Daryl Impey and his Mitchelton-Scott team know a thing or two when it comes to winning the Tour Down Under. Between them they've won five of the last eight editions of the race, so when they refuse to throw in the towel, it's probably for good reason.
For the second day in a row at this year's race, Impey and his team carved into race leader Patrick Bevin's advantage, and with two days remaining, the battle for the overall is still alive. Two days ago, when Bevin (CCC Team) won the stage, his lead over Impey stood at 15 seconds. On Thursday in Uraidla, that gap was cut by four seconds thanks to Impey finishing third, and today in Campbelltown, the gap was reduced by a further four seconds after Impey pipped Bevin for the stage win. Bevin is safe for now, but Impey is hot on his heels.
"We're around the mark now. Seven seconds will still be hard to catch Paddy [Bevin] as he's riding really well. We have similar characteristics, but yeah, we're going to have to go for it, and I'm sure tomorrow will be quite an interesting stage. Willunga will definitely be the decider, although Paddy's got a really nice buffer now on all the other GC guys," Impey said after winning the stage.
"I think we have to be aggressive wherever we can. There's no doubt that trying to win this race is based on seconds. We learned that last year. We're going to have to try to take our opportunities and try to make things happen, and hopefully it pays off."
Today, Mitchelton rode to their strengths. They protected Impey throughout and kept their leader in contention on the slopes of the Corkscrew climb. When a dangerous move that included Richie Porte and Michael Woods skipped clear on the climb, the Australian outfit held their nerve and helped pace Impey back on the descent. Teammate Lucas Hamilton, in particular, stood out.
"Well, the win was actually due to him," Impey said. "He did a great job, and he's still a young professional. We had a plan in the beginning that he was going to ride his own climb and kind of wait for me in the middle of the climb, which he did. Then he did his work on the downhill and brought them back, and did a massive role there. I could just sit back and think about the sprint. He did an amazing ride – especially for such a young guy.
"I rode my own race, and I knew I had Lucas there as well," continued Impey. "I could see Paddy [Bevin] just in front of me, so I knew that if I could stay around that range, it would be a good enough group to cooperate on the downhill. I kind of just focused on my own climb and I was very happy to still be able to do what I did at the end."
Impey did, however, admit that he almost cracked – mentally at least – on Corkscrew.
"The win gives me a nice boost. I was unsure going onto Corkscrew. I've had good and bad times going up there in the past, and in the middle of the climb, I started doubting myself. I told myself to keep pushing through, and I'm just glad I did. I'm a lot more confident now going into Willunga [on Sunday]."
Last year, Impey finished in the same overall time as Poret, but the Australian on 'countback'. Although Bevin now holds the advantage, it's the South African who has the momentum.