Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) had no answer to Richie Porte's accelerations on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, with the BMC leader opening a sizeable lead on GC on the first key battleground of the race.
In the build up to the Queen stage to Paracombe the pre-race favourites of Porte, Chaves and Team Sky's Sergio Henao shared relatively equal billing but when the final climb on stage 2 began it was Porte who landed the key blows. This is now his race to lose.
The Australian was the first to react when Wilco Kelderman opened up the early skirmishes with a well-timed move at the bottom of the final ascent but when the favourites lined out - Henao already on the limit having chased back from a puncture – Porte took the race by the scruff of the neck.
"Richie was really impressive," conceded Chaves. The Colombian finished third on the stage, just behind Movistar's Gorka Izagirre and with time bonuses factored in sits third overall, 22 seconds down on Porte with only one realistic chance of clawing back time remaining in the race.
"Richie made three accelerations and I couldn't stay with him. We tried the maximum and I took the third place. I'm happy with that. Everyone worked, Caleb was the leader of the race and he was getting bottles. Howson, Impey, Kluge, Gerrans, everyone worked."
Orica Scott's plan certainly couldn't be faulted. Porte was simply on another level. The Australian team even benefited from the sterile tactics issued from rival teams in the early hours of the stage, but when Porte, who told the media in the morning that he wouldn't wait, accelerated there was no matching him. Izagirre bravely hung on for 50 meters but the stage, and possibly the race was effectively ended soon after.
"We'll continue to Willunga Hill and see what happens," Chaves said.
"It's 20 seconds more or less. It's a big gap but you never know. We'll continue to try and see. Willunga is around seven minutes long. Today was harder because there's more climbing but it's still good for the climbers. It's a different climb."
Willunga has been kind to Porte in the past and he has won there three times. Whether Chaves can mount a challenge remains to be seen. The mood at the Orica camp was one of reluctant defeat after the stage but this is their home race, and it's unlikely that they will roll over and concede.
"It depends on the legs and it depends on tomorrow. People say it could rain tomorrow. That's an important factor. My form is good. In the last few years, at this time of year I've been not bad but not super good. When I've started in France or Catalunya but now I've finished third on one stage in a WorldTour race. I'm happy with that."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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