Trek Segafredo’s Richie Porte has won his second Santos Tour Down Under, just missing out on the stage win atop Willunga Hill after victory went to Brit Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal).
Porte, who took the race lead from Stage 2 winner Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) after winning the Queen Stage 3 (Unley to Paracombe, 131km), managed to keep it for just one stage before having to swap GC places with Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) after the South African picked up five bonus seconds at the two immediate sprints on Stage 5 (Glenelg to Victor Harbor , 149.1km)
The pressure was then on Trek-Segafredo to ride all day to keep a lid on events, a task that was almost undone by 26 man breakaway. Porte found himself going through an emotional roller coaster every bit as tough as the stage itself:
“To win the race again is a fantastic feeling,” said Porte. “It was a hard day for our team; there were times when I thought maybe the GC was over and done with because it was a big group up the road. But credit to the guys, almost single-handedly, they brought that all back.
“You know people are quick to single out Mads Pedersen because he’s the World Champion here helping me, but every one of my teammates has been incredible; they all played their part in today.”
The situation favoured Porte in the end and despite the break taking a lead that extended to over two minutes come the ascent of Willunga Hill it was a strong GC group in contention. While Porte no doubt relished yet another victory on what has been dubbed ‘Richie Porte Hill’ his task to was to drop the likes of Simon Geschke (CCC Team), Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) and Rohan Dennis (Team INEOS) which he did with seconds to spare.
Only World tour debutant Matthew Holmes, who had emerged from the highly successful but now defunct British pro-conti team Madison Genesis, had what it took the resist Porte’s power and experience and took a superb win by a full three seconds.
Crowds who were expecting Porte to appear first were momentarily confused by the arrival of Holmes, who had clearly employed some canny tactics:
“I was always waiting, waiting, waiting for the sprint but slowly I realised they were all on the limit”, said Matthew Holmes. “Then Richie came but I did not panic. All I thought was ‘It’s great, he’s not gonna slow down and he’s just gonna take me to the finish’, as he was obviously riding his own race for the GC. All I had to do was beat him and that was quite simple. As a team we had no real plan for this stage. Team Director Herman Frison gave us all a free role. So, I went in the breakaway. Also Jonathan Dibben was in the break and he did a perfect team job. I sat on, and he didn’t miss one turn all day.”
“I tried to not sprint every time that they [accelerated],” said the 26-year-old from Wigan. “Everyone’s got power meters and you know everyone is on the limit so I just rode hard and sensible and then just had to go with Richie when he came past.
“He was obviously going a hell of a lot quicker than me up there, so he had no sprint left.”
Meanwhile, third spot on the stage went to Manuele Boaro (Astana Pro Team).
Porte’s win gave him a winning margin of 25 seconds over Geschke, Ulissi and Dennis all on the same time. tace leader Impey tumbled to sixth spot just behind Dylan van Baarle (Team INEOS).
Santos Stage 6 and GC – Top 10
Full results on here courtesy of procyclingstats.com