Wes Sulzberger on the attack on Willunga Hill. © Mark Gunter
It was “mission accomplished” for Drapac Professional Cycling on Saturday in the queen stage of the Santos Tour Down Under moving into third overall on the Team Classification.
Stage 5 of the first UCI WorldTour event of the season saw the peloton race 151.5km between McLaren Vale and Willunga Hill with Drapac once again looking to make an impact against the top teams of the world.
Will Clarke, third in the King of the Mountain Classification at the start of the day, was unsuccessful in making it into his third breakaway of the week, with Lotto Belisol taking control of proceedings for their leader, Adam Hansen.
“When the break went with Jens [Voigt] in it I told the boys to sit in and take care of themselves and they did that really well,” explained Directeur Sportif Henk Vogels.
By the time the two laps of Willunga Hill lay ahead, Drapac’s Wes Sulzberger had moved to the front of the peloton with Movistar’s Ruben Plaza and with 24.3km remaining, charged ahead for an advantage of around 20 seconds on the bunch.
“The first lap up there I followed the Movistar guy,” Sulzberger explained. “I was hoping that there would be a reaction from the bunch and they would come across and I was banking on that happening and then a small group would stay away because I didn’t want to go up there with Cadel and Richie on the last lap.
“Hansen had his team riding for points for the KOM so it didn’t really work out,” he said. “I tried to conserve as much energy as I could then slotted back in over the top when we got hit by the cross-winds.”
With Orica GreenEdge in control of the pace, a selection of around 25 riders had formed, including five Drapac riders – Sulzberger, Jonathan Cantwell, Darren Lapthorne, Travis Meyer and Robbie Hucker.
“Cadel [Evans] and Richie [Porte] went straight from the bottom and I managed to follow him for the first bit and then I was just really in the red and was just hanging on the wheel at one stage there and I tried to get a bit of a gap and in the end, Cadel came over the top,” Sulzberger continued. “I couldn’t match it then and I found my group and slotted back in and tried to help the other guys.”
Vogels said that he was impressed by the never-say-die attitude of the team.
“They’re attacking and they’re aggressive and it only takes three or four seconds to let him go and they’ve got a good gap,” he said. “I’d rather them do that than just hang on for 10th, or 11th or 16th. It’s what it’s all about and I’m also quite pleased with how Jonathan Cantwell our sprinter climbed up the hill.”
Sulzberger netted the highest placing for Drapac on the stage, finishing 22nd , 53 seconds behind winner Porte. Lapthorne followed in his teammate’s wheel with Hucker a further seven seconds back.
The result ensures Drapac will finish their debut UCI WorldTour event with two riders in the top 20 on General Classification, with Bendigo pair Hucker in 18th at 2:05 and Lapthorne 19th at 2:32.
“I’m happy but I think we’re happier as a team just to get into third overall in the team classification,” Hucker explained. “It’s a bonus for an individual result. As a team we ride really well today and all the boys are really happy.”
Hucker came into the team for an injured Tom Palmer and believes that the short-notice aided his progress in the race.
“I didn’t have any pressure on myself coming into this race and I think that really helped me,” he said. “I’m really surprised at the way I rode.”
The Santos Tour Down Under concludes on Sunday with an 85.5km criterium in Adelaide.
Drapac snapshot results –
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 3:42:20
22. Wes Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:00:53
23. Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling
24. Robbie Hucker (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:01:00
33. Travis Meyer (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:01:20
34. Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:01:24
47. Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:02:50
99. Will Clarke (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:08:44
General Classification after Stage 5:
1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 18:02:19
18. Robbie Hucker (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:02:05
19. Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:02:32
30. Bernard Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:04:29
38. Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:08:03
52. Travis Meyer (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:15:31
64. Wes Sulzberger (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:21:15
123. Will Clarke (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:48:30
1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 75
13. Will Clarke (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 15
21. Travis Meyer (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 8
King of the Mountains Classification:
1. Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 28
4. Will Clarke (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 20
1. Orica GreenEdge 54:10:28
3. Drapac Professional Cycling 0:03:38