With the pace already high as a thinned peloton hits the early slopes of Willunga Hill for the second time, Nathan Haas of Dimension Data looked to be struggling to hold the wheel before dropping out the picture as the cameras panned forward to follow the ochre jersey of Richie Porte (BMC) and his race winning attack.
Once Porte had crossed the line, the cameras went searching for the first rider behind the BMC man as a resurgent Haas came into view, leading into the final corner before the finish gantry to claim a ten second time bonus and jump onto the overall podium.
"Sometimes you don't get burnt because the fire inside is bigger. Today, I can't believe what I just did," an emotional Haas told assembled media as the realisation sunk that he had risen to third on the standings with a debut WorldTour podium finish well within his reach come Sunday afternoon.
Taking a moment to catch his breath and compose himself, an articulate Haas further described how he got the better of the likes of Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Abu Dhabi) having been initially been dropped "so bad" at the base of the climb, only to storm back into contention through the power of positive thinking and breathe.
"A few years ago when I was contesting GC here, I made the mistake of actually choosing to get dropped. But today I thought I made the even bigger mistake of letting myself explode," the 27-year-old explained.
"I have been doing a lot of swimming this off-season and doing some breathing exercises. I just went into the back of my mind and started doing my deep breaths and asking myself questions with positive answers. 'Are you going to get through this?' and the subconscious just said 'Yes, yes, yes' and up the gears went. Then I started to use guys to move up, step by step and then I finally saw Ulissi go. He has got the better of me for a few years in these kinds of races; I wasn't going to let it happen today.”
"Obviously, Porte is another league and I want to take my hat off to him. So to beat him on something like this takes a monster effort but I am still so proud of what me and my guys did today.”
Dimension Data find an extra gear
Hass explained that the atmosphere created off the bike by Dimension Data this week has helped propel him through the lactic acid pain barrier.
"We have a young squad here, a lot of guys that haven't raced together yet but around the dinner table we've got this energy and the way we're coming into the race, we are just laughing all the time," he said. "When you have a group of guys that just love being together and love racing, it does help you find that extra gear when you are suffering."
Having already shown his intent to scoop up intermediate time bonuses throughout the week, Haas confirmed he hopes to make up three seconds on Chaves to move into second during Sunday’s final stage.
"I don't race to lick stamps, I race to win. Third is great, second is better," he said.
A winner of the Herald Sun Tour and Tour of Britain, at WorldTour level Haas, has finished fifth at the Tour Down Under and recorded the same result at last year's GP Montreal. A podium result at this year’s Tour Down Under would arguably sit alongside his GC wins considering this year's route was the most climber-friendly in its 19-year history.
"For me, it is a win," he said when asked if the result felt as good as a win. "On paper, we can do better but that big win, you are going to hear it when I come across the line,” he said.
"I think 2017 has a big feeling for me and it is my second year with the team and it is really starting to feel like home. We have been doing such great things as a team both on and off the bike with the Qhubeka cause. It warms our hearts and it does give us a feeling on those days when we don't want to go out training when it is too hard that we do this to raise awareness and raise money for people whose lives changes because of what we do.”