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BMC Racing Team's Martin Kohler is leading the Santos Tour Down Under. (©Sirotti.)
BMC Racing Team's Martin Kohler is leading the Santos Tour Down Under. (©Sirotti.)

Tour Down Under, Stage 2: Kohler In The Lead

18. January 2012

Stirling, South Australia

BMC Racing Team's Martin Kohler rode into the overall lead at the Santos Tour Down Under Wednesday after breaking away early in Stage 2 and winning a pair of time bonus sprints.

'Really Unbelievable'

Kohler, the reigning Swiss national time trial champion, wasn't sure of pulling on the race leader's ochre jersey until he and the peloton slashed a nearly 12-minute lead by solo stage winner William Clarke (UNi-SA) down to 62 seconds in the final kilometers of the 148 km race. Because Clarke lost 1:40 on the opening stage, the margin allowed Kohler to steal the jersey by two seconds from Stage 1 winner André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). "It's really unbelievable," Kohler said. "I had a good day and a good place with the best riders in the end and that brought me into the lead overall. To be in a ProTour leader's jersey is very good so far. I am very happy."

Planned Breakaway
Kohler shot from the pack immediately from the start, following a plan hatched before the race by BMC Racing Team Assistant Director Rik Verbrugghe. But when only Clarke followed, it wasn't clear whether it would work. "With two bonification sprints available, I asked Martin to go in the break," Verbrugghe said. "After he won both of them, I told him to go back to the peloton to rest." While Kohler was dropping back, Clarke soldiered on alone, for the next 70 kilometers. But because the Tasmanian had lost time on the opening stage, Verbrugghe knew there was some time to concede. "The gap was still 10 minutes with about 40 km to go," Verbrugghe said. "So it was really going to be close and the team needed to ride. Manuel Quinziato and Marcus Burghardt were chasing and then in the final it was Mathias Frank."

Rihs Proud
Riding in the team car, BMC Racing Team sponsor Andy Rihs said he admired Verbrugghe's strategy "I think it's unbelievable because I didn't expect a move like this," he said. "I'd have to say the strategy by Rik to go for the chase for the bonus seconds really worked out well in the end. It was perfect actually. We are all very excited about that. It's great for Martin, the BMC Racing Team and the team of Cadel Evans in Australia."

First Time In The Lead
Kohler, a professional since 2008, had previously worn classification jerseys but had never enjoyed leading a race overall. In the Giro d'Italia last year, he wore the King of the Mountains jersey for two days. In the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under, he pulled on the Jayco Sprint Leader's jersey after a Stage 1 breakaway similar to his escape with three others on Tuesday's opening stage of this year's race. In addition to winning the Swiss time trial championship last June, Kohler also earned a bronze medal in the national road race. "For sure this is one of the biggest days of my career," Kohler said.

View photos of the BMC Racing Team from the race: