km to go
Offredo has been joined by Poulhies and Crosbie, who are now working well together and they hold a 6.15 advantage to the main peloton, which is being controlled by Credit Agricole. yesterday, this French team took the leader's jersey in 2008's first Protour event courtesy of Mark Renshaw's fine sprint finish. The Ausssie sprinter from Bathurst holds a 4 second lead on GC to Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) of Caisse D'Epargne. Behind the Spaniard is pretty much the entire field, so it's still a very wide open race.

11:48 CST    26km/122km to go
There is a reaction in the peloton, as the gap at the 26km mark had fallen slightly to 5.15. Or it could be due to the terrain, too, as the profile of today's course could be described as 'lumpy', with no less than 18 ascents of short climbs along the way.

11:56 CST   
Yesterday UniSA's Karl Menzies had a crash towards the end of the stage. Menzies shattered his front wheel and crashed, 20 kilometres from the end of the 129 kilometre stage after hitting a flexible white reflector post on the side of the course. This morning he told us, "I'm not as good as last year. I'm a bit beaten up but it will be okay once I warm up and get some pain elsewhere." Last year, the popular Tasmanian finished second overall in the TDU, but now he's over 7 minutes behind on GC. CN also caught up with UniSA's Simon Clarke, who said, "I think it will be a hot day, so everyone will need to keep the fluid up." Over in the current GC leader's camp, Credit Agricole's Christophe le Mevel said, "(Mark) Renshaw is good. He's very strong and maybe take one more stage today." Kiwi rider Timothy Gudsell (NZl) from Francaise Des Jeux said he felt "pretty good, (I'm) enjoying the sun. It's a bit different out here with the French team but it's going well."

11:58 CST    30km/118km to go
The peloton seems to have stabilised the lead to a shade over 5 minutes, which is certainly within easy capture range for another sprint finish. It's unlikely the sprinters' teams will let this break go all the way to the finish, and it is a challenging parcours, with one KoM climb coming at the 45km mark.

12:00 CST   
Current race leader on GC, Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole), told us this morning, "I'm feeling pretty good, I'm definitely ready for another win today. If it comes to a sprint, I'll definitely be in with a shot. I think it's likely to end in a sprint - there is a lot of guys that want it."

12:02 CST    37km/111km to go
Stuart O'Grady
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)
One of the most experienced riders in the peloton is the local hero and two-time TDU winner, Team CSC's Stuart O'Grady. He said this morning, "I certainly felt better at the end of the race yesterday. As you get older it gets harder to get the engine going. Today's going to be the most unpredictable, you just can't know what will happen." Meanwhile,on the road, the time gap between our French trio and the peloton has fallen slightly to 4.35.

12:05 CST   
Last year's winner of the TDU, Martin Elmiger of Francaise Des Jeux, said this morning, "I think Credit Agricole will try to control the race again today and if he's feeling OK, (current race leader) Mark Renshaw will go for the win. It could go either way, it will either break up or be a controlled race. It's a tough stage today, we will see."

Igor Astarloa (Milram)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

12:07 CST    43km/105km to go
The three leaders are now only 2km from the KoM sprint of the day Echunga, with the main field some 5km from the same point.

12:10 CST   
The Stage 2 profile shows just how many little climbs are dottted along today's parcours, and combined with the warm temperatures, it's easy to see why experienced riders say it's not going to be an easy day out. The gap is hovering at five minutes as our three French leaders approach the top of Church Hill Road, Echunga, where there is a good crowd lining the road.

Riders hit the top
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

12:23 CST    46km/102km to go
We have the result of the KoM and the first rider across the top was Poulhies from Ag2r - La Mondiale, then Yoann Offredo (Fra) of Francaise Des Jeux and Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) of Bouyges Telecom. They have a 4.15 lead to the main field.

12:24 CST   
In the main field, fourth place across the top in the KoM was Jean-Eudes Demaret (Fra) of Cofidis and Philippe Gilbert (Bel) of Francaise Des Jeux. It is holding its distance to the leading trio.

12:38 CST    58km/90km to go
So our leaders have had their gap reduced to 3.55 over the past 10km, and it's hard to say whether it's the conditions and the parcours afffecting their legs, or that the peloton is picking the pace. However, the sequence of small climbs will result in the time gap fluctuating, but it does seem that the gap is falling. Our leaders have 1km to the next intermediate sprint in Balhannah.

12:41 CST    60km/88km to go
The leaders and the main peloton have been on an uphill drag for the best part of 7km, and as one would expect, their lead is falling. Our French trio now has a 3.40 gap to the main field.

12:53 CST    68km/80km to go
We have confirmation of that second intermediate sprint and it was taken out by Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom, then Yoann Offredo (Fra) of Francaise Des Jeux and Stephane Poulhies (Fra) of Ag2R-La Mondiale, our three leaders who are holding a gap that hovers between 3 to 4 minutes. They're now on a slight downhill run.

12:56 CST    70km/78km to go
CN's Greg Johnson reports that once again, the locals are out in force, celebrating the big race's visit to their part of the country. "The women with the rooster hat is out again! We just passed a bunch of grape farmers with their tractors on the side of the road, all dressed in orange with 'lycra lovers' signs." The gap has now gone back out to 4.40 as leaders enjoy some respite from the uphill drag.

13:05 CST    74km/74km to go
Our French trio is holding steady and keeping a 4.40 gap to the main field after 74km of racing, but it's likely the gap will fall a bit as they're about to hit another climb. Back in the main field, Valerio Agnoli (Ita) of Liquigas pulled the pin and abandoned the TDU at the 72km point. It's still Credit Agricole keeping tempo in the peloton, with other sprinters' team keeping some interest in maintaining a manageable time-gap.

13:08 CST    77km/71km to go
And as expected, the leaders' gap has fallen to 3.55 as they tackle another climb near Littlehampton. The Stage 2 profile sure is lumpy.

13:15 CST    80km/68km to go
The gap is now at 3.50 and to many riders, today's stage is pretty much going according to schedule. Simon Gerrans from Credit Agricole told CN this morning, "we could see a bunch sprint every day. Nobody wants a break to stay away, so we may see a small break go away again. We will defend the jersey for sure, and I think that Mark (Renshaw) can keep it until Willunga (Hill - a decisive stage on Friday), and if he has enough bonus seconds he can evenmaybe keep it to the end". Gerrans has his work cut out today as CA has to protect this lead, although we are now seeing Rabobank coming through to do some turns on the front.

13:18 CST    81km/67km to go
Speaking of Rabobank, this morning its lead sprinter Graeme Brown told CN: "I have done this race before, it (todays' stage) will definitely come down to a sprint". Just so his words ring true, and he gets a good crack at a stage victory, Brown's team-mates have gone to the front to assist CA keep the break within range. Back up the front, our leading French trio is now at 3.45 to the main peloton.

13:23 CST    81km/67km to go
Another Credit Agricole rider, Jeremy Hunt (GBr) told us this morning, "we will see some attacking but I think it will probably come down to a bunch sprint". And like the other lads in CA, Jez Hunt is also taking his turns at the front, ensuring that his Aussie team-mate Mark Renshaw has his best chance of retaining the leader's jersey. By this time you could be forgiven for asking, 'are there any French riders on Credit Agricole?' ... yes, there are three of them, but in the minority as there are two Australians, one Englishman and the Hungarian motor, Laszlo Bodrogi. And at the 81km point, the leaders are keeping their gap to 3.45.

13:29 CST    88km/60km to go
So back up the road and away from the peloton, our three leaders are staying some 3.45 in front. There's a little pimple of a climb going into Hahndorf, and then a slightly longer climb at Littlehampton. They are now on a long circuit which they still have to complete two more times before the finish in Hahndorf.

13:35 CST    93km/55km to go
It could be that the long escape is starting to take its toll on Poulhies, Offredo and Crosbie, as their gap has now fallen to 3.10. It's been a good day in the sun for Offredo, who kicked away after only 5km. We'd be interested in readers' theories as to why the French riders have been so animated in this year's TDU ...

13:40 CST    97km/51km to go
Earlier today, Team CSC's Stuart O'Grady was asked by CN's Paul Verkuylen what he thought so far. "It's an unpredictable race. Today will be hard for the teams to control so it could be decisive. I feel like a new man, today," he said. "Yesterday's stage was obviously good for me." O'Grady finished sixth in yesterday's bunch kick, and it has to be remembered that he is still recovering from his horrendous fall in the Tour de France last year. Our leading French trio are holding their lead to 3.20 after 97km, but with just over 50km to race, the sprinters' teams should not have any any trouble reeling this in.

13:45 CST    100km/48km to go
As the leaders hit their personal century of km covered in today's stage, Poulhies, Crosbie and Offredo are at 3 minutes neat on the main field.

