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Evans grabs Tour Down Under lead after strong climb

(Reuters) - Australian Cadel Evans snatched the overall leader's jersey from compatriot Simon Gerrans with a stunning solo victory in stage three of the Tour Down Under on Thursday.

The 2011 Tour de France champion's stunning ascent of the 2.4 kilometer Corkscrew Hill followed by a late surge towards the end of the 145 kilometer stage put him 12 seconds ahead of Orica-GreenEdge rider Gerrans with three stages left.

"I had an idea of the opportunity I could get on Corkscrew climb and I knew what to do," said the 36-year-old BMC rider who has been plagued by health and consistency issues over the last two years.

"My team did a fantastic job to position me where I had to be. I had been training well but winning is what we are here for," added Evans, eyeing his first overall title here.

Compatriot Nathan Haas of Garmin Sharp finished second to move up to fourth overall, behind Italian Diego Ulissi.

Gerrans finished the stage in fifth.

"It's not going to be easy for Cadel. We're going to throw everything at him, that's for sure," said Gerrans.

"I'm disappointed to lose the ochre jersey but it's not over."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; editing by Patrick Johnston)

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