George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) put the hammer down on the Corkscrew climb on stage 4 of the Tour Down Under but was left empty-handed when he and his breakaway companions were caught before the finish line.
Bennett crossed the line in sixth place, with Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) winning the stage ahead of overall leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team).
The result means that, due to bonus seconds on the line, Bennett lost ground and now sits seventh overall at 21 seconds. A podium or top five overall is not yet out of the question for the Jumbo-Visma rider, but at the finish he talked down his chances, despite admitting he would be giving it his all on stage 6 and the finish on Willunga Hill.
"I don't think so," he told Cyclingnews when asked his podium chances.
"I hate Willunga Hill. There's nothing good about that hill. I gave it a nudge and I'll go for it for sure but it's just niggly. That was the strongest group you could hope for and we all committed. Everyone was in but the average weight for that group was probably about 60kg. it was good to test the legs and I was really surprised."
Bennett's team helped to animate the race on the Corkscrew climb. The Kiwi matched a move that contained Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Michael Woods (EF Education First). The foursome built a slender lead at the top of the climb, and committed on the descent but Bevin and Mitchelton-Scott fought back on the descent. The two groups merged with just under one kilometre to go and, with that, Bennett's hopes of a stage win faded.
"They came really quick from behind. It's frustrating but that's alright," Bennett said. "It was a really strong move but I think that the only way it would have worked is if we had gone early. We needed another 10 seconds. Once they kept riding behind, and with the cameras there too, that made a big difference."
On the eve of the race, Bennett admitted to Cyclingnews that his form was something of an unknown. His winter preparation had gone well but he had taken more time off the bike than had been originally planned. His ride on the Corkscrew proved that the form is there but he picked fellow Kiwi Bevin as his favourite for the GC.
"I've felt average this week. I did a good month of training but had one really good week and then had rest weeks and was all over the shop. I was unsure of how I was going. Today gives me more confidence," he said.
"Patrick is a good rider and I was on the back of him at nationals. I could hardly drop him, so I think he'll be hard to beat."
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