Team director José Azevedo assessed the team’s performance: “We tried to protect the bonification points along the way as we knew we didn’t have a chance in the final sprint. Right from the beginning we sent a rider in the break but Sky was always at the front. And Thomas earned four seconds along the way and got onto the podium. So we come away with fifth and ninth on GC plus the team classification. The team did good work all week. They worked hard and were very motivated. I think this looks good for future races.”
The final sprint in Adelaide City was won by Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), marking his 14-th win at the Tour Down Under and 100-th career victory. The overall went to 23-year old Tom-Jelte Slagter (Blanco) in his first stage race and WorldTour win.
Stage six was a 90km/56mi, 20-lap circuit in Adelaide. Only four seconds separated Hermans in third from Thomas in fifth. An early attack by RSLT’s Laurent Didier was part of the plan to deny Thomas the chance to sprint for the bonus seconds. Teammate Jens Voigt joined to break to add some fire power, but the seven riders never held enough time to make the break stick with Sky doing all the chasing and controlling from the main field.
Didier: “I went right at the first second. That was our plan. It was quite hard but we never got more than 15 seconds, and they caught us too soon. I did such a big effort in the beginning so it was hard to follow the rest of the race. But we did win the team classification and that is good to win, also.” Once the break was shut down, Sky put Thomas in a good position to sprint for the seconds, moving him onto the podium in Herman’s place.
Ben Hermans: “I wanted to be on the podium so whether I’m fourth or fifth doesn’t matter so much to me. I lost points along the way but I think I will get over this quickly. The team did what we could without having a sprinter here. It’s important to have climbers here for the GC but it’s a pity we didn’t have a sprinter to take the seconds along the way. At the end there was a gap and I tried to close it, but I still lost some more seconds,” he said, referring to his final fifth place finish on GC.
After a tough injury last year, the Santos Tour Down Under marked a return to racing for Andy Schleck. On Saturday night he was a guest at the Legend’s Dinner. Asked if he enjoyed himself, Andy said, “I was fun to do something different. I’ve been here for two weeks, so it was good to do something other than be in the hotel every night. It was a great night that I will remember. I hope to come back again next year. I have great memories of the Tour Down Under and I hope to be here again next time.”
Azevedo kept a close eye on Schleck’s performance all week: “Andy made progress this week too,” said Azevedo. “His condition improved and I think he’s doing fine. He had bad luck with a mechanical problem today and he couldn’t come back to the group, but he’s on the right track and his will be on track to meet his goals.”
Another strong performance came from George Bennett. All week the young New Zealander showed good form and strong work ethic, making a good start for his 2013 season. Bennett: “For sure this week I was active and showed signs of getting results, but it was another miss. This year I need to work on getting a result. I hope to turn my strengths to results this year.”
The next race on the schedule is the Tour of Qatar, February 3 to 8.