Richie Porte and his BMC team weren't publically stating that their Paracombe performance was the battle and war won at the Tour Down Under but there is little argument the American team now holds a full hand of aces for the remaining four stages.
Porte, a three-time winner on Willunga Hill, hadn't finished a bike race since August last year and was therefore downplaying his chances ahead of the race. Porte's Paracombe performance suggested he was bluffing in the lead in as he crushed the field to assume a 20 second lead over Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar).
Having made a "mess" of the Paracombe finish in 2015, Porte delivered on the pre-race strategy of 'hit them hard, hit them early' to take a commanding victory that all but assures his first overall Tour Down Under title.
"I would love to win Willunga again but when you have the jersey it's not up to you to attack," Porte explained having collected the first ochre leader's jersey of his career. "There will definitely be attacks in the next couple of days and also on Willunga so I think it is nice to be in the position we are in at the moment. If we have to settle it on Willunga, let's do it."
BMC are now two from two at Paracombe following Rohan Dennis' 2015 triumph that set up overall victory. Whereas in 2014 and 2015, BMC will start the race up Willunga on the front foot an in a position to call the shots with Porte who has proven all but unbeatable on the 3km climb.
Last year Porte lost eight seconds in a late split during the stage finish into Victor Harbor with Simon Gerrans taking the win and bonus seconds on the line. Tomorrow's stage is forecasted for temperatures in the mid-30s, a far cry from last year's wet and windy weather. Add into the mix that Gerrans is 58 seconds in arrears to Porte, and Victor Harbor doesn't look like ending his general classification aims.
"I think for me, it is just to get through the next two days in as good a condition as I can. I am not sure what the time gaps are back to guys like Simon Gerrans but she's not over until it's over," said Porte. "It would be just great to try and finish the race off with plain sailing but I don't expect that. There are 130 other guys in the peloton who want to make things as difficult as possible but I think that is where we've got the team to control things."
BMC won't be starting their celebrating early with the memories of losing the 2014 Tour Down Under with Cadel Evans by a single second to Gerrans still fresh in the mind. However, with Porte in ominous form and Dennis sitting eight overall, the 2017 WorldTour season and Porte's bid for the Tour de France looks to be on track as he chases the sixth one-week stage race victory of his career.
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