Tour Down Under: Pieter Serry – the team’s top finisher in stage 3
The Belgian, riding Australia's premier event for the second season in a row, came 14th, his best result in the race.
Only one cyclist tried his luck at the start of stage 3 in Tour Down Under (Glenelg-Campbelltown, 139 km): Astana’s Laurens De Vreese, who was let by the pack have some leash and decided to continue riding at the front, despite the fact no other cyclist was willing to join him. The 27-year-old played his game, won both intermediate sprints and was even virtual leader on the road, as the teams didn’t react immediately to the 5-minute gap he built.
Inside the final 35 kilometers, Tinkoff, AG2R and BMC put some pressure and chew into the Belgian’s advantage, who was by himself at that moment for 100 kilometers. De Vreese was clawed back in a matter of minutes once the peloton began to speed things up, right before the key point of the course. The last part of the stage was well-known for being a tricky and windy one, as was the descent from the daunting Corkscrew Road, the day’s categorized climb. There, everybody began jockeying for position, before hitting the steepest section of the ascent, where the race exploded.
Sergio Henao (Sky) and Michael Woods (Cannondale) jumped from the pack and had a 10-second gap on the descent, but were caught by BMC, who played the old 1-2, attacking with Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis. Neither managed to slip away from the group, so the victory was decided following a hard-fought sprint between Dennis and Gerrans, with the rider of Orica-GreenEdge prevailing and moving into the ochre jersey, thanks to the bonus seconds.
A cyclist often hit by bad luck in the past, Pieter Serry looks to be on the right track to returning to a strong level, a confirmation of the hard work and countless hours of training he put during the winter coming in Campbelltown, where Serry finished 14th, just 22 seconds behind the day’s winner. In the overall classification, best placed Etixx – Quick-Step rider is David De La Cruz, who made an impressive jump of 15 places, up to 22nd.
After the stage, sport director Rik van Slycke made an analysis of the final 15 kilometers of what proved to be the race's toughest day so far: "On the climb it was a matter of positioning. Riders who started in a good position had an opportunity to get good results. There were only a few steep kilometers from the top of the climb to the finish, so the riders' positions didn't change too much on the descent. We had a plan to bring some riders, like Petr Vakoč and David De La Cruz, to the front, but unfortunately there were two crashes in the field towards the end, which pushed them further down the field. They did have some energy to get back, but of course this drained some of their strength. Still, they did well. Looking at the names of the cyclists with whom they arrived at the finish, I think it's a good performance from our guys today. As for Pieter Serry, I can't be anything than happy for him, because he was up there and did well, although it wasn't easy at all."
Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under (Norwood – Victor Harbor, 138 kilometers) will be more sprinter-friendly in terms of parcours, although a climb inside the final 20 kilomters could give the attackers some ideas.
Photo: ©Tim De Waele