Close classic finish thrills crowd


How they finished:

1. Neil Van Der Ploeg

2. Scott Law

3. Ben Grenda

4. Will Walker

5. Anthony Giacoppo

6. Russell Gill

7. Will Clarke

8. Luke Ockerby

9. Alex Clements

10. Shannon Johnson

NEIL Van Der Ploeg won yesterday's Stan Siejka Launceston Classic by about the width of a needle from the Christmas tree that overlooked the finish line.

After a decade of races dominated by breakaways with finishes that have afforded the likes of Matt Goss enough time to choose which camera to smile at, yesterday's climax was a thriller, with the Victorian edging out New South Welshman Scott Law by seven-thousandths of a second and Ben Grenda banking a second-successive home-town podium.

Despite a background in mountain biking and a home town of Mount Beauty, the 25-year-old Van Der Ploeg is relishing his transition to the road, having already won sprinters jerseys at the tours of Tasmania and the Great South Coast, but he knew it was a tight finish as he charged up St John Street towards the $4000 first prize.

"It was very, very close," the Search 2 Retain rider said.

"I certainly did not come here expecting to win, but I've gone for a lot of sprint jerseys in the National Road Series this year and that was awesome.

"It's a really good win for the team and I had a lot of help out there.

"I'm running really low on cash, so the money is going to be really helpful."

A high-quality hour-long race had seen numerous breakaway attempts with Campbell Flakemore, Anthony Giacoppo, Pat Shaw and Nathan Earle leading the much- anticipated Genesys charge, while Tour de France conqueror Richie Porte was never far off the front.

With a lap to go, it was the Budget Forklift team of reigning champion Luke Ockerby at the helm, but Van Der Ploeg edged it from Australia's last two under- 23 criterium champions.

"Ben and I have always been good mates on and off the bike, so that was quite a personal battle," Law said.

"But that was a great experience to race with Richie and Will Clarke, and it's awesome to get second.

"I really enjoy coming down to Tassie."

For Grenda, 22, who had been hotly tipped to win after finishing second last year, another podium was sufficient motivation to keep going with his cycling career.

"I'll definitely stay on the bike, I love it, but I will scale it down a bit and focus on uni," he said.

Porte also gave a thumbs up for the decision to revert to the race's traditional course.

"I think that's the right course, nice and fast," he said. "It's the first time it's been won in a bunch sprint."


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