Porte owns Willunga as Impey grabs ochre
Richie Porte might own Willunga but Daryl Impey has posted a breakout performance to snatch the lead and set up a thrilling finale of the twentieth edition of the Santos Tour Down Under.
The Australian was eight seconds ahed of the South African on the line. while overnight race leader, World Champion, Peter Sagan, couldn’t match the pace of the true climbers and finished more than two minutes back in 49th place.
Everyone knew Porte would attack today but they still couldn’t contain the BMC Racing rider who posted his fifth straight win on the Willunga Hill Stage 5 where 138 thousand fans flocked to see the action.
“It’s a fantastic day for my (BMC Racing) team,” said Porte admitting it wasn’t an easy win. “It’s probably the hardest time I’ve done this climb (and) it really hurts.
The defending champion pounced one kilometre from the line and did enough to win the stage but not enough to take over the Santos Ochre Leader’s Jersey. That instead sits on the shoulders of the tenacious MItchelton Scott rider who leads on a count back of accumulated stage placings.
“It’s unfortunate that I miss out on the ochre jersey by very little but Daryl (Impey) has had a fantastic Tour,” said Porte. “It was up to me to put more time onto him.
Impey and Porte will head into the be Safe Be Seen MAC Stage 6 deadlocked on time with 20 laps of the 4.5km Adelaide circuit set to decide the winner of the anniversary event.
“I’m stoked,” said Impey. “To be in the lead of an Australian team at the Santos Tour Down Under is fantastic.”
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I put a lot of work in for this race but I didn’t expect to be in the leader’s jersey. “To deliver like this with the help of the team it’s just magical.”
Impey was attentive throughout today’s 151 kilometre stage through the Fleurieu Peninsula and McLaren Vale coastal region.
“Up the hill, my only way to make the podium was to stay close to Jay (McCarthy),” said Impey of the Bora hansgrohe rider who was expected to threaten for overall honours.
“I didn’t know I was that close to Richie,” said Impey. “Right after the finish, we’ve had some anxious moments before we knew I was in the lead.
“Our team has experienced this kind of pressure to defend the ochre jersey on the last day, myself included,” said Impey who has ridden a support role to deliver Tour honours in past editions of the event.
Impey glued himself to Porte’s rear wheel for as long as he could before the Porte kicked to surge clear for stage honours.
“I couldn’t finish the job off but I’m happy with another stage,” said Porte, satisfied to start the year with good form after a horror crash in the 2017 Tour de France that left him with a broken pelvis and collar bone. “I’ve worked hard and I’m super motivated for this season (and) I just hope that come July I’ll be on top form.”
2013 Tour champion, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) claimed third place on today’s stage and now sits third overall 16 seconds behind Impey.
“I know this climb and when Richie attacked, I did not dare to go with him. I decided to go my pace and I was chasing with Impey,“ said the Dutchman. “He got away from me in the end, but I went as hard as I could. I went at my own pace and it was OK. In the end, I am happy with how the stage went.”
Mitchelton Scott team director Matt White was singing the praises of Impey who has been in the team since its inception in 2012 but in a support role rather than as a protected lead rider.
“He has taken it to another level,” said White. “Everyone said we came into this Tour Down Under without a GC leader (overall contender).
“He had the opportunity to fill the shoes of some of the guys who’ve left, and he’s taken it with both hands,” said an impressed White. “He did the maximum effort up the climb to get those (bonus) seconds, and it’s nearly won the Tour for him.”
Queensland’s McCarthy, meantime. dropped from third overall to 18th after today’s stage where he lost 24 seconds to Porte.
“The plan was to try to stay with Porte,” said McCarthy. “My legs just exploded with 600m to go (and) it was lights out. I gave everything on the climb.”
Robert Gesink from LottoNL-Jumbo perhaps summed up the day best.
“It’s a special seven minute effort, and Porte’s power-to-weight ratio is a bit better than mine,” Gesink explained. “He’s a talented rider, and this is his climb.”
At the start of the day a group of five riders were quick to attack once Race Director Mike Turtur dropped the flag to signal a start to racing. They were soon joined by two more as the expected small breakaway group forged a lead.
Five kilometres down the road the seven had settled into a rhythm while back in the bunch the contenders for overall honours were content to have the seven leaders contest the first southaustralia.comintermediate Sprint at Snapper Point.
Japan’s Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek – Segafredo) claimed the top points at the 63 kilometre mark ahead of Zakkari Dempster (UniSA-Australia) with South African Nicholas Dlamini (Team Dimension Data) third.
The lead was out past five minutes before the peloton upped the pace to ensure they kept the escapees within striking range.
The second time across the sprint line it was Belgian rider Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) who claimed the win ahead of Denmark’s Mads Schmidt (Katusha Alpecin) and Scott Bowden (UniSA-Australia) who was in the breakaway for the fourth straight day.
But today’s sprints didn’t impact the southaustralia,com Sprint classification which is still led by Sagan.
For Dlamini the day was about the Subaru King of the Mountain contest where he wanted to take maximum points on the first climb up Willunga Hill to protect his polka dot jersey lead.
However de Gendt had other ideas and was too strong on the climb forcing Dlamini to settle for second place points. That was enough to keep in the climber’s jersey.
Bowden was third ahead of Team Sunweb riders Niklas Arndt (Sunweb) and Sam Oomen.
“I pretty much got everything I wanted today because I now have twelve points lead in the KOM over Richie Porte,” said Dlamini. “It means I have mathematically won it. Second up the hill on the first passage is what I needed. I’m happy with that.”
The margin back to the peloton as they headed under the finishing arch to start the final 22 kilometre lap was 1.15 but as the pursuit intensified the escapees were reeled in one by one until finally only de Gendt remained. He was the last to concede but his efforts during the stage saw him named the southaustralia.com Most Competitive Rider of the day.
“It’s the fifth time I’ve made the breakaway on that particular stage,” said de Gendt. “It’s one of those days I don’t want to be in the bunch because of the cross wind (and) I find it easier to be in the breakaway group. I’d like to win this stage from a breakaway one day but it’s very difficult to stay away.
“I didn’t attack yesterday and the day before because of tomorrow’s stage,” said de Gendt who will work for his team mate André Greipel on Sunday. “It suits him very much (and) we want him as a winner in Adelaide.”
Early in the stage Movistar’s Nuno Matos had a bingle and received treatment from the medical car as it rolled along behind the race but he rode on to finish the stage albeit with a little less skin than when he began the day.