Rohan Dennis retains race lead after Tour Down Under stage five showdown on Willunga Hill
Porte powered away from a reduced group, which included title contenders Dennis, his BMC team-mate Cadel Evans and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), within the final 1.2km to celebrate a solo victory atop Willunga for the second consecutive year.
The 29-year-old jumped from fifth to second overall with the win and now trails Dennis by two seconds ahead of tomorrow’s criterium finale. With sprinters including eight-time Tour de France stage winner Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) looking to end the race on a high-note, Porte is unlikely to make up the deficit with the time bonuses on offer.
The race began in earnest when Astana took advantage of crosswinds with 10km remaining and caused a split in the peloton. Dennis and Evans were among about seven riders that made the split but their advantage was short lived with Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo working to close the gap.
The leaders rejoined the main group with 4.5km to go as teams prepared for the final ascent to the finish. Geraint Thomas (Sky) moved to the front and set the pace at the start of the climb before peeling off, his work for Porte done. Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) took over with his team leader Daryl Impey second wheel ahead of Dennis and Evans.
The former Tour de France champion Evans, in his last WorldTour race before retirement, lost contact when Porte accelerated. Dennis and Dumoulin chased with the latter slowing as the road ramped further up. Porte’s second kick with some 600m remaining guaranteed victory with a visibly exhausted Dennis finishing nine seconds adrift.
Earlier, Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) and Jordan Kerby (Drapac) animated the race. The trio escaped within the first 10km of the decisive stage to form the main break. The group built a maximum time advantage in excess of five minutes – the largest of the tour – before one by one returning to the pack.
Kerby was the first to be caught with 34.8km to go as the peloton began to steadily chase down the gap. Henderson provided Bobridge with a respectful hand-sling before he sat-up inside the last 25km, gesturing to the cameras he could not push on. Bobridge secured the polka dot jersey and gave his home-town crowd something to cheer for as he led the race over the first pass of Willunga before too returning to the peloton in what he surely can deem a successful tour after a stage win and stint in the leader’s jersey.
Kittel is a favourite going into tomorrow’s 90km Adelaide criterium but will have fair competition, with NFTO signing Steele von Hoff showing his winning speed just yesterday.
Tour Down Under 2015, stage five: McClaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky 3-37-32
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC at 9 secs
3. Rubén Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 16 secs
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 19 secs
7. Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha at 24 secs
8. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin at 26 secs
9. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 28 secs
10. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ at same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC 17-19-09
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 2 secs
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 20 secs
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 22 secs
5. Rubén Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 24 secs
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 31 secs
7. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge at 38 secs
8. Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha at 46 secs
9. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 52 secs
10. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling at 53 secs