Lobato overpowers Impey to take stage 2 victory at the Santos Tour Down Under

by Matt de Neef


Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) has won stage 2 of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under, sprinting to victory in Stirling three days after finishing second to Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) in the People’s Choice Classic criterium.
Lobato came from a long way back to overhaul Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) in the closing metres, with the latter finishing second. Lobato’s teammate Gorka Izaguirre rounded out the podium in what was a more-than-successful day for the Spanish squad.
Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) finished 20th on the stage, doing enough to maintain his overall lead ahead of tomorrow’s third stage of the six-stage race.

ADELAIDE, Australia (CT) – The 150.5km second stage began in the suburb of Unley in Adelaide’s inner south before heading north-east out of town into the Adelaide Hills. Indeed most of the first 15km were uphill, providing a challenging start for many riders in the peloton.

There were two concerted efforts to establish an escape group in the opening kilometres but it wasn’t until the 16km mark that the day’s major breakaway got clear. Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) had been in an earlier escape attempt and when that was caught he struck out alone, being joined a short time later by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Campbell Flakemore (BMC).

De Gendt and Meyer are no strangers to spending time together in a Tour Down Under breakaway, having been in the race-winning move together on stage 4 of the 2011 race. On that day the chasing bunch misjudged the finale, leaving Meyer to beat De Gendt for the stage win. The win gave Meyer the overall lead and ensured he’d win the 2011 Tour Down Under overall.

With race leader Jack Bobridge and his UniSA-Australia team seemingly happy with the make-up of the breakaway this morning, the bunch sat up slightly allowing the gap to grow. After 29km of racing the lead was out to 3:35 as the three leaders made their up the second-category Basket Range climb.

Thomas De Gendt took the 10 KOM points on offer at the top of the 1.3km ascent, putting himself into the equal lead in the KOM classification with Jack Bobridge. Campbell Flakemore took second over the top (six points), Cam Meyer took third (four points) and back in the main field newly crowned Australian U23 time trial and road race champion Miles Scotson (UniSA-Australia) took the remaining two KOM points.

With Team Sky and UniSA-Australia patrolling the front of the bunch, the gap to the three leaders hovered between three and four minutes. At the intermediate sprint in Verdun, after 49.4km of racing, Thomas De Gendt added to his KOM points with a maximum five points and three bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint. Meyer was second (three points, two seconds) and Flakemore was third (two points, one second).

The three leaders enjoyed a maximum advantage of 3:55 after 62km, while taking on the first of two laps through the towns of Hahndorf and Littlehampton. But by the time the two laps of that Hahndorf circuit had been completed, and the riders were on the approach to Mylor, the gap was starting to come down.

The second intermediate sprint came with roughly 50km of the 150.5km left to race and again it was Thomas De Gendt that broke clear of the break to take the maximum points (and bonus seconds). Meyer took second while Flakemore had to settle for third.

From the second intermediate sprint in Mylor the riders began the first of two-and-a-bit closing circuits, the three leaders’ advantage hovering around the two-minute mark. When the riders reached Stirling for the first of three visits the gap was back up to 2:20, but with IAM riders Roger Kluge and Stef Clement working hard on the front of the bunch, the three leaders’ advantage was heading down once again.

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With 32km left to race the gap was down to 1:25 and with 28km to go it was well inside one minute. Thomas De Gendt drifted backwards out of the breakaway one kilometre later and was swept up by the peloton, and with 24km left in the stage Meyer and Flakemore had also been caught.

The bunch was together when it passed through Stirling the penultimate time with 21km left to race. A few hundred metres later, Calvin Watson (Trek) broke clear of the main field.

“I saw a good moment,” Watson told CyclingTips after the stage. “The bunch eased up as we caught the break and I thought ‘why not give it a crack?’ The finish doesn’t suit me — a punchy sprinter normally gets the win. ”

“I was joined by Danilo Wyss from BMC”, Watson continued. “We worked together and we got about a 15-second gap and we were looking good, but the charging bunch was also going to come back.”

The peloton reeled in the two leaders in as they passed under the 10km-to-go banner and once again it was IAM and Sky doing the majority of the pacemaking. Jack Bobridge, in the ochre jersey of the overall leader, was near the front of the race, as he had been all stage.

With 6.2km to the finish, much of it uphill, Etixx-Quick-Step made themselves visible near the front of the bunch for the first time all day, riding in support of Gianni Meersman.

Team Sky’s British national champion Peter Kennaugh had the bunch strung out as it began the final 5km of the race but behind him the black and green jerseys of Cannondale-Garmin were massing, in support of Nathan Haas.

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Kennaugh pulled off the front with 2.9km to the line leaving Cannondale-Garmin to set the pace on the uphill approach to the line. With 1.1km to go Orica-GreenEdge came to the front of the peloton for the first time all day, pulling their South African hopeful Daryl Impey into position.

Nathan Haas jumped first, launching his sprint from 300m to go with Impey on his wheel. Haas got a small gap but was soon swamped as his legs gave out.

“At about 300 metres to go there’s a small dip in the road and three years ago that’s where Michael Matthews hit everybody and got the jump,” Haas said after the stage. “I tried to do that today but everyone was a bit clued on and maybe my legs weren’t as good in the end as I would have liked.

“But at the end of the day I did my best.”

Impey, Cadel Evans (BMC) and Tom Dumoulin (Trek Factory Racing) all looked in contention as the finish line fast approached, but it was Juan Jose Lobato who timed his run the best. The Spaniard came from a long way back, flying up the left-hand side of his opponents to take an impressive victory.

“I’ve seen the finish the past two years and we came here last week and did a lot of recon training up the last few kilometres”, Lobato said.

“I’m very thankful to my team. I’ve had two years now of good results and I couldn’t have started 2015 in a better way.”

Impey held on for second but behind him it was Lobato’s teammate Gorka Izaguirre who threw his hands in the air as he crossed the line, celebrating a first and third for Movistar.

After dragging himself up to the front of the bunch in the closing two kilometres, Jack Bobridge crossed the line safely in the middle of the 48-rider lead group. All riders in the group were given the same finishing time, meaning Bobridge will wear the ochre jersey again tomorrow. He also leads the KOM classification.

Thomas De Gendt’s aggression in the day’s main breakaway netted the Belgian the most competitive rider award while Juan Jose Lobato leads the sprint classification and will wear the red jersey tomorrow. Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) moves into the lead in the best young rider classification and Movistar takes over the lead in the teams classification.

Tomorrow’s third stage of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under takes the riders 143.2km from Norwood to Paracombe. The stage features the 1.6km-long, first-category Torrens Hill KOM, which peaks just 500m before the finish line.

Click here to see our report from stage 1 of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.

Photo gallery

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Race results

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