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9th Tour Down Under - 2.HC

Australia, January 16-21, 2007

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Stage 3 - Friday, January 19: Stirling - Victor Harbor , 128km

Complete live report

Live Commentary by Gerard Knapp & Ben Abrahams, with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski & Greg Johnson

Live coverage starts: 11:00
Estimated finish: 14:14

10:48 CST   
Welcome back to South Australia for live coverage of Tour Down Under stage three courtesy of the Cyclingnews online blimp - Hindenburg V-2. Today's stage starts in Stirling, a small town some 20km from Adelaide's centre and proceeds due South for 70km to Goolwa before swinging back West for the finish in Victor Harbor. Total race distance is a relatively short 128km, with just the one classified climb of Kerby Hill coming after 87.2km followed by an easy(ish) run to the finish.

Karl Menzies is still sitting pretty in the ochre leader's jersey after his Australia - UniSA boys kept things under control during a chaotic stage two. Barring disaster, today's parcours shouldn't present too many problems for the big Tasmanian before tomorrow's showdown on Willunga Hill.

10:55 CST   
Quick weather update courtesy of our men on the ground: The conditions at today's start line are overcast and threatening rain, which is the forecast by those in the know. Roads around Stirling are still damp from overnight rainfall, but we are yet to see the heavy downpours predicted at the start of the event. The temperature is a relatively chilly 22 degrees Celcius.

10:58 CST   
Five minutes to the start now, we're just going through today's rendition of the Australian National Anthem, sung by some local school children.

11:03 CST   
Cycling's stalwart commentator Phil Liggett was confident when asked about his predictions for the Tour Down Under champion: "Martin Elmiger or Matt Lloyd," said Liggett. For today's stage, he feels it will be a sprint to the line, and thinks Stuart O'Grady might just get it right this time around.

11:06 CST   
The race is just rolling out through the short 1km neutralised section. 110 starters this morning after Brett Aitken had a tough time yesterday and pulled out on the finishing circuits. That's one fewer men to protect Karl Menzies.

11:08 CST   
Today's first sprint comes after 15.5km at Echunga. Before that the riders have to negotiate a tricky 3km descent. Roads are still a bit wet but the rain is holding off for now.

11:11 CST   
Local boy Stuart O'Grady is hoping to take today what he narrowly missed out on yesterday: a stage win. "It was good for the moral yesterday," O'Grady told Cyclingnews. "The final climb will be decisive today, but I'm feeling good." The South Australian's father will ride along in the Team CSC car for today's stage - that should help Stuey's motivation.

11:15 CST    10km/118km to go
Here come the attacks: a group of 19 riders have split from the peloton. The gap is hovering around 21 seconds. Early days yet. 5km to the first intermediate sprint.

11:17 CST   
Some three thousand people have lined up at the start or today's stage, all waving their SA Events clapper hands. The crowd have been pumped up by the riders and the Black Eyed Peas version of Let's Get It Started. Sadly for Unibet's Baden Cooke the whole crowd laughed when he was asked if there was someone special in his life and replied "No, not really."

11:24 CST   
Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) and Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor - Lotto) have attacked the 19 rider break before the sprint at Echunga. Rapinski takes the points ahead of Jufre Pou. Matt Goss (Team CSC) is third.

11:26 CST   
Fans were going crazy at the first sprint as the police entourage flew through, you can imagine their disappointment when the first thing to round the corner was a Mitsubishi Pajero towing a boat - not the peloton they were hoping for.

11:29 CST   
Team CSC's support crew must have consumed a lot of liquid this morning, they're parked on the side of the road with the whole crew peeing in nearby bushes. Lovely!

Meanwhile, Mario Aerts (Predictor Lotto) drops back to the team car for some technical assistance.

11:33 CST   
Those 19 are well away from the peloton now. Last time check from race radio was one minute and growing. These are the riders:

Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance), Matthew Goss, Matti Breschel (Team CSC), Josep Jufre Pou, Wim Vansevenant (Predictor - Lotto), Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole), Brett Lancaster (Team Milram), Dimitri Champion, Yohann Gene (Bouygues Telecom), Baden Cooke, Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com), Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), Gianpaolo Cheula , Geraint Thomas (Barloworld), Miles Olman, Michael Ford (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), Mitchell Docker, Chris Jongerwaard (Australia - UniSA) and Scott Lyttle (New Zealand National Team)

11:37 CST   
Hold on a second, what's going on? A cement truck seems to have spilt a massive pile of, well, cement, across the road. There's a two metre gap either side where the riders can pass. That's one way of stopping a break getting too far ahead.

11:42 CST   
Know what it's like to be embarrassed? Spare a thought for the red-faced truck driver who has spilled half a cubic metre of concrete on the course. There's no sign of a shovel in sight and the riders are quickly approaching.

11:45 CST   
And the rain has begun to fall. The first time it's ever done so on a stage of this event. Maybe the rain will help wash away the concrete? Doubtful, it's only light at this stage. We're on a fast downhill section now that will need to be approached with caution.

