The climb of Willunga Hill will feature as the climax to the 2019 Tour Down Under, as the Australian UCI WorldTour event eschews its final 'Champs-Elysées-like' processional stage in favour of a 'queen stage' that should keep things exciting right to the very end.
Willunga Hill has traditionally featured as a summit finish on the penultimate day of the Tour Down Under – a stage won by BMC's Richie Porte for the past five years in a row.
Porte's fifth win on the climb in 2018 was not quite enough for the Australian to repeat his overall win of 2017, and the race was won by Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey on 'countback', after the two riders were left equal on time after the Willunga stage.
Despite there still being one more stage remaining last year – the usual affair on an Adelaide street circuit – Porte conceded defeat, knowing that any move to grab bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints would be shut down by Impey's Mitchelton-Scott squad.
Moving the Willunga Hill stage to the final Sunday, instead of Saturday, will mean it should decide the race on the last day, while still attracting the huge numbers of fans who make the trip south of Adelaide for the weekend decider.
Last year's opening stage saw large crowds wave the riders off from Port Adelaide, north of the city, which helped the organisers to choose the same venue as the finish of this year's first stage, two days after the People's Choice Classic 'warm-up race'.
"We are really excited about a first-time stage finish in Port Adelaide on stage 1 with a 3.4 km finishing circuit, especially after the huge crowds the start drew this year," said race director Mike Turtur, adding that he'll also be interested to see how a new 14km circuit around Uraidla at the finish of stage 3 will be received, with the riders completing seven laps of the hilly circuit.
"It's important as a race that we keep everyone guessing and the riders challenged. We can't be complacent," Turtur said. "We knew we had to create something special for the 2019 event and deliver something a little different in terms of the race routes after the amazing race we had this year.
"We have decided to mix it up and make Willunga Hill the grand finale, and probably now the deciding factor of the race's result."
2019 Tour Down Under route:
Sunday 13 January 2019, People's Choice Classic: East End Circuit, 51km
Tuesday 15 January 2019, Stage 1: North Adelaide to Port Adelaide, 132.4km
Wednesday 16 January 2019, Stage 2: Norwood to Angaston, 149km
Thursday 17 January 2019, Stage 3: Lobethal to Uraidla, 146.2km
Friday 18 January 2019, Stage 4: Unley to Campbelltown, 129.2km
Saturday 19 January 2019, Stage 5: Glenelg to Strathalbyn, 149.5km
Sunday 20 January 2019, Stage 6: McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km
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