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|Liberty celebrate overall win - Gennie Sheer|
Spaniard Luis Sanchez (21, Liberty Seguros) has taken out overall honours in the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under as Queensland’s Robbie McEwen sealed another stage victory and the SA Lotteries Sprint classification in the final 81km stage on the Adelaide City Council Circuit.
Liberty Seguros also secured second and fifth overall through Bundaberg cyclist Allan Davis who finished 33 seconds behind his team mate with Spaniard Javier Ramirez at 50 seconds plus Sanchez was named Share the Road Best Young Rider (U23) and the Spanish registered Pro-Tour team scored the Sensational Adelaide Leading Team trophy.
South Australian Gene Bates (UniSA) claimed the Laubman and Pank King of the Mountain jersey and local hero Stuart O’Grady was presented with the Tanya Denver Memorial Award as the highest placed South Australian overall with his third place, 47 seconds behind Sanchez.
An estimated 435 thousand fans supported the race this year from the opening stage in Adelaide’s East End through the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Glenelg bay side to Victor Harbor beach side, McLaren Vale and the Fleurieu Peninsula, to today’s finale. The final stage covered 18 laps of a 4.5km course around the picturesque Adelaide City parklands and River Torrens foreshore with an estimated 65 thousand turning out in perfect weather to support the riders.
"The truth is I was going really well, but the team was going even better," said Sanchez who took over the lead after victory in the third stage. "They had it under control in every moment and the win is thanks to them.
"I knew I’d prepared well, I knew I could do well, but I really didn’t think about the overall victory," said Sanchez who is hopeful of making his Tour de France debut this year. "I not only surprised myself, but the team was surprising how strong it was.
"The truth is, I was really nervous (today) - you all know on an urban circuit if they go really fast, anything can happen," he said. "It’s a beautiful race and I’ve been really surprised, in a nice sense, of how well the race is organised and the support from the public."
Several people have talked of Sanchez as the next ’Miguel Indurain’ (five time winner of the Tour de France) but the young champion is humbled by the suggestion.
"I would love and dream to have half the quality and capability that he had," said Sanchez.
Meantime McEwen was thrilled to notch up his eleventh Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under victory and his third of this year’s event.
" I love a sprint, I love a final sprint, and I love the last stage in Adelaide," said McEwen " It’s a course that I really love, the crowd’s fantastic and my teammates worked really hard and I love being able to repay them - it’s just great.
"When you come around the final corner and into the home straight, it’s like riding into the middle of a grand final," said McEwen the reigning Tour de France sprint champion. "Everybody is clambouring over each other to get a look at the finish and cheering, it’s a great atmosphere."
McEwen, who won stages one and two of this year’s race, had held the overall lead until missing the break on stage three to Victor Harbor.
"I only put one foot wrong all week (when I) missed the break," said McEwen before predicting Davis as the Australian sprint star of the future.
"Allan is still is very young and has a lot of potential to get even better," said McEwen. "When he keeps working like he has been, he’s going to keep improving and become stronger.
"I would say when I eventually stop, not that I’m thinking about stopping, Allan will be the man then."
Davis was disappointed but philosophical about placing third today.
"I would have loved to get a win today in that last stage, but the team won and that was the main thing first and second overall is not too bad," said Davis. "I don’t know how many top fives I’ve had this week, it just would have been nice to get that No.1 spot.
"Full credit to Robbie today, he was too good in the last couple of metres," he said. "He’s just got a bit more top-end speed than myself and maybe I will get faster as I get older or I will get slower and climb better, but at the moment that’s how it is.
"I aspire to Robbie - Robbie and Stuey (O’Grady) are still my idols, they were as a young rider coming through, (along with) Henk Vogels, Stevo (Neil Stephens), all those Aussies.," said 24 year old Davis who was fifth at last year’s World Championships road race in Italy. "I respect them immensely and I see Robbie as the goal (benchmark)."
Whilst Sanchez went into the race with a significant leading margin over his team mate Davis the fact the stage victory, Laubman and Pank King of the Mountain and SA Lotteries Sprint jerseys were still up for grabs meant there was no rest for the world class field.
The first intermediate sprint at the end of lap eight was a furious affair but McEwen was indefatigeable claiming the maximum points ahead of fellow Australian Aaron Kemps (Liberty Seguros) with Javier Ramirez, also of Liberty Seguros third.
The first King of the Mountain up Monterfiore Hill (42km) saw the climbers come out of the bunch as South Australian Gene Bates headed over the summit first to increase his lead in that classification with Olympic road race silver medallist Sergio Paulinho (POR - Liberty Seguros) second and Irish champion David O’Loughlin (Navigators) third.
A break then headed down the road nullifying the second intermediate sprint at the end of lap 12 at 54km, as Australian David Betts (United Water) rolled across first, Steve Cunningham (AUS - UniSA) second and Irishman Ciaran Power (Navigators) third.
But with the climbers jersey still up for grabs the break couldn’t hold off the peloton and on the second climb up Montefiore Hill (64km) Bates cemented his win in that classification ahead of O’Loughlin with Italian Fortunato Baliani (Ceramiche Panaria) third.
With only three laps to go the manoeuvring began as the teams jostled to set up their fast men for the final sprint home. Davitamon Lotto, for McEwen, Liberty Seguros for Davis, Francaise des Jeux for Baden Cooke and Ceramiche Panaria for Paride Grillo, all surged to the front. Then 300 metres from home it was left to the sprinters to fend for themselves at speeds approaching 50 kilometres an hour up a slight incline. O’Grady launched the attack but couldn’t hold on as McEwen ran down his rivals to come home half a wheel clear in a time of 1hr45min29sec from Grillo with Davis third. Sanchez crossed safely in the main bunch celebrating the spoils of victory. His accumulated time for the 719km, six day event was 16hr45min44sec.
Australian David Betts (United Water) was awarded the daily Century 21 Most Aggressive rider jersey and O’Grady was presented with the Tanya Denver Memorial Award for the highest placed South Australian in the event.
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