Caleb Ewan out-sprints everyone. Again. Richie Porte takes his maiden Tour Down Under title on a fierce final stage.
Words - James Raison Images - Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo
Stage 6 rolled around the city of Adelaide with 20 laps of a 4.5 km street circuit. Traditionally a sprint finish but the time bonuses mean positions could be gained or lost on the final day. Positions 2 through 10 were only covered by 14 seconds so time bonuses on intermediate sprints and the stage finish could be crucial.
Attacks began immediately with no race neutral distance. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) immediately set off to try and protect his position in the KOM contest, joined by young gun Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors). The pursuing field was stretched single file with the pace hot early on.
Bora-hansgrohe took control of the race with Jay McCarthy sitting 4th on GC and only 3 seconds off the podium.
Brambilla and Bauer were given a small gap but the peloton surged in the lead-up to the first sprint. Bora-hansgrohe dropped the hammer and reeled in the break.
Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) looked to be contesting the first sprint before sitting up for team-mate McCarthy who dug deep to hit the line ahead of Caleb Ewan (ORICA-SCOTT). Sagan crossed third and Nathan Haas (DImension Data) gave a desperate sprint to cross 4th. It was too late for the gallant Aussie, McCarthy’s haul put him on the podium and dropped Haas to 4th.
Thomas De Gendt jumped out of the field again with team-mate Adam Hansen to take more KOM points trying to wrestle the jersey from race leader Richie Porte (BMC).
A group sprang off the front soon after, consisting of Johannes Frohlinger (SunWeb), Ben O’Connor (Team Dimension Data), Jaco Venter (Team Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt, Francois Bidard (AG2R La Mondiale), Jhonatan Restreppo (Katusha-Alpecin), and powerhous Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors).
It was Restreppo taking sprint point 2, and managed to vault up to 10th overall in the process, before sitting up and dropping back to the pack. Frohlinger took 2nd, and Venter 3rd.
The next KOM point drove the peloton to reel in the break with De Gendt trying to bag some more points. They didn’t reach Bauer who scooped up the bonuses ahead of O’Connor, and Venter.
The breakway splintered and Bauer went off alone for the 3rd consecutive day with Venter and Bidard trying to cross. Bauer dug deep but was slowly clawed back to 14 seconds with 3 laps to go.
Teams with sprint aspirations started to edge towards the front and position their men. No-one took a flyer over the final Montefiore Hill climb as SKY and ORICA-SCOTT drilled the pace down the other side. Caleb Ewan was attached to Daryl Impey’s wheel and the South African delivered his man perfectly to the 250 metre mark as Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) tried to come around.
There was no stopping Ewan who once again showed he’s the fastest man on the continent and possibly the world right now. Lord Sagan pushed him all the way to the line as another Slovakian powerhouse Marko Kump (UAE Abu Dhabi) surged to 3rd. SKY’s Danny Van Poppel ended the day 4th and youngster Sean de Bie (Lotto Soudal) rounded out the top 5.
Lord Sagan was pleased with his overall race: “I am very happy… I am getting my condition back, and it’s been a good week of racing.
“This is a very nice race, it is very organised, and I am glad I am here,” said Sagan whose leadout helped McCarthy scoop the bonus points that got him 3rd overall.
“Mission accomplished today,” said McCarthy after the stage, “It was tight, but I had a great team leading me out for that intermediate sprint today. who better than the World Champion for the job? It’s a great honour.
“To make the podium was my goal for the week. At the beginning of the race, people were questioning why I was going for the time bonuses, when there are other places to make a difference, but I always knew the podium would be decided by seconds.”
It was a hectic final stage with jerseys and GC positions contested all the way to the finish line. The Tour Down Under ends for another year and it was a fascinating race with a star-studded field. Is it too soon to be looking forward to next year?
Top 10 Stage 6
1. Caleb Ewan - ORICA-SCOTT
2. Peter Sagan - Bora-hansgrohe
3. Marko Kump - UAE Abu Dhabi
4. Danny Van Poppel - SKY
5. Sean de Bie - Lotto Soudal
6. Lorenzo Manzin - FDJ
7. Koen de Kort - Trek-Segafredo
8. Jasha Sutterlin - Movistar
9. Nathan Haas - Dimension Data
10. Jay McCarthy - Bora-hansgrohe
Top 10 overall:
1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: +48”
3. Jay McCarthy - Bora-Hansgrohe: +51”
4. Nathan Haas - Team Dimension Data: ST
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: ST
10. Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia - Katusha Alpecin: +1:04