17 January 2009 Team Sky score quinella in debut race
Team Sky lived up to expectations today delivering a quinella across the line in the Cancer Counci Helpline Classic, the curtain raiser to the Santos Tour Down Under which gets underway on Tuesday.
New Zealand's Greg Henderson, 33, claimed the win in the 30 lap, 51 kilometre, hit out at Rymill Park in Adelaide in front of an estimated 108,000 fans who turned up to cheer on one of the best ever fields assembled in Australia.
“It does not get any better than that,” said Henderson. “We were joking about winning today and putting ourselves out there on the map for the new sponsor."
And Sky Broadcasting must certainly be impressed with the finely tuned team work of their riders who took over from HTC-Columbia on the front and controlled the race for the final two laps.
"It does not get any better than that, they are an unbelieveable team, I don’t think I have ever been on a lead out that was as fast as that," said Henderson. “In the end my job was pretty easy, I just followed Chris Sutton and the rest of the fella’s.
"Wow what a feeling!"
Sutton, who hails from Sydney, was the final carriage in the lead out train and managed to hang on for second place with HTC-Columbia's Andre Greipel (GER) pipping Australian Robbie McEwen (Katusha) for third place.
"I was on the back and I just yelled yes, and it went down the line, yes, yes, yes, like we had practiced in training," explained Henderson. "When the boys sped up, I though 'wow!, where are you going', it was just so fast.
"The other teams tried to challenge us down the back straight and Matt Goss (HTC-Columbia) snuck in the middle but it actually helped us in our lead out. I just came off CJ (Sutton) before the finish," said Henderson. "It was unbelieveable.”
The crowd was treated to a spectacle of cycling which began from the minute the riders lined up for the start. Seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong shook hands with reigning road race World Champion Cadel Evans while three time time trial World Champion Michael Rogers looked on. 2009 Vuelta a Espana winner, Alejandro Valverde and 2007 Tour de France Champion, Oscar Pereiro were close by as was local boy and 2008 Paris-Roubaix winner, Stuart O'Grady. Another hometown hero in 2009 U23 time trial World Champion, Jack Bobridge also lined up with three time Tour de France green jersey champion Robbie McEwen and 2003 Tour de France sprint champion, Baden Cooke among what was a veritable who's who of cycling stars.
Armstrong, making his debut with RadioShack for the team's first race together continued to endear himself to his Adelaide fans featuring prominently in the later stages of the race as part of a break away group of five that was only caught three laps out from the finish.
"I felt like I tested them a little bit," said Armstrong. "We had a few good weeks in Hawaii so I know I've got a bit of power, but sometimes it's better to be up on those small groups than to be back fighting with 100 guys for every wheel and every corner.
"I had a small desire to be in a group like that, but that one stayed away longer than we all expected and longer than I saw last year," said Armstrong. "It ended up being tough - I want to go back and look at the effort on the computer, it was a tough half hour.
"Everybody was completely going for it, no talking and only a little bit of looking around after the corners to see how close they were," he added. "You get inside 10 (laps to go) and then to seven and six and you think 'uh oh' ... if there's a crash in the field, if two teams can't get together or don't get together, you just never know."
But Armstrong was pleased to finish the race 'feeling swell'. "I don't know, I certainly felt better today than last year - but last year in this event I felt a little like a monkey screwing a football, too," he said. "It was not pretty last year, this year was a little more comfortable."
The riders will enjoy a day's break tomorrow ahead of Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under which will cover a 141km course from Clare to Tanunda across two of the world's premium wine producing regions.
The 2010 Santos Tour Down Under will be held in Adelaide and regional South Australia from 17-24 January 2010. For more information, race routes and results visit the official website at www.tourdownunder.com.au