Richie Porte destroys the peloton on Torrens Hill to take stage 2 and overall lead at the Santons Tour Down Under.
Words - James Raison Photo credit: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo
Richie Porte (BMC) cited "nightmares from 2 years ago" of getting caught out by Rohan Dennis on Torrens Hill as a motivator to dig deep on the summit finish of stage 2. There was no repeat. Quite the opposite. Porte was untouchable and the race is now his to lose.
The leafy, oh-so-aristocratic, eastern Adelaide hills hosted the start of the Staging Connections Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under. The main street of Stirling was packed to the rafters to see 5 circuits before the race thundered out of the hills and up the Gorge/Torrens Hill Road tandem at the stage finish.
Former winner Cameron Meyer (Team UniSA Australia) and Ondrej Cink (Bahrain - Merida) attacked off the front early but were soon reeled in as the peloton wanted to contest the first sprint points and time bonuses. It was Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi) who beat out Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe) and Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) to take the prizes.
Once again there was a one-man breakaway with Jasha Sutterlin (Movistar) rolling off the front. The peloton behind was riding relaxed, with our Lord Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) even making an appearance on the front.
The second sprint points were taken by Sutterlin, with Michael Kolar and Rudiger Selig (both Borah-Hansgrohe) spring out to scoop up the remaining seconds. It was a clear indication that the squad back their GC man Jay McCarthy, as they dutifully made sure no other contenders snagged any bonus seconds.
Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) tried to counter-attack but the canny breakaway specialist was given no opportunity to rain on the GC parade.
The peloton turned the wick up as the race crossed 50 km to go and Sutterlin’s advantaged dissolved from 4 minutes to caught in under 10 kms. The race was together and thundering towards the Norton Summit descent.
Race radio crackled with news that Trek-Segafredo rider Mads Pedersen crashed on the flying descent as local Callum Scotson (UniSA Australia) pushed the pace up front. Images flashed of a group off the back including GC contender Sergio Henao (SKY) slowed by a wheel change, and Patrick Bevan (Cannondale-Drapac) with his own mechanical problems. They would re-join after a furious chase with 10 km to go.
ORICA-SCOTT pushed the pace hard towards the base of Gorge Road as the peloton strung out behind. Former champ Rohan Dennis (BMC) had a slick wheel change after a puncture and was paced back by Aussie champ Miles Scotson (BMC).
Luke Durbridge (ORICA-SCOTT) drilled the pace at the front, swapping off for teammate Damien Howson, both men showing their time trialling prowess. Ochre jersey wearer Caleb Ewan (Orica Scott) buried himself with a turn on the front as the gradient started to bite. AG2R La Mondiale took over from Orica Scotts, followed by Dimension Data and LottoNL Jumbo lurking close by.
The race turned onto the final pitch, the 1.2 km 10% gradient Torrens Hill Road led by Lord Sagan. Richie Porte (BMC) attacked first and repeatedly changed pace, shredding the bunch behind him. Porte was imperious as he muscled the bike out of the saddle. Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) and Esteban Chavez (ORICA-SCOTT) desperately tried to close the gap. There was no catching Porte as he stretched his advantage and stamped his authority on the race. He crossed the line 16 seconds ahead of Izaguirre and Chavez, with team-mate Rohan Dennis and Nathan Haas (Team Dimension Data) 19” back.
Porte is understandably confident but still wary that the race is far from over: "I know it’s not over, there’s still a few hard stages but the team is fantastically strong. I know I’ve got good climbing legs and I didn’t want to wait around so being able to ride away like that gives me good confidence.”
Chavez isn't conceding defeat yet: “You never know what will happen and we will keep fighting like always. Willunga is like seven minutes (of climbing) but today was harder, because it was climbing all day. I am excited (about the coming days) so we will see.”
Sergio Henao will have to overcome quite a deficit too after his mechanical issues:
“I had some bad luck with a puncture on the final descent and then we changed the wheel that one punctured too,” said Henao. “What can you do? That’s racing and we have to turn the page."
Stage 3 heads from Glenelg to Victor Harbor. It's expected to be a sprint stage but the windy surrounds could throw up a surprise result. Expect more than a one-man break as teams start to take gambles with the Tour rapidly progressing.
Top 10 finishers for Staging Connections Stage 2:
1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Gorka Izaguirre - Movistar: +16”
3. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: +16”
4. Rohan Dennis - BMC: +19”
5. Nathan Haas - Dimension Data: +19”
6. Diego Ulissi - UAE Abu Dabi: ST
7. Ruben Geurreiro - Trek-Segafredo: ST
8. Michael Storer - UniSA Australia: ST
9. Michael Woods - Cannondale-Drapac: ST
10. Luis-Leon Sanchez - Astana Pro Team: ST
Top 10 overall after Stage 2:
1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Gorka Izaguirre - Movistar: +20”
3. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: +22”
4. Jay McCarthy - Bora-Hansgrohe: +24”
5. Nathan Haas - Team Dimension Data: +27”
6. Diego Ulissi - UAE Abu Dabi: +29”
7. Nathan Earle - Dimension Data: ST
8. Rohan Dennis - BMC: ST
9. Luis-Leon Sanchez - Astana Pro Team: ST
10. Rafael Valls - Lotto Soudal: ST