TDU Stage 5 Race Report

Richie Porte has obliterated the competition to take his 4th victory atop Willunga Hill and stretch his advantage over his rivals. There was only daylight and destroyed riders in Porte's wake as he staked his ownership of Willunga Hill.

Words - James Raison     Photo credit: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo

This is not an easy climb so to win it… it’s great for morale. Obviously for me the biggest goal this year is July (and the) Tour de France but things are going well.
— Richie Porte
BikeExchange Stage 5 winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) wins the Queen stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga

BikeExchange Stage 5 winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) wins the Queen stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga

The 150 km queen stage of the Tour Down Under rolled out of its traditional start in McLaren Vale and rolling around the obscenely beautiful beach and vine district of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Richie Porte (BMC) always goes into the stage as the favourite, having won the summit finish on Willunga Hill 3 times before.

The day's breakaway

The day's breakaway

A breakaway supergroup of Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors), Jeremy Maison (FDJ), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Will Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) stole off the front and got down to business. All men have featured in breaks at the Tour Down Under so far and they established a gap of around 2 minutes.

The peloton behind was once again led by BMC in defence of the ochre-clad Porte. First hours of the race were cagey as the co-operating break had their gap neutralised by the field behind. The mood was business-like, this stage is the last opportunity to gain or lose significant time for the general classification.

BMC Racing leads the peloton during BikeExchange Stage 5

BMC Racing leads the peloton during BikeExchange Stage 5

Out front the 4 leaders showed no interest in sprint points with Maison, Clarke, and De Gendt rolling through and claiming the points on sprint point 1. The next sprint point went uncontested too with De Gendt crossing first with Bauer and Clarke next.

The peloton passes along the esplanade at Aldinga beach

The peloton passes along the esplanade at Aldinga beach

It became edgy in the bunch as they approached the first Willunga Hill ascent. All the GC contender teams swarmed the bunch to try and position their men at the front. 

Willunga Hill reared its head with 3 km of 7% average gradient. The break rolled up first and the peloton thundered up behind. De Gendt scooped the KOM points of the first ascent with Bauer second and Maison third..

Porte was led by his BMC team with the combined firepower of former winner and current Australian TT champion Rohan Dennis and current Australian Road Race champ Miles Scotson. Over the top of the WIllunga range, SKY and ORICA-SCOTT taking over pace making duties. Speeds exceeded 90 km/h down Penny’s Hill as the race made the final approach to WIllunga Hill.

It was still ORICA-SCOTT and SKY pulling turns on the front as they made a concerted effort to split the race in the crosswinds. At 5 km to go, the break was absorbed and the bunch had reduced significantly. 

Jack Bauer and Quick-Step Floors led them onto the lower slopes. SKY threw all of their Colombians at the front of the race as the climbers started watching each other. Porte was marked by everyone and unleashed his signature attack at 1.5 km to go, blasting everyone off his wheel. Sergio Henao (SKY) continued to press with Esteban Chavez (ORICA-SCOTT) Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe) clinging to his wheel. 

There was nothing but empty roads ahead and behind of Porte as he mashed his pedals out of the saddle. He crossed the line with arms raised and plenty of daylight behind him. 

Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) put in a staggering kick to round the climbers and sprint to second ahead of Chavez, McCarthy, and Ulissi. The criminally underrated Haas measured his efforts to get the better of some of the World's top climbers and leap into third overall.

Richie Porte takes his 4th win on Willunga Hill

Richie Porte takes his 4th win on Willunga Hill

Nathan Haas was thrilled with his result: “I cannot believe what I’ve just done,” said Haas. “I wanted to see if I could go with the first acceleration because it was a headwind. I thought I made a big mistake by letting myself explode."

Estaban Chavez clearly enjoyed his racing too: “It was very hard today, but it was also very beautiful. It was like the Tour de France on the climb. It is so nice to hear people yelling your name."

Porte made it look easy but he had to dig deep:  “I’ll tell you what, that hurt more than the other three that I’ve rode up here,” said Porte. “I went from quite a long way out and it’s just incredible team work today and I’m just happy to finish it off for the guys."

The final Stage 6 takes place on an Adelaide street circuit. There's rarely any change on GC but the time bonuses on offer mean some could be hunting for all the sprint point

Top 10 Stage 5:

1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Nathan Haas - Team Dimension Data: +20
3. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: ST
4. Diego Ulissi - UAE Abu Dabi: ST
5. Jay McCarthy - Bora-Hansgrohe: ST
6. Nathan Earle - UniSA Australia: +23
7. Rafael Valls - Lotto Soudal: ST
8. Sergio Henao - SKY: ST
9. Robert Gesink - LottoNL - Jumbo: ST
10. Tom-Jelte Slagter - Cannondale Drapac: ST

Top 10 overall:

1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: +48” 
3. Nathan Haas - Team Dimension Data: +51”
4. Jay McCarthy - Bora-Hansgrohe: +54”
5. Diego Ulissi - UAE Abu Dabi: +59" 
6. Rohan Dennis - BMC: +1:02"
7. Rafael Valls - Lotto Soudal: ST
8. Robert Gesink - LottoNL - Jumbo: ST
9. Wilco Kelderman - Team SunWeb: +1:06
10. Nathan Earle - UniSA Australia: +1:06