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May 26, 2017

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Ulissi surprises field to take second stage of Tour Down Under

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Italy's Diego Ulissi edged out Australian Simon Gerrans in a powerful final sprint to win the second stage of the Tour Down Under in southern Australia on Wednesday.

Ulissi, 24, attacked from 100 meters out on a long, uphill finish and went clear of the chasing pack, finishing three bike lengths ahead of Gerrans and Australia's Cadel Evans.

"It was great to win here, I was very motivated because this is my kind of finish," Ulissi said through an interpreter.

Gerrans retained the ochre overall leader's jersey and is now seven seconds clear of Ulissi on general classification, with the Italian moving to second thanks to the stage win.

Germany's Andre Greipel is in third place, 11 seconds behind Gerrans.

Wednesday's 150-kilometer stage began in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect in cool, overcast conditions and took the cyclists on a testing course through the Adelaide Hills, finishing with three 21-kilometer laps around the town of Stirling.

Four kilometers into the race, Australian pair Will Clarke (Drapac) and Campbell Flakemore (UniSA) broke away alongside Dutchman Boy Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing).

However, the trio never got more than three minutes clear and it was inevitable the peloton would catch them, which it did at the start of the last lap around Stirling.

Attacks came thick and fast on the final lap, with first the Tinkoff-Saxo team and then Team Sky trying to break the peloton up.

But every move was countered by Gerrans' strong Orica GreenEdge team and it looked as though the Australian was in pole position to claim his second stage win in a row.

Evans' BMC Racing team also brought the former Tour de France winner to the front, but both Australians were caught on the hop when Ulissi launched his attack.

"Hats off to Ulissi, he timed that sprint just perfectly," Gerrans said.

"He got the jump on us there with a hundred meters to go and we couldn't catch him.

"I was definitely satisfied getting time bonuses, it would have been nice to get another stage win today, but you can't win them all."

A disappointed Evans conceded he had got his timing wrong.

"Yesterday I went too late and got closed in and today I went too early and got swamped at the finish — maybe I'll get it right in the next few days," he said.

Greipel was the only sprinter to survive when the peloton splintered on the final climb, finishing in 19th at the tail end of the leading group.

However, officials later awarded most of the peloton the same time as the leaders due to a crash within three kilometers of the finish.

Thursday's 145-kilometer stage takes the riders from Norwood to Campbelltown and includes the notorious Corkscrew Road hill.

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