Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans has won a record third Tour Down Under title.
The 2006 and ’12 race winner finished out of trouble in Sunday’s stage at the end of the greatest race in the Tour’s 15-year history.
German sprint ace Andre Greipel took out the high-speed finish with a textbook leadout from the Lotto-Belisol team for his 16th tour stage win.
Australian Mark Renshaw was second.
More importantly, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and Italian Diego Ulissi did not feature among the top three, meaning they did not gain time bonuses.
Gerrans went into the sixth and final stage with a one-second lead over Evans and five seconds up on Ulissi.
Gerrans’ Orica-GreenEDGE team controlled the last stage superbly to ensure the overall win.
Barring a disaster in the last stage, one second was always as good as one hour for Gerrans.
He won stage one to go into the race lead, but Evans took over with probably the greatest ride in the Tour’s history when he soloed to victory in stage three.
Evans led Gerrans at that point by 12 seconds.
Smart riding from Gerrans and his Orica-GreenEDGE team in stage four reduced that advantage to seven seconds.
Gerrans finished third in Saturday’s decisive fifth stage at Willunga to take the lead from Evans, who faltered in the last few metres at the summit finish and was sixth.
Evans finished four seconds behind Gerrans, who picked up another four seconds in the time bonus for finishing third.
A three-man breakaway took the time bonuses at the two intermediate sprints in Sunday’s last stage, an 85.5km street race on a new Adelaide city circuit.
For Evans or Ulissi to take the race lead from Gerrans, they had to gain time bonuses on the last stage.
There was no way Evans or Ulissi could break away from the peloton on the flat course and survive to the finish.
As expected, it was a high-speed bunch finish.
Australian Will Clarke (Drapac), French rider Julien Berard (Ag2r) and Russian Maxim Belkov (Katusha) formed the break in the second of 18 laps.
None were threats to Gerrans’ lead and they were caught with two laps left.
Holding such a small lead at the Tour is nothing new for Gerrans and Orica-GreenEDGE.
He was tied on time with Spanish star Alejandro Valverde two years ago going into the last stage.
They finished on the same time and Gerrans won his second title on countback.