Tour Down Under: Porte wins atop Willunga Hill

Richie Porte (Team Sky) took the final madcap dash up Willunga Hill on Saturday to win stage 5 and nearly take the overall lead at the Tour Down Under, but Rohan Dennis (BMC) will wear the leader's ochre jersey into Sunday's final stage having finished second today.

Porte repeated his 2014 win on Willunga Hill by making the first selection into the 25-rider front group on the final climb and then launching two devastating attacks that unhinged his competitors, allowing him to solo across the line. Dennis was the last to lose contact with Porte, but he came in nine seconds later to save his overall lead by two seconds. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Cadel Evans (BMC) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) all finished 16 seconds in arrears.

"I know this climb really, really well, better than the finish in Paracaombe," Porte said after the stage. "I'm just disappointed that I came short of getting the jersey."

"The race isn’t over just yet and we will take it as it comes tomorrow,Porte added. "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. I am not massive on the whole maths of things but I sat down with our sports scientists last night and we went through those 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

"Full credit to Rohan. I gave it to him as hard as I could but it just wasn't quite to be. I'm very happy to win the stage. It's a great way to start the year. I had it rough last year so it's just nice to get it off to a good start."

Dennis explained after the stage that "nobody could talk" in the final kilometres of the race and it was simply follow Porte's wheel and hang on for as long as possible.

"It was just stay at the front, as usual. Stay out of the wind and just follow. Luckily they set a good tempo in the front and it sort of nullified in the attacks from behind. Richie sort of went. In hindsight, probably a little bit too late because really, he had better legs than me today. I gotta thank him, but also my team is absolutely awesome."

How it unfolded

Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under got off to a quick start with just a 500 metre neutral zone. Early attacks came and it was stage one victor Jack Bobridge (UniSA) trying to force a move with 10 others. That move eventuated in nothing but with three kilometres done, Bobridge tired again and managed to drag Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal) and John Kerby (Drapac) along with him to build a 30 second lead.

The peloton was quick to decide that this was a safe trio to let go and with 10km done, the gap was 1:50 minutes. That gap quickly swelled to over five minutes, the biggest lead any break has enjoyed so far in this race. Just as he was yesterday, Bobridge was the leader on the road having started the stage 39 seconds in arrears to Dennis.

On the second lap through Willunga, Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) called it a day after his big crash in the finale of stage 4 left him with bandages covering his arm and leg.

The trio’s lead remained steady as BMC controlled the pace back in the main bunch, content to let them enjoy some TV time. When the leaders reached the first sprint point in Snapper Points after 63.1km, it was Kerby winning the sprint ahead of Henderson.

There was little change to affairs with the break holding a steady four and half minute lead. When the three leaders came around to contest the second sprint point of the day, it was Henderson claiming the win with no competition from Kerby or Bobridge.

Having started to show the efforts of being in the break which was averaging a speed of 41km/h., with 44km to go Kerby sat up and was absorbed by the peloton
Bobridge and Henderson continued to turn the pedal overs but with the first of the two climbs up Willunga Hill getting closer by the kilometre, the peloton was busy cutting their advantage to under three minutes.

With Bobridge looking to claim maximum points on the climb up Willunga Hill to secure the KOM classification, the leading duo pressed on while Tinkoff-Saxo were working to place Michael Rogers at the front of the peloton at the base of the climb with Henderson and Bobridge holding a 1:50 minute advantage.

A Madison sling by Henderson propelled Bobridge into the lead at the base of the climb with a one minute lead over the bunch. Bobridge paced himself up the hill to solo over the KOM point ahead loud cheering from the crowd and secure himself the jersey with his lead over the bunch down to under a minute.

Dario Cataldo took it upon himself to drive the Astana train up the hill and was second over the KOM point with their man Luis Leon Sanchez aiming for a good result.

Bobridge was reeled in down Range Road by the peloton which had been drastically trimmed on the climb. A group containing Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) brought up the rear with riders feeling the effects of the three-and-a-half kilometre climb.

While Astana led the bunch on the roads back into Willunga before the final ascent, BMC and Team Sky were sitting in just behind the torquise clad quarter of riders. Tinkoff-Saxo and Orica-GreenEdge also positioned themselves at the front with the likes of Thiago Machado (Katusha) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) tucked in behind.

With eight kilometres left in the day, Astana were still driving the peloton with Lars Boom taking over the pace making and causing a small split that caught out Team Sky and Porte. A group containing Boom, Cataldo and Sanchez were joined by the BMC trio of Peter Stetina, Evans and race leader Dennis, plus the FDJ duo of Jérémy Roy and Arnold Jeannesson.

With five kilometres to go, the group had trimmed to six riders with Team Sky’s work bringing it all together, and at the base of the climb it was together again with Simon Clarke riding tempo.

The pace on the lower slopes soon pared the leaders down to a 25-rider group, including all of the favourites. Orica pushed the pace to set up Impey, but it was two devastating attacks by Porte that won the day. Porte's first attack inside the final kilometre dislodged everyone except Dennis and Dumoulin. His next acceleration knocked the Giant rider off the pace. Dennis fought to hold on, but he also eventually lost contact. Porte purred on from there, but in the end he came up two seconds short of the overall lead.


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Stage 5 result
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky3:37:32
2Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team0:00:09
3Rubén Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:16
4Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 4 - Cell 2
6Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:19
7Tiago Machado (Por) Team Katusha0:00:24
8Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team0:00:26
9Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:28
10Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.frRow 9 - Cell 2
11Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM CyclingRow 10 - Cell 2
12Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdgeRow 11 - Cell 2
13George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:00:32
14Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Lampre-Merida0:00:38
15Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo0:00:48
16Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 16 - Cell 2