ADELAIDE (AFP) - Former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans seized control of the Tour Down Under with a dominant win in the third stage from Norwood to Campbelltown in South Australia on Thursday.
Evans, 37, also took the overall lead in the season-opening UCI World Tour race when he powered away from the pack on the notorious Corkscrew Road Hill, then held on over the last 5km to win by 15 seconds.
Second place went to Australia's Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) with Italian Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) in third.
Australian Simon Gerrans, who took the ochre leader's jersey into Thursday's stage, came in fifth and now trails Evans on general classification by 12 seconds. Ulissi is a further three seconds behind in third place overall.
"It wasn't quite optimal but it was pretty good," Evans said of his ride. "With the time bonuses available the race is still a long way from over, but today went almost perfectly."
Evans, whose BMC Racing team rode the Corkscrew Road Hill and descent seven times in the lead-up to the race, said he had targeted this stage to make his move.
"I had an idea of what we might have an opportunity to do and it's always might, if, maybe," Evans said.
"But in this sport when you have an opportunity you have to run with it. Right to the last 300 metres I wasn't sure if I had it.
"The stage win is of course great, but GC (general classification) is what we're really here for."
With three stages remaining, Evans is now a firm favourite to hold on to the ochre jersey until Sunday's final stage on the Adelaide street circuit.
The former world champion stayed towards the front of the peloton as it chased down a breakaway group of four riders at the approach to Corkscrew Hill.
He then countered several attacks on the climb but waited until Team Sky's Richie Porte launched his bid before responding, leaving Gerrans in his wake.
Evans stayed with Porte for 500 metres before making his move, powering away from the young Tasmanian as the summit approached.
Gerrans tried to respond and caught Porte, but he could get no closer, and Evans opened enough of a gap at the top to hold off the chasing pack, which had caught Gerrans and Porte.
"Cadel obviously is absolutely flying," Porte said. "I tried to go with him, but in the hairpins there he just rode away and there's not much you can do.
"It was a little disappointing, I thought I was in a bit better nick (shape)."
Friday's 148.5km stage takes the riders from Unley in inner-city Adelaide to the town of Victor Harbour on the Fleurieu Peninsula.