Sutton Takes Final Stage; Greipel Wins Tour Down Under
Germany's Andre Greipel won the Tour Down Under for the second time in three years Sunday, finishing fifth in the final stage behind Chris Sutton, who claimed a first-ever stage win for Britain's Team Sky. American Lance Armstrong placed 25th in the general classification, 1 minute, 3 seconds behind Greipel.
Germany's Andre Greipel won the Tour Down Under for the second time in three years Sunday, finishing fifth in the final stage behind Chris Sutton, who claimed a first-ever stage win for Britain's Team Sky.
Australia's Sutton won Sunday's 91-kilometer (52-mile) stage from New Zealand teammate Greg Henderson to give Team Sky, newly formed on a reported $50 million budget, a one-two finish in the last leg of the six-day tour.
Greipel finished fifth, credited with Sutton's stage-winning time of 1 hour, 52 minutes, 20 seconds, and protected his 11-second lead on general classification over Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain.
Henderson was third on overall standings, 15 seconds behind Greipel, to cap an impressive ProTour debut for the British team.
American Lance Armstrong finished 77th of 129 riders who contested Sunday's stage and placed 25th on general classification, 1 minute, 3 seconds down on Greipel's accumulated time of 18 hours, 47 minutes, 5 seconds.
He improved on his 29th placing in last year's Tour which was his first race back from a 3-1/2 year retirement. Armstrong said he felt both lighter and stronger in 2010 than last year when he went on to finish third in the Tour de France.
The seven-time Tour de France winner hoped the Australian race would be his first step toward an eighth Tour victory in July.
"It won't be easy as a guy who's 39 years old by then but I'll give it my best," he said.
Armstrong's longtime team manager Johan Bruyneel also saw the American rider's form and physical condition as being ahead of last season.
"Lance is good. He's a lot different (to) last year," Bruyneel said.
"Physically his form is a lot better. He feels good in the bunch and he feels good in the team so that's three things that are a lot better than last year."
Sutton drove to the front of a bunched sprint to win Sunday's stage which looped parkland near the city's business hub and was watched by 124,000 people. Henderson held second from Australians Graeme Brown and Robbie McEwen and Greipel.
The first 61 riders were credited with the same time as the stage-winner.
"I can't believe it. It's all about teamwork," Sutton said.
"We took control with about 2 k's to go. I just kicked and went for it."
Armstrong rode near the middle of the peleton for most of the race and finished in that position, the fourth rider home for his U.S-based Team Radioshack.
Cadel Evans of Australia, two-time Tour de France runner-up, finished 18th in Sunday's stage and sixth on general classification, 21 seconds behind Greipel. United States road champion George Hincapie, who was a teammate of Armstrong's in all seven of his Tour de France win, was 17th in the stage and 12th overall.
The strong field also included Spaniards Alejandro Valverde, who finished 19th overall, and 2006 Tour de France-winner Oscar Pereiro who was 72nd.
Greipel won the 2008 Tour Down Under but crashed out of last year's event after colliding with a parked police motorbike on the third of six stages. He suffered a broken collarbone and was out of action for four months.
The German sprinter won the first, second and fourth stages of this year's tour to bring his tally of Tour Down Under stage wins to eight, second only to Australia's Robbie McEwen who has won 12. Greipel also became the second rider after Australian Stuart O'Grady (1999 and 2001) to win the tour twice.
"I'm really happy and for the team as well," said Greipel, who rides for the US-based Team HTC-Columbia. "The team did a really good job the last week."