- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) - Italy’s Diego Ulissi beat Australian Simon Gerrans in a sprint finish to Wednesday’s second stage of cycling’s Tour Down Under, though Gerrans retained the tour lead on general classification.

The 24-year-old Ulissi, a two-time winner of the world junior road race title, emerged in a bunch sprint to beat Gerrans and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans on the 150-kilometer (94-mile) stage from Prospect to Stirling.

Gerrans won Tuesday’s opening stage, in which Ulissi was fifth, and now leads the season-opening ProTour event by seven seconds from Ulissi with Andre Greipel third and Evans fourth. Greipel, who was second on the opening stage, punctured six kilometers from the finish Wednesday.

Three riders, Boy Van Poppel of the Netherlands and Australians Campbell Flakemore and William Clarke, broke away early and led through most of the picturesque stage through the Adelaide Hills. They were kept under a tight rein by the peleton and could not open a lead of more than three minutes.

The group wase finally caught after 132 kilometers and a giant bunch assembled for the uphill finish at Stirling.

Ulissi said the stage suited his riding style.

“I was very motivated because this was my kind of finish,” Ulissi said.

“These are great races to help me prepare for Milan San Remo. It’s my first time in Australia and the crowd was phenomenal.”

Gerrans, who won the tour in 2006 and 2012, was again able to maneuver himself into a prominent position as the sprint loomed and he only narrowly failed to claim his second-straight stage win.

Australian Richie Porte attacked as the bunch headed toward the finish but was not able to sustain his surge.

A total of 136 riders began the stage Wednesday, after Australian David Tanner and Spain’s Jose Joaquin Rojas withdrew overnight; Tanner with a broken collarbone suffered in a crash near the end of the opening stage.

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