Daryl Impey came into the Tour Down Under as Mitchelton-Scott’s dark horse for the GC and, with two stages remaining, the South African remains a genuine contender for the podium, sitting two seconds adrift of race leader Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in second place.
Impey finished second to Sagan on the undulating stage to Uraidla on Friday, with Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) in third. Impey’s chances of keeping his podium place rest on how he climbs to the summit of Willunga Hill on stage 5, but the South African was quick to push any pressure in BMC Racing’s direction, with Richie Porte expected to win on the climb for a fifth straight time.
“I’m just going to be watching whoever I can stay with. If Richie goes and I can respond I’ll go with him but it’s just about responding to how your own body is going,” Impey said at the finish.
“The way I feel today, I feel like I can do something but Richie is the man to beat, for sure. He’s got the best climbing legs. He’s one of the world’s best and it’s his race to lose tomorrow. If Sagan wants to win tomorrow he could. Never underestimate him. He’s the world champion for a reason. I don’t think he’s going to give it away and he’s definitely a guy who can respond to someone like Richie.”
Thirty-two riders sit within fewer than 14 seconds of Sagan’s lead but bonus seconds will be crucial in determining the GC. The final stage on Sunday offers the sprinters the chance to take time, while Willunga is Porte’s fortress.
The stage to Uraidla saw the BMC leader respond to several attacks – and even launch a few moves of his own – but the cagey style of racing ensured that the lead group reformed before the line.
“It was a bit of a free for all but all the main guys were there. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be up the climb and then coming into the finale I knew that it would be a bit of cat and mouse,” said Impey. “We knew the final corner and the course, we’d seen it a few times. I knew that, with Sagan there, the only way to beat him was to surprise him. I thought I did that but he still came back at me. I’m still happy with the result.”
The climb to Willunga is a different proposition, and Impey will need to ride a different style of race. He can’t wait for the field to regroup if the climbers take off on the steep slopes, and will, therefore, need to match a number of riders when the attacks start.
“It’s still there. The chance is still there,” he said when asked about the podium.
“Willunga is a whole different ballgame to today. This was a lot faster and more regular, tomorrow is a lot steeper and after a hard day like today, everyone is going to bounce back a little differently. We’re in the game and if I have the same legs as I have today then everything is possible.”