13:54 CST   
My earlier question as to why the French riders are so animated in the early part of this year's TDU has brought some interesting responses. Of those we can share on a family website, Brad Davies from Melbourne offers, "The answer is simple: they don't win and have adopted the classic risk minimisation strategy of being able to say they animated the race rather than accepting the pressure of performing when the hammer's down. I don't blame them, but as a nation they have hardly covered themselves in glory for getting the job done at the business end. I also suspect they are doing this in the first two days so they can put their feet up for the rest of the tour and blame their early efforts for sub-par form. Cynical? you bet ... " Do you agree with Brad? BTW - our French trio are still out in front, and keep in mind, it is a French team that holds the leader's jersey.

13:57 CST    108km/40km to go
And an update on Mssrs Poulhies, Crosbie and Offredo shows that their gap is falling to 2.25, with 40km to race. Have these young French lads taken the role of the Aussie composite teams in TDUs past, following the motto of going hard, early and often?

14:06 CST    114km/34km to go
The gap is now at 1.10 as the peloton is closing down on the leaders, and it may be closed soooner rather than later. In fact, there could be enough time for a counter-attack from opportunists within the bunch, unless the sprinters' teams decide to let 'em fry out in front.

14:09 CST   
The gap is now down to 30 seconds and the media cars and motorbikes are being ordered out of the gap between our leading trio and the peloton. CN's Paul Verkuylen reports that the leaders have all but given up as the bunch, now with Rabobbank and Team CSC helping out on the front, are chasing hard.

14:11 CST    118km/30km to go
Our field has now caught the leading French trio and of course, there are counter-attacks. We're waiting for confirmation of the five riders who have 100 metres to two riders who first went clear. The peloton is keeping the seven of them within range.

14:14 CST    120km/28km to go
'We'll have none of that' is the collective response, and the peloton snuffs out the counter-attacks before the commissaires even had time to properly identify them. But, with 28km still to race and a few more small climbs along the way, there's still time for plenty of atttacking racing. It's single-file, virtually, as the pace goes up a notch or three.

14:17 CST   
A Lampre rider has a dig but riders from Euskaltel-Euskadi bring it back, then Robbie McEwen loses a team helper as Olivier Kaisen (Silence-Lotto) gets a rear flat while they're on the rivet. Oops.

14:19 CST    124km/24km to go
Jeremy Roy from FDJ has a good dig off the front and gets a gap ... and stays out there ... and for a bit longer ... and then he's swallowed up. A small lull and another two scamper off the front. Is there going to be 24km of this kind of thing?

14:21 CST   
That Silence - Lotto rider, the Belgian Olivier Kaisen, has got back on to the main peloton. Good effort. Back up the front, more riders are trying to go clear.

14:27 CST    127km/21km to go
OK - we have a group of five off the front and holding a 200 metre gap to the main field. This group includes Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) of Team CSC, Bernhard Eisel (Aut) of Team High Road, Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) of Quick Step, Jeremy Roy (Fra) of FDJ and Javier Aramendia Lorenti (Spa) of Euskaltel.

14:29 CST   
The five breakaways are all back as the peloton is hammering, so much that earlier leaders Poulhies and Crosbie are really suffering at the back and likely to be dropped.

14:31 CST    132km/16km to go
And another four have a good go and they also manage to pull a lead of 200 metres. This quartet includes Laurent Mangel (Fra) Ag2R-La Mondiale, Pierre Rolland (Fra) of Credit Agricole, Adam Hansen (Aus) of Team High Road and Michael Albasini (Swi) of Liquigas. Last time check shows about 10 seconds to the main field.

14:34 CST    135km/13km to go
Pierre Rolland (Fra) of Credit Agricole is going it alone as the other three are caught by the peloton.

14:35 CST    136km/12km to go
Rolland has now built up a lead of 15 seconds, while the peloton is being controlled by riders from Quick Step and Rabobank. Can he stay away? He's from the Credit Agricole team of current GC leader, Mark Renshaw.

14:37 CST    128km/20km to go
And for his efforts today, Yoann Offredo from Francaise Des Jeux has bagged the most aggressive rider's award, so he can look forward to some podium time later this afternoon. Back on the parcours, Pierrre Rolland from CA is holding the peloton to about 400 metres with 10km to go.

14:39 CST    140km/8km to go
Rolland is holding down a lead of about 300 metres ... after a few big turns from the lead-out motors and he will be easily caught.

14:42 CST    143km/5km to go
All the media motorcycles hovering between Rolland and the peloton have been ordered out - surely a sign he's about to be swallowed up but he's holding it to 200m. This last section of the race is slightly downhill until the slight little climb going into Hahndorf, and after that a dead flat 3km rumble into town.

