ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Two-time winner Simon Gerrans of Australia will take a one-second lead over compatriot and former Tour de France-winner Cadel Evans into the final stage of the Tour Down Under after snatching the lead on Saturday's penultimate fifth stage.
Australian Richie Porte won the 151.5-kilometer (94.1-mile) stage from McLaren Vale to the summit of Old Willunga Hill, finishing nine seconds ahead of Italy's Diego Ulissi and Gerrans while Evans was sixth, a further six seconds behind.
Gerrans, who won the race in 2006 and 2012, made up the seven-second deficit he had to Evans and now has a strong chance to become the first three-time winner of his home tour. Gerrans held an almost 30 second advantage over Porte and was able to relax a little when he saw his fellow Australian set out for the stage win.
"Thank goodness I had a 30 second advantage," Gerrans said. "I kept thinking right from the start that he would be the favorite for today, he's been very quiet all week and he's a very explosive climber so I thought it'd be right up his alley."
The outcome of the race now hinges on the outcome of Sunday's final 85.5-kilometer (52.8-mile) stage around a road course in central Adelaide. It will be raced on the Australia Day national holiday and seems likely to produce an Australian winner.
"I'm not sure what sort of advantage I have but I've got a fantastic team here, as we saw today," Gerrans said. "All week they've been absolutely brilliant, so that gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow."
Saturday's stage featured two climbs up the narrow, winding roads of Old Willunga Hill before the finish on its peak. An early and emphatic breakaway took away any chance of the leading pair, Gerrans and Evans, picking up time bonuses on two intermediate sprints and made final placings on the stage critical.
German veteran Jens Voigt, Mikhail Ignatyev of Russia, Juan Jose Lobato of Spain and Matteo Trentini of Italy made the break which opened a lead of almost nine minutes over the peleton, in which Evans and Gerrans were always prominent.
The lead steadily diminished as the bunch accelerated towards the twin climbs up Old Willunga, where spectators numbering in their tens of thousands crowded in from both sides of the road. The breakaway group was finally caught just over 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the finish.
Porte made his attack near the end of the second climb and held on to win, while Gerrans finished on the same time as Ulissi who remained third on general classification, five seconds behind the race leader.
"I tried to conserve as much as I could on the climb because it was quite a strong headwind so the second you put your nose in the wind you really dived down," Gerrans said. "I could see that Cadel was a little bit nervous there because he had a lot of work, and when we jumped in to finish there he wasn't able to respond."