If Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White was confident that his lead rider Simon Gerrans had all-but sealed overall victory in the Tour Down Under with a back-to-back stage win on Friday, he was keeping the sentiment very close to his chest.
On Friday, Gerrans, 35, led home a group of 41 riders in the 138-kilometre fourth stage from Norwood to Victor Harbor and beat Briton Ben Swift (Sky) and Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (Tinkoff) for the win to end the day with 13 seconds in time bonuses after earning three seconds for an intermediate sprint win and 10 seconds for his stage win.
Going into Saturday’s fifth and penultimate stage, 151.5km from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, Gerrans now leads the tour overall by 14s over Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff), 26s on Rohan Dennis (BMC) and 28s on Colombian Sergio Henao (Sky).
But White reminded that danger still lurked with the time bonuses on offer in Saturday’s stage.
Asked if Gerrans had done enough to win the tour, White said: “No, but someone has to gap ‘Gerro’ on Willunga to win. It’s a 10-second bonus to win, so someone only has to gap him by four seconds, so it’s far from over.”
Gerrans, who won stage three on Thursday to take the lead, was still understandably elated for the win.
“I am absolutely thrilled with that. I think I caught a few people by surprise, myself included,” he said. “We had a really good run into the finish. The team … what they were able to do today … set me up for that first intermediate sprint and then again for the final. They are really making my life as easy as possible.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy conceded that his chances of an upset win were now slim.
“With the time bonus Gerro got [on Friday], it’s definitely difficult for me now,” he said. “But I’ll give my best [on Saturday].
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