Richie Porte (BMC Racing) is the king of Willunga Hill, as the Tasmanian won atop the famed climb in the Adelaide Hills for the fifth consecutive year on Saturday at the Santos Tour Down Under. He attacked with just over a kilometer to go and no one could make his speed on the climb. However, he did not open a big enough gap to take the overall lead.
Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) led home a select group eight-seconds behind Porte with Dimension Data’s Tom-Jelte Slagter coming in two seconds later for third.
After a period of waiting, it was determined that Porte and Impey were on the same time in the general classification. The Ochre leader’s jersey was awarded to Impey on countback.
Though disappointed not to have the leader’s jersey, Porte was still happy to get the stage win. “It’s a fantastic day for my team,” Porte said. “It’s probably the hardest time I’ve done this climb. It really hurts. There were crosswinds coming into Willunga but I can’t say it was unexpected. It happens every year.
“It’s unfortunate that I miss out on the Ochre jersey by very little but Daryl has had a fantastic Tour. It was up to me to put more time onto him. I couldn’t finish the job off but I’m happy with another stage. After my crash at the Tour de France, I’ve worked hard and I’m super motivated for this season. I just hope that come July I’ll be on top form.”
Top 10, stage 5
- 1. Richie Porte, BMC RACING TEAM, in 03:42:22
- 2. Daryl Impey, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 0:08
- 3. Tom-Jelte Slagter, DIMENSION DATA, at 0:10
- 4. Dries Devenyns, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 0:10
- 5. Egan Arley Bernal, TEAM SKY, at 0:10
- 6. Gorka Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:10
- 7. Diego Ulissi, UAE-TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:10
- 8. Robert Gesink, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:14
- 9. Ion Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:14
- 10. Ruben Guerreiro, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:14
Top 10 GC after stage 5
- 1. Daryl Impey, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, in 18:02:15
- 2. Richie Porte, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:00
- 3. Tom-Jelte Slagter, DIMENSION DATA, at 0:16
- 4. Diego Ulissi, UAE-TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:20
- 5. Dries Devenyns, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 0:20
- 6. Egan Arley Bernal, TEAM SKY, at 0:20
- 7. Gorka Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:20
- 8. Robert Gesink, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:24
- 9. George Bennett, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:24
- 10. Ion Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:24
The penultimate stage of the 2018 Santos Tour Down Under on Saturday traveled 151.5 kilometers from McLaren Vale to the summit of Willunga Hill. The course was separated into two parts. The first part consisted of three flat circuits around McLaren Vale and the second part of the course featured around Willunga Hill. The riders would tackle Willunga Hill on two occasions with the last ascent serving as the finish. The queen stage of the Tour Down Under began finishing at the summit of Willunga Hill instead down in the town center six years ago.
A breakaway of seven riders quickly established itself and included Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), King of the Mountains classification leader Nicholas Dlamini (Dimension Data), Zakkari Dempster and Scott Bowden (UniSA), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo), Nuno Bico (Movistar) and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin). Bora-Hansgrohe took the initiative of keeping the break close early in the race.
Toward the end of the opening circuit, Bico hit the deck in the breakaway. The Portuguese rider fell heavily on a corner but was able to get up and chase back onto the breakaway. However, he was badly cut up with road rash prevalent on his right hip, both of his arms, and back. Blood was running down his right arm and onto his handlebars.
Bora-Hansgrophe received assistance in keeping the breakaway in-check with BMC Racing sending multiple riders to the front. Team Sky sent riders to the front as well and Bahrain-Merida did the same. With so many teams helping in the pacemaking, the breakaway stood little chance of surviving to the finish. The gap was locked-in at three and a half minutes for kilometer after kilometer.
The seven leaders began the first ascent of Willunga Hill with a 1:35 advantage over the peloton, as 25-kilometers remained in the stage. Rather quickly, the lead group had been split in half with Dlamini, Bowden, and De Gendt riding away from the others. As the peloton began the climb, the fight at the front was fierce. Many teams were trying to position their leader toward the front.
Near the top of the climb, Bowden was unhitched from the lead group. Dlamini crossed the top of Willunga Hill in second behind De Gendt and secured the King of the Mountains classification for the 2018 Santos Tour Down Under. He turned off the gas once over the top of the climb, leaving De Gendt alone in the lead. The Belgian had about a one-minute advantage over the Bahrain-Merida led peloton, but one more ascent of Willunga Hill was still to come.
Inside the final 10 kilometers, De Gendt had been caught and the peloton was charging down the road. EF Education First-Drapac put the hammer down in a crosswind section that split the peloton. Porte and Sagan looked to be in danger of being caught on the wrong side of the split for a moment but quickly moved forward to make the front split.
BMC Racing led onto the final ascent of Willunga Hill, but soon UAE-Team Emirates took over in support of Diego Ulissi. Their time on the front was short-lived, however, as Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) set a quick pace in support of Porte. This put many riders on the limit and soon the Ochre leader’s jersey of Sagan was slipping backward with 1.8 kilometers still to go to the finish.
Everyone knew an attack was coming from Porte and everyone also knew where it was coming. In his four previous victories atop Willunga Hill, Porte had attacked in the same spot each time.
There was no trickery in 2018, as Porte made his move on his favorite curve 1.4 kilometers from the line. Initially, Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe), who began the day sitting third overall, was the only one able to follow Porte’s acceleration. It looked as though McCarthy may challenge Porte for the stage win, but then the BMC Racing rider kicked a second time and McCarthy was dislodged.
Porte powered all the way to the line to win atop Willunga Hill for a fifth straight year but was his gap large enough to take the Ochre leader’s jersey. He had secured the winner’s time bonus, which greatly helped his chances of securing the Ochre jersey.
McCarthy faded in the final kilometer, as a select group of climbers passed him and sprinted toward the line. He would finish the stage outside the top 10 and more than 20 seconds behind Porte.
“The plan was to try to stay with Porte,” McCarthy said after the stage. “My legs just exploded with 600 meters to go. It was lights out. Last year I was on the podium, but to get within that podium range, I needed to pick up time bonuses throughout the week. I gave everything on the climb.”
Impey was the best of the rest to capture second on the stage, eight-seconds adrift of Porte. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) finished third.
After a period of waiting after the stage ended to calculate the general classification, it was complicated as both Porte and Impey had bonus seconds to factor into their time, it was determined that Impey was the overall leader. However, Porte and Impey are on the same time. Slagter is third overall at 16-seconds behind.
Sunday’s final stage of the 20th edition of the Santos Tour Down Under is a circuit race in downtown Adelaide and there are time bonuses available at intermediate sprints and the finish. With Porte and Impey on the same time in the general classification, the final stage will surely contain many fireworks. The riders will start in the race village and roll neutral down the street for 20 laps of a 4.5-kilometer circuit around Edler Park. The 90-kilometer stage will be incredibly fast and as in year’s past, a sprint finish is expected.
Full results to come
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