26/01 - Stage 6 - Adelaide - 85.5 km.
Stage 6 of Tour Down Under is one for the sprinters. The 18 laps of 4.75 km (mouse-over the finish of the stage to see the map) serve as a real criterium style stage and everything but a bunch sprint would be a huge surprise.
Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel are the two big favorites. Their teams will do whatever they can to take the lead on the final kilometer. There is a sharp right-hand turn with just about 500 meters to go. If you want to win this stage, you have to be among the first three riders coming out of that corner.
Top3 in the general classification is only a matter of a few seconds heading into the last stage of Tour Down Under. A lot can still happen before the riders cross the finishing line for the last time.
Order of the podium
Simon Gerrans is back in the Ochre jersey and despite a gap of only one second down to Cadel Evans, I can’t see him lose this race. There are nine seconds up for grabs in the intermediate sprints but I doubt Evans will be able to win any of these three sprints. Gerrans has proven too quick for Evans all week and with riders like Impey, Goss and Matthews, GreenEdge shouldn’t have problems taking the bonus seconds. In fact, Evans may have troubles holding on to his second place in the general classification. Diego Ulissi is only four seconds after the Australian and he will be motivated to move up a step on the podium.
Six out of six?
In my overall preview, I named Simon Gerrans, Cadel Evans and Richie Porte as the three top favorites for the general classification. My personal outsider was Diego Ulissi. The two big favorites for the sprint stages were naturally Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel. So far, each of these riders has won a stage in the race. Except for Marcel Kittel. This stage is the one best suited for the strong German and to complete the circle, I expect Kittel to take the win. The way I see it, Marcel Kittel is the best sprinter in the world right now. He's simply faster than Andre Greipel on the final meters. There hasn’t been much for Giant-Shimano to cheer for in Tour Down Under, and a stage win here would really save their race.
In People’s Choice Classic, Marcel Kittel showed that he has no problems winning without a leadout train. The same can’t really be said for Andre Greipel. Lotto-Belisol has become so good at their leadouts that it seems like Greipel has lost his edge when he finds himself alone in the final. If Giant-Shimano manages to take the lead on the final kilometer, I think it will be extremely difficult for Greipel to repeat last year’s win in Adelaide.
It will be a surprise not to see either Andre Greipel or Marcel Kittel winning this stage. However, there are numerous Australians with a good chance of making podium. Steele Von Hoff was leading out Nathan Haas in Victor Harbor but should get the chance to shine for himself today. Caleb Ewan crashed hard on stage 2 but he seems to be getting better. He finished third in People’s Choice Classic and these kind of criterium races suit him perfectly. Jonathan Cantwell is another interesting outsider for the stage. He seemed to have glued himself onto Andre Greipel’s wheel the other day but missed out in the technical finish. Drapac has been very visible during the whole race and it would be a big achievement for the Australian wildcard team to make podium on the final stage.
For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv