Ulissi Sprints to Victory in Stage 2 of Tour Down Under 2014
Italian Diego Ulissi of the Lampre-Merida team stole the show in Stirling today holding off Australians Simon Gerrans (Team GreenEDGE) and Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing) who crossed the finish line behind Ulissi in stage 2 of the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under.
Gerrans remains the overall leader of the Tour Down Under, but Ulissi is now second in the general classification, just seven seconds behind Gerrans. 24-year-old Ulissi crossed the finish line in 03:52:15 and his strong form may prove problematic for Gerrans in the coming stages.
"I’ve never believed in my chances to win this stage because I had the impression that Simon Gerrans was by far the strongest. I thought he’d be unbeatable but I managed to beat him thanks to the help of the great team I have behind me," Ulissi explained after being celebrated on the podium.
"It has a lot to do with the serenity I found by winning a few races at the very end of last season, therefore I could train for this one with no worries and prepare well for this year's Milan-San Remo." Ulissi has taken seven professional stage victories in his career so far, including a stage win in the 2011 Giro d'Italia.
Gerrans, the newly crowned Australian road champion, had been hoping for back-to-back stage wins after his victory in Angaston yesterday but despite closing fast on Ulissi wasn't able to overtake.
"I would have loved to win the stage again today," Gerrans explained. "It was close, but I can’t win them all. It didn’t surprise me to be sprinting against Diego Ulissi in such a finale like Stirling. He’s a classy rider. But I wasn’t expecting he’d pass me as fast as he did. He’s obviously a threat for the overall classification but it’s a good result for me today as I have a bigger advantage over my other rivals with the time bonus of the second place.
According to Gerrans his position in the general classification and his seven second lead on Ulissi is just as good as he could have hoped for.
"Tomorrow is going to be the most decisive stage with the Corkscrew climb so close to the finish,” Gerrans concluded.
Evans' third place on the stage has moved the 2011 Tour de France champion up from ninth overall to fourth overall at 13 seconds off the lead and he was one of several strong contenders to test their legs on the short, sharp pinch at the end of the stage.
"I went too early, and got swamped at the finish," said BMC Racing rider Evans and added "I hope to get it right in the next few days, I didn't have the legs and timing to do it today. The team is being really good here, but we're still getting things going together. It's our first race of the year. I'm going OK. I just need a bit of timing. The general classification is still pretty open."
The Adelaide suburb of Prospect hosted a stage start for the third year in a row farewelling the 136 riders who are still in the race as they headed off to the Adelaide Hills region ahead of two laps of an undulating, leafy 20 kilometer circuit through and around the finish town of Stirling.
The hostilities started early when an early