Although Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) was able to start the final stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday, despite his injuries from a crash the day before, the testing climb of Willunga Hill proved a bridge too far, and the New Zealander had to surrender his leader's jersey to Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey.
Bevin nevertheless battled through the stage to come away with the blue points jersey, and will now attempt to sufficiently recover from his injuries in readiness for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next Sunday.
"To take the blue jersey away from this race is a nice result for the week's work," he told reporters after the stage. "Obviously it's tough to have touched down yesterday and watch part of my work evaporate on the GC. But that's bike racing; there are no guarantees."
Bevin said that he'd enjoyed huge crowd support as he attempted to defend his race lead on the final stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, and promised to come back for another attempt next year.
"I think someone must have told the crowd I was Australian today," joked the New Zealander, "because I had so many fans, who were all the way around the course, so I had a lot of support.
"I've had a great time here – an absolute blast coming here, racing from 'kilometre 0', and I plan on sticking to that all year. I'm going to go out and scrap for everything all year, and this race really only sets a precedent for what's ahead."
"I'm a bit beat up and sore, but crashing's a part of racing," Bevin added. "It's such a shame to do all that and have it kind of all come tumbling down. But there'll be another race, and, if nothing else, I'll be back at the Tour Down Under next year, ready to roll my sleeves up, and box on again.
"I was very sore to start with this morning, but I didn't feel too bad once we got rolling. I had nothing to lose, and I was just going to go out there and hang on, but when we started fighting in the run-up to the climb the first time, I was in the red there – I was in trouble. I kind of tried to regain my composure – we had the climb and I tried to push on – but I just couldn't do it, and it was a pretty awful feeling to watch it all just ride off up the road."
Bevin finished the stage in 80th place, 5:41 behind stage winner Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), which meant that he slipped from the overall race lead to 41st on the GC by the end of the day.
Asked why, when he was injured, he decided the race the final stage, Bevin displayed the same kind of grit that had endeared him to the crowd.
"Why race? It was the kind of sparkle of hope that I was still going to be good enough to win. It wasn't ideal, but sometimes you can come away from those crashes not feeling as bad as you'd feared, and I didn't think it was going to end me. I honestly thought, when I got on the bike this morning, that I could push through, and at the very least give it a go, so that's why you get up in the morning and go and sign on. You just push it to the back of your mind and try to get around on a day like today, and then just try to be there at the finish."
Asked if he can return to one day win it, Bevin was unequivocal.
"Absolutely. I guess until a lap to go, I kind of still thought I could today," he said with a smile. "I'll be back, for sure. And I won't change a thing. I'll be back here scrapping for everything, and pushing for those time bonuses again so that we can take the race to the little guys and we'll see how it plays out next time."
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