Team Sky seeking win on final stage to complete successful Tour Down Under

The British squad just needs a stage win to complete all its objectives at the season opening race

Photo: Graham Watson

Team Sky has one more opportunity to secure the stage victory it seeks in what has otherwise been deemed a successful campaign at the Tour Down Under.

Sports director Kurt Asle Arvesen had to clear his throat after the queen stage today in which Sergio Henao was not quite able to match winner Richie Porte’s acceleration in an uphill dual for line honours.

“I was screaming so much on the radio,” Asle Arvesen said. “Ale, venga, venga!”

Henao finished second at the end of stage five profiting from the tireless work of his team-mates that took charge of the chasing front group within the final 15km.

The Colombian currently sits third overall and is leading the mountain classification with tomorrow’s criterium finale unlikely to affect either outcome.

Versatile sprinter Ben Swift has been around in the fast finishes that Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) has so far dominated and could deliver the team to its last race objective.

Tour Down Under stage five highlights 

“Our goal was top three and a stage win. Hopefully we can keep the top three and now we’ve got the king of the mountain jersey as a bonus. We try for Swifty tomorrow,” he said.

Henao entered the race on the back of training at his native Colombia with him and Welshman Geraint Thomas potential options for the general classification challenge.

Thomas did not have the climbing legs on the first test at Corkscrew having adopted a different approach to the race than previous years with his season objectives, including stepping up with Chris Froome at the Tour de France, falling later in the season.

“We knew that maybe he [Thomas] was not as sharp as on his best days here Down Under. He’s taken an easier approach to the season and little different training, not so much quality, more quantity. He performed more or less like I expected actually,” Asle Arvesen said.

“I didn’t really know how good [Henao] was because he came directly from Colombia from altitude. Normally every year when he comes to Mallorca on the training camp, directly from Colombia, he’s flying, so that’s why we brought him here, and he showed that he was in good form.”

Meanwhile, Adam Blythe again dug-in today for team-mate Jay McCarthy, who sits fourth overall and leads the best young rider classification following a breakthrough week in which he won a stage and also marked a stint in the leader’s jersey.

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“I had a good first couple of days and then Jay obviously did an amazing job and won a stage. We’ve not been out of the top five since we’ve been here so it’s been good,” Blythe said before the start in McLaren Vale.

Blythe has also been active in bunch sprint finishes and, like Swift, will have an opportunity in the 90km criterium finale.

He, in an indication of form with new team Tinkoff, finished third behind Ewan and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) at a prelude criterium before the Tour Down Under.

“There’s a few more steps to build on but it’s going well,” Blythe said of his sprint.

“First race of the season, I keep having to remind myself Christmas was only three weeks ago.”

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Sophie Smith is an Australian journalist, broadcaster and author of Pain & Privilege: Inside Le Tour. She follows the WorldTour circuit, working for British, Australian and US press, and has covered 10 Tours de France.