11:54 CST   
Race leader Karl Menzies - who seems to have the most nicknames of any rider, so far we've heard 'Killer', 'Big Dog' and 'Ten Menzies' - said he was doing everything to make sure he's at the top on the final day. The Aussie has been keeping off the drink and getting to bed nice and early. "I'm not going anywhere near it 'till Sunday," he said. "We are hoping to have reason for a big one then."

12:03 CST   
With the rain steadily falling the break gets down to work. Matt Goss and Matti Breshcel from CSC are doing the lion's share. Current time gap is 1'04. No riders have come back to the convoy for rain jackets just yet.

12:08 CST   
Lars Bak, currently in third on GC, drops back to speak with Team CSC boss Bjarne Riis in the car. The gap rises slightly to 1'10 with Chocolade Jacques setting tempo in the peloton.

12:12 CST    56km/72km to go
The riders are just starting to enter the fire ravaged parts of South Australia there's nothing green for miles around. The break now has 2'25 as the CSC car goes up to look after Goss and Breschel.

12:14 CST   
Locals have devised a way to slow down the foreign riders, their road-side potato operation is offering a special discount today, with bags down to $1.60, that's a dollar off. Bargain.

12:16 CST    64km/64km to go
5km to the second sprint at Goolwa. Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) goes back to see the race doctor. No reports of a crash though.

12:17 CST    66km/62km to go
The break now has 3'33 with Credit Agricole, Milram and Unibet driving hard through the rain. 3km to the sprint now.

12:23 CST   
The police escort that is guarding the route have had enough of the rain, thankfully a booze bus has just rounded ten of them up on the side of the route and handed out wet weather gear.

Latest time gap 5'09.

12:28 CST   
Order at sprint #2: 1st Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team), 2nd Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole) and 3rd Scott Lyttle (New Zealand National Team).

Latest time check 5'45. Surely these 19 are home and dry(?) now.

12:30 CST    77km/51km to go
Hugging the coastline now through the town of Middleton, there's a feed zone at 82km followed by the KOM of Kerby Hill at 87km. All team cars from the 12 teams represented have now gone up behind the break.

12:34 CST   
The rains eases slightly across the Goolwa plains. Still threatening clouds in the sky ahead though. Matteo Carrara (Unibet.com) comes back for a rain jacket. It's now a full 6 minutes between the two groups.

12:39 CST    82km/46km to go
The race turns inland now, through the feed zone at Port Elliot. 5km to the KOM at Kerby Hill. This will surely be the springboard for some attacks in the leading group.

12:42 CST   
Gianpaolo Cheula (Barloworld) has attacked through the feed zone, he's got 150m on the rest. Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole) is trying to bridge across.

12:45 CST    86km/42km to go
We're onto the climb. It's a steep one too. Cheula has 14 seconds over the chasers. 9'13 to the peloton - they're well and truly out of it now. Good crowds up here despite the rain.

12:47 CST   
The break is spliting to bits now. Brett Lancaster is out the back in some difficulty. Cheula drives on in the lead. 300m to the KOM summmit.

12:49 CST    89km/39km to go
Cheula takes it followed by Samuel Dumoulin and Josep Jufre Pou. Michael Ford (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) is hurting on the steep slopes.

12:52 CST   
It's pouring down now on the stairstep descent. Everyman and his dog is out braving the rain. German Shepard Mr Darcy is out to see the finish. When asked who he was backing, he just woofed.

12:55 CST   
Cheula is still out there, in the lead, alone. He's going from a long way out but with riders like Baden Cooke in the break it could be his only option. A group of 9 are chasing, 12 seconds behind.

12:58 CST   
Cheula is joined up front by eight others. Here they are:

Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance), Matthew Goss, Matti Breschel (Team CSC), Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor - Lotto), Dimitri Champion (Bouygues Telecom), Baden Cooke, Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com), Chris Jongerwaard (Australia - UniSA)

Viktor Rapinski drives the chasers, 12 seconds back.

13:02 CST   
One of the hottest sprints at the KOM finish was that of police officer who chased down a Ford Falcon on his Giant mountain bike. The rogue driver had managed to get in between the break and the peloton, despite the police lock down.

13:04 CST   
After that little flurry on Kerby Hill, the original 19 are all back together. 10'13 to the peloton. Four riders are now attacking, names coming shortly...

13:07 CST   
We've just flown past Granny's Gourmet Lettuce farm in country SA and its stirred up a huge debate within the Cyclingnews blimp. What is the difference between that and your standard lettuce? That's what we would like to know, perhaps Granny or one of our Cyclingnews readers who are experts in the area could write in and help us settle the debate? All emails to commentator@cyclingnews.com

13:09 CST   
Sorry about that, back to the race. More attacks. Brett Lancaster, Michael Ford and Scott Lyttle are going backwards from the break.

13:14 CST   
More gaps in the lead group. 10 riders at the head of affairs now, with four in pursuit.

Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole), Yohann Gene (Bouygues Telecom), Geraint Thomas (Barloworld), Mitchell Docker (Australia - UniSA) and Miles Olman (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) are also strugglying.

Loads of water on the roads now, totally unheard of for the Tour Down Under!

13:21 CST   
The 10 riders in the lead now are:

Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance), Matthew Goss, Matti Breschel (Team CSC), Josep Jufre Pou, Wim Vansevenant (Predictor - Lotto), Dimitri Champion (Bouygues Telecom), Baden Cooke, Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com), Gianpaolo Cheula (Barloworld) and Chris Jongewaard (Australia - UniSA)

12'40 back to the peloton. It's been a fast one today, well ahead of the race schedule.

13:23 CST   
Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance) now leads the mountains competition while Viktor Rapinski (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) will wear the blue sprinter's jersey.

13:30 CST   
After stage 1, we've had to do some detailed analysis of our 'guess the time gap competition'. Here is the latest update from the CN prizes committee:
'The impromptu competition organised by Cyclingnews commentator Ben Abrahams drew an enormous response. A suggestion to "involve the readers" - as a time gap in the first stage began to look somewhat inevitable - was taken quite literally and the incentive of the Cyclingnews tee-shirt was obviously very attractive.
Thanks to all for taking the time to completely clog up the commentator's inbox, but it was all good fun and showed what a diverse bunch you are. And by that, we mean you're reading from a wide variety of countries, and you also showed varying levels of faith in the peloton's ability to stay in contact with the leaders.
In fact, it reminds one of that famous stage .... '

Good grief that waffles on - back to the race coverage.

13:32 CST   
Wim Vansevenant (Predictor - Lotto) attacks the leaders. Riders are in pursuit. Apologies for the lack of km checks, we'll have one through shortly...

13:34 CST    123km/5km to go
Just 5km to go now. Vansevenant has 50m on the chasers...

13:36 CST    124km/4km to go
4km to go. Vansevenant is caught and dropped, 6 riders in the lead...

13:37 CST    125km/3km to go
Upfront we have: Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r Prevoyance), Matthew Goss (Team CSC), Josep Jufre Pou (Predictor - Lotto), Baden Cooke (Unibet.com), Gianpaolo Cheula (Barloworld), Chris Jongewaard (Australia - UniSA)

13:38 CST    126km/2km to go
In the last 2km now... Still those 6 leading.

13:39 CST    127km/1km to go
Under the 1km banner...

13:43 CST   
At the line, one rider is clear...

13:44 CST   
Baden Cooke takes it!!!!!! Jongewaard second!!!

13:48 CST   
The third place rider came in just after Jongewaard, clarification coming shortly! Behind, there was a group of 5 sprinting for fourth.

13:49 CST   
Matt Goss (CSC) takes third, an Aussie 1-2-3!

13:56 CST   
Robbie McEwen and Martin Elmiger lead the peloton home

14:00 CST   
From the original breakaway of 19, Rapinski was the best placed on GC, 16'18 behind. The overall standings will be close but Menzies should keep the leader's jersey.

14:18 CST   
It seems the presentations have been held up somewhat while the organisers clarify whether Karl Menzies is still the race leader. Full GC results as soon as we get them...

14:23 CST   
While we're waiting for the commissaires to do the time gap sums, I've gone back to the long-winded summary from the prizes committe ...

' ... just like it was in '55, really. Oh, where was I? That's right, the tee-shirt competition. So without any further ado, the winner of the CN tee-shirt is Mr Jeff Smith, who suggested 26.42 would be the time gap, and with Stuart O'Grady leading the bunch home some 26.15 behind the stage winner Killer Karl Menzies, that makes him our winner.

Most of you thought the gap would be much closer, like three or four minutes, but one pessimist thought they'd be 43 minutes down; obviously someone who would believe that the peloton had swapped water for local shiraz in their bidons, like one reader suggested.

Congratulations to Jeff and thanks again to all those who entered, and who've been following our live coverage of the Tour Down Under.
And before I get snipped again by the commentator, I'll let him get back to the final results for today's stage. Seems the presentations are being held up a bit while they sort out the GC ...

PS: Favourite reader stage prediction email, from a reader in Mexico, David Romero. "Fast Freddie Rodriguez leads McEwen to the line in a bunch sprint. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy!!! Not sure what that means (I'm Mexican), but I heard a bunch of Australians yelling it at last years Tour de France."

Now, back to those time gaps .... '

Thank you prizes committe chairman.

14:59 CST   
That'll do it for today's live coverage, still no official confirmation of the overall standings, but Karl Menzies should retain the race lead. It was another aggressively raced stage that saw the Aussies hit back with a 1-2-3 finish in some horrendous conditions. Thanks again to all those who tuned in - we'll be back up in the Cyclingnews blimp tomorrow for what should be the decisive stage of this year's TDU: a 147km leg featuring the brutal climb of Willunga Hill.

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