Orica-GreenEdge completed its dominance of the Santos Tour Down Under as Caleb Ewan claimed the final stage, while Simon Gerrans took out the overall classification, as well as the points jersey. Kiwi Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) held onto his tenth place in the overall classification, making it a great World Tour debut.
The final stage in Adelaide took place over 90 kilometres, with 20 laps of a 4,5 kilometre downtown circuit. After an early break was neutralised, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Maarten Tjallingii (Lotto Jumbo) jumped clear on lap five for what was to be the break of the day.
Both leaders were over 20 minutes down on the overall lead of Gerrans, so the peloton did not consider them a threat. Once they had established a lead of around 20 seconds, a number of riders tried to bridge across to them solo, with Nathan Earle (Drapac) coming closest to joining the two leaders. However, none of those attempts succeeded, and the duo were to spend most of the race hanging off the front of the peloton, with their lead fluctuating between 15 and 30 seconds.
Although it was unlikely that Gerrans’ overall lead would be under threat, barring accident, Orica-GreenEdge took a keen interest in affairs, especially as Gerrans also held the points jersey by a narrow margin over Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff).
As the peloton got the bell on lap eight to signal a sprint on the next lap, Tinkoff massed near the front, with Peter Stetina (Trek) and Ruben Zepuntke (Cannondale) driving at the front. De Gendt and Tjallingii took the first two places across the intermediate sprint, but behind all the work Tinkoff had done in the run-up to the line for McCarthy was undone by a furiously sprinting Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) who was defending the sprint jersey of his team leader Simon Gerrans.
At the halfway point of the race, the leading duo held a 20 second advantage over the peloton, extending it to 30 seconds by the time they reached lap 12, which was another sprint lap, with De Gendt taking the intermediate sprint ahead of Tjallingii. Johan Le Bon (FDJ) managed to get off the front of the peloton as they approached the intermediate sprint, claiming the remaining bonus seconds and points for third place, which again played into the hands of Orica-GreenEdge, as it shut out McCarthy completely.
On lap 14, the gap finally started coming down, from around half a minute to 16 seconds. However, two laps later, they were back out to 30 seconds, with Lieuwe Westra and Laurens De Vreese of Astana breaking clear of the peloton behind in an attempt to bridge to the leaders. De Gendt was the first of the leading duo to crack, and slipped back to the peloton as Westra joined Tjallingii on the front on lap 17 of 20, with some 15 seconds in hand over the peloton.
Dimension Data also took an interest at the front of the peloton, with the team working for new signing Mark Renshaw, as the peloton closed in on the end of lap 17, and the gap shrank to ten seconds. Dimension Data remained close to the front, with Tinkoff and Lotto Soudal also at the sharp end of affairs. With two laps to go, the peloton gathered up the two leaders, with Tinkoff controlling the front of the peloton and keeping the pace high to discourage any attacks.
As the peloton received the bell for the start of the final lap, Tinkoff seemed to falter, as UniSA took over at the front of the peloton, with the Cannondale team of last year’s winner of the final stage, Wouter Wippert, also showing a lot of interest. Sky then took over at the front for their sprinter Ben Swift, with Dimension Data also pushing their way to the front again.
Sky and Orica-GreenEdge were virtually sprinting side by side as they headed up the hill for the last time, with Sky cresting first and leading into the final kilometre. However, as Geraint Thomas swung off the lead, two Trek riders managed to sweep past the Sky train, with Giacomo Nizzolo in second wheel. However, it was still too early for Nizzolo to launch, and as his leadout man faltered, Ewan, who had been well back on the wheel of the Sky train, showed an amazing turn of speed as he accelerated clear of everyone else to take the win, bookending the tour after his win in the first stage. Second place went to Renshaw (Dimension Data) who was just too fast for Nizzolo in third.
Gerrans finished safely near the front of the pack to retain his race lead and take out his fourth Santos Tour Down Under title. Richie Porte (BMC) took second overall, nine seconds behind Gerrans, with Sergio Henao (Sky) taking third, along with the King of the Mountain jersey. Patrick Bevin’s tenth place overall, 50 seconds behind overall winner Gerrans, also helped his Cannondale team to take the team competition against some very tough competition.
In the post race interview, Gerrans thanked his team for the work they had done for him throughout the week. “I couldn’t have asked for any more of the guys this week – today they did a sensational job keeping me out of trouble,” he said after taking his fourth Santos Tour Down Under crown.
Stage winner Ewan said that his win had been far from simple. “I got caught a fair way back on the downhill, and I had to dive on the inside of the corner. My team came up in the end and put me on the wheel of Team Sky, which is where I wanted to be. It wasn’t just a good week for me, the team showed this week that they were by far the strongest.”