Team Sky may have come away from the Tour Down Under without the victory they set out for, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sunday’s final stage to Willunga Hill saw the team race aggressively, with Wout Poels taking second place at the finish.
Despite their efforts, it was Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) who took the stage win, his sixth in a row on Willunga, while Poels crossed the line just metres behind, securing third place overall. The Dutchman reflected on his efforts after the stage.
"It was a good climb but unfortunately Richie [Porte] was too strong," he said. "It was a good ride but unfortunately not a win."
Poels’ teammate Kenny Elissonde attacked with him on both ascents of Willunga, a fixture at the Tour Down Under.
"Kenny? We didn’t really plan it, but sometimes you have to race on feeling. I think it was a good move by Kenny, and it worked pretty well, but yeah – Richie was too strong," Poels said.
"I knew it was a really long way [to go when I had a gap]. It was a really hard race again today. I gave it everything for the finish, but then Richie came. I could follow a little, but then I had to drop.
"I came a little bit back, but I think second place was the best I could do."
Nonetheless it’s a strong result to kick off the season for the 2016 Liège-Bastogne- Liège winner, who has never started his season so early.
"[It was a] pretty good race. The team did a really good job, and they always did a great job yesterday too with the crosswinds, keeping me at the front. They always did an amazing job, so I certainly have no complaints."
Poels’ will stay in Australia for his next race, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico are also on the calendar ahead of his first goal of the season – the Ardennes Classics.