Richie Porte (Team Sky) made Willunga Hill his own today with an attack 1.2km from the summit that distanced all his rivals bar one, race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC), to ride away for victory. On the queen stage of the Tour Down Under, Porte kicked again with 600 meters as he distanced Dennis to enter the final straight on his own to secure his first road win of the season by nine seconds.
Porte now sits second on the general classification, two seconds down on Dennis with just tomorrow's 90km city criterium to come but he isn't giving up on claiming overall victory.
"The race isn't over just yet and we will take it as it comes tomorrow," Porte told reporters. "It is going to be hard but I haven't lost the tour. I am second and very happy with how today went. The team was fantastic and it's a nice way to start the season off.
"I am a fair bit lighter than last year when I won the stage here," he explained. "I am not massive on the whole maths side of things but I sat down with our sports scientist last night and we went through the numbers of it. At the end of the day, you still have to have a bit of ticker and how could you not with a crowd like that. It was like being at a stage at the Giro or Tour.
"This is probably the stage to win. The crowd was absolutely amazing and I think it shows the legacy that Cadel’s left."
Last year Porte attacked from further out to win the stage the stage 10 seconds ahead of Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) but explained it was a different scenario today.
"It was actually easier this year going up the climb and I attacked where I wanted to attack," he said. "I was told when I hit them don't look back, I looked back and there wasn't many there. I saw Cadel shaking his head and that’s when I thought dig in and go for it. I actually felt really good until 300 metres to go."
After having a 2014 that was plagued by illness, Porte explained a long and focused off-season is paying off and is excited for a big 2015 having started the year with two wins.
"I am in a much better mindset this year," he said. "I was much more professional in the off-season and I am healthy and so motivated going into this season. People are always going to say 'you've peaked early' but I haven't done anything but ride my bike and watch my diet. I was recently engaged and I feel like I am growing up. I think in two months' time if I go and win Paris-Nice it will make up for it for sure.
"It is a good way to start my preparation for the Giro."
In 2012, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) went into the final stage on the same time with no change to the overall standings. Last year's race was also a close affair with Gerrans holding off Cadel Evans (BMC) by one second. Porte isn't giving up on reversing that trend but praised Dennis for how he has raced this week.
"To be honest, it is a big disappointment to be at two seconds," he said. "Credit to him, the way that he won the stage the other day, he took the race on and he totally deserves it.
"He has a big future and I asked him if I could swap the national time trial jersey but he shook his head. I hope we both have a good season."