14:43 CST    144km/4km to go
The gap is now only 100m as UniSa gets on the front and does a few turns so Allan 'Alby' Davis can earn his right for a crack at the final bunch kick.

14:44 CST    145km/3km to go
Got him - it's all together now and the peloton is at full-speed, with two riders from Quick Step on the front and motoring to keep it all together. There's no Boonen in there but it's all good practice.

14:46 CST    146km/2km to go
Not long now ... of course, QS has the amazing Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) in their team so they have very good reason to be in there.

14:47 CST    147km/1km to go
Jostling jostling ... Credit Agricole on the front ....

14:49 CST    148km/0km to go
They're all over the place ... Andre Greipel (Ger) is hammering, with Lars Ytting Bak (Den) from Team CSC on his wheel and then Alby Davis ... and the German powerhouse Greipel holds his line and holds off the other challengers to take out a fine sprint!

14:59 CST   
So unofficial placings after that finish line madness has Greipel taking the honours, followed by Team CSC's Lars Bak and UniSA's Alby Davis in third. Credit Agricole was also in there leading out for Mark Renshaw and he was certainly up there at the end. But with the time bonuses, there may be a new leader on GC, too.

15:11 CST   
Greipel said after the stage finish, it was "fantastic" to win his first ProTour stage, and it will be good for the team in its hunt to find a new sponsor. Greipel was also the winner of the 'Down Under Classic' held on the streets of Glenelg last Sunday, and clearly has an excellent finishing kick that has surprised the bigger-name sprinters. Speaking of surprises, the new leader on GC is Graeme Brown from Rabobank on a countback.

15:16 CST   
If we look at the final GC after yesterday's stage, Graeme Brown was 6 seconds behind the leader, Renshaw, with Greipel at 10 seconds to Renshaw, so the German's fine win today wasn't enough to secure the overall lead. Apparently, Renshaw was informed he'd kept the leader's jersey and was already in the area awaiting the presentation, when officials double-checked the results and realised that the Rabobank sprinter Brown had actually acquired the leader's jersey on a countback. Well, that's the latest we have from the finish line and we'll be sure to bring you an update as soon as it comes through.

15:22 CST   
Correction - official results are coming through now and after Andre Greipel (High Road), we have Rabobank's Graeme Brown in second place, and UniSA's Allan Davis in third, with Caisse D'Epargne's Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) in fourth, then Astana's Aussie, Aaron Kemps, in fifth.

15:53 CST   
OK - so that's it for another day's coverage of the Tour Down Under. We have a new leader on GC and bravo to the French riders for going on the attack. Please join us again tomorrow at the same time for the third stage of the Tour Down Under, the 133km run from Unley to Victor Harbour. Thanks to all who wrote in with their theories and I'm sorry we could not share all of those today, but we can pick up on our various threads tomorrow. Until then, thanks again for joining Cyclingnews' coverage of the Tour Down Under.

Summary: In a virtual repeat of yesterday, it was the French who went on the attack, and this time it was all France, all the way. Yoann Offredo (Fra) from Francaise Des Jeux attacked only 5km into the stage, and shortly afterwards, two other French riders, Stephane Poulhies (Fra) of Ag2R-La Mondiale and Nicolas Crosbie (Fra) of Bouygues Telecom also broke free of the peloton. After spending 15km away on his own, Offredo wisely sat up and allowed them to catch him. They worked well together and managed to stay clear until 118km into the stage, but the peloton was keen to bring it all back and it was set up for another sprint finish. Despite many counter attacks in the final 30km it was all together for the final bunch kick and barrelling into Hahndorf was the German powerhouse on Team High Road, Andre Greipel, who took out the stage, followed by Rabobank's Graeme Brown in second place, and UniSA's Allan Davis in third. The race also has a new leader as Rabobank's sprinter, Brown, has acquired the leader's jersey on a countback.

Provisional results of stage 2, Tour Down Under, January 23, 2008

1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Team High Road                           3.46.55
2 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                                       st
3 Allan Davis (Aus) UniSA -  Australia 
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne
5 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana
6 Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (Spa) Saunier Duval - Scott
7 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole
8 Aurelien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom
9 Denis Flahaut (Fra)  Saunier Duval - Scott
10 Igor Astarloa Ascasibar (Spa) Team Milram

General Classification after Stage 2

1 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                                   7.00.18
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole
3 Andre Greipel (Ger) Team High Road

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