If you want to beat Trek-Segafredo's Richie Porte on Willunga Hill, you need to give yourself a decent enough head start. However, even that didn't prove to be enough for two of Team Sky's best climbers after Wout Poels and Kenny Elissonde were brought back on the climb and beaten by the now six-time winner on the climb on the final stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday.
Porte, who had an outside chance of winning the overall title on the climb, responded when Poels and Elissonde attacked, bridging over to the Dutchman before going clear to take his first win in Trek-Segafredo colours. While Porte celebrated the stage win, it wasn't enough to nudge defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton Scott) off the top step of the podium. The South African claimed back-to-back Tour Down Under crowns with Porte 13 seconds adrift. Poels rounded out the podium.
"This is a hard race for a rider like me to win. It's a shame that there's not another hill-top finish. But to win six in a row with a new team is a nice way to start. It's a lovely day out there. You pinch yourself riding through the crowds," Porte said at the finish.
"You've got to climb better than the sprinters and then sprint better than the climbers. It's not a race that really suits me. It did two years ago with the Paracombe climb, but it's still nice to get a victory. The team were absolutely fantastic today. It's always good to start like this with a new team. They have faith in me. My new boss, Luca Guercilena, didn't put any pressure on me. We were resigned to the fact that it would be a hard race to win when they're going for bonus sprints like that."
Porte's record in the Tour Down Under is unique. He has won seven stages in total – six of them on Willunga Hill – won the race outright in 2017, and finished second four times. For the second time in a row he was beaten by Impey, who outperformed him in the hunt for bonus seconds and won a stage of his own. That said, Porte chose to look at the positive side: he has won a race in his new Trek-Segafredo colours and was forced to do it the hard way after Team Sky put him under pressure.
"The stage was possibly easier than it ever has been for me because I was in a good position, but then when Elissonde did a fantastic ride there for Poels, that was hard. I had to take it up myself, and I didn't have any teammates at that point, so I had to go after them at that point. I got a second wind when I heard on the radio that everyone was suffering, but the last 300 metres of Willunga are probably the longest 300. It really hurt. It was a sweet victory," Porte said.
"I've never had to chase like that. Last year I had Rohan Dennis sacrifice himself for me, but this year I had to chase the two Team Sky riders."