Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) took a superb fourth stage victory at the 2017 Tour Down Under, edging out Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the race’s final stage as Richie Porte (BMC Racing) secured overall victory.
The 22-year-old Australian had been peerless on every flat stage of the race so far, and so it proved once again as even the world champion was unable to match him in a head-to-head sprint.
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Both men had excellent lead-outs, with Ewan’s Orica-Scott team controlling the final lap, while Sagan was brought to the front at the very last minute by a strong Jay McCarthy.
Well-positioned and with no challengers coming from behind, both men allowed themselves a second of respite, before Sagan opened up his sprint from Ewan’s wheel with 250m.
However, despite his youth, Ewan showed no signs of inexperience, reacting quickly and never letting Sagan get closer than half a bike length as he crossed the lines with his arms aloft for the fourth time this week.
Marko Kump (UAE Abu Dhabi) took third ahead of Team Sky‘s Danny Van Poppel, while further back in the peloton there were no dramas for Richie Porte, who was confirmed as the overall winner of the race after his excellent victories on the uphill finishes into Paracombe on stage two and to Willunga Hill on stage five.
With Porte holding a a 48-second lead at the top of the general classification, there was little chance of any challenge to the ochre jersey on the final stage, but with just six seconds covering second to fourth in GC, and six seconds of bonus seconds available at the intermediate sprints, the minor podium places were all to play for.
The first few laps of the 4.5km circuit around the centre of Adelaide were animated by an early escape by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors), with De Gendt chasing king of the mountains points having come into the final stage tied in that standing with Porte.
That duo built up a maximum advantage of 30 seconds, but with an early intermediate sprint at the end of the eighth lap, Bora-Hansgrohe worked hard to bring the break back as they looked to secure vital bonus seconds for Jay McCarthy.
McCarthy was sat fourth overall going into the stage, three seconds behind Nathan Haas and six seconds behind Esteban Chaves, so it was no surprise to see representatives from Dimension Data and Orica-Scott also challenge at the sprint point.
However in Peter Sagan, McCarthy couldn’t have hoped for a better lead out man, jumping off the two-time world champion’s wheel to take the time bonus as Caleb Ewan just running out of road to deny his fellow Australian, meaning that McCarthy leap-frogged Haas into third.
With the sprint out of the way, there was then an opportunity for De Gendt to jump clear once again, being pulled away from peloton by team-mate Adam Hansen.
Hansen set the pace up the short rise to the KOM point at Montefiore Hill, before easing off to allow De Gendt to take the points and move himself into an outright lead in the mountains classification.
The most threatening move of the race escaped on the eleventh lap of the race, with an eight-man group going clear consisting of Johannes Frohlinger (Team Sunweb), Ben O’Connor , Jaco Venter (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Francois Bidard (Ag2R La Mondiale), Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors), Sven Bystrom and Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin).
That group opened quickly opened a decent gap on the main field, allowing them to contest the intermediate sprint on stage 12 amongst themselves.
That contest was won by Restrepo, who picked up the three-second time bonus to move himself into the top-ten overall, before sitting up and dropping back to the peloton together with Frohlinger.
The remaining six riders continued to work well together, opening a gap of nearly a minute with 25km to go.
In the peloton it was no surprise to see Orica-Scott setting the pace, with the Australian team looking to put the cherry on top of a perfect race that had already seen three wins for Ewan.
Damian Howson was doing much of the work, but he was helped by Astana’s Luis-Leon Sanchez and Katusha’s Tiago Machado to quickly reduce the gap to the leaders, catching most of the group with four laps to go, but needing two more laps to haul in the impressive Jack Bauer, who secured the most combative rider prize for the third consecutive stage.
With two laps to go and Bauer caught, the sprint trains start to assemble, with Team Sky, Orica-Scott, UAE Abu Dhabi, and Trek-Segafredo all looking well-organised towards the front of the peloton, while Dimension Data were also in close attendance as they looked to set up Nathan Haas to take a few bonus seconds and move himself back onto the podium.
With 3km to go it was Orica-Scott who took control with three riders in front of Ewan, obviously nervous about any attacks on Montefiore Hill.
The attacks didn’t come, and Orica-Scott were able to position Ewan perfectly going into the final 500m, even if Ewan had to make good use of his elbows to protect his position on his lead out man Daryl Impey’s wheel from Danny Van Poppel.
However Ewan’s real challenge came from behind, as a poorly positioned Peter Sagan was brought all the way around the outside of the group by Jay McCarthy.
Sagan then briefly eased up to drift onto Ewan’s wheel, before both men unleashed their sprints.
With no challengers coming from behind, it was a two horse race for the final 200 metres, and despite having a clear run to the line Sagan was unable to get within half a bike length of the young Australian, who took his fourth stage of the race as compatriot Richie Porte rolled in safely in the peloton to secure overall victory.
Tour Down Under 2017, stage six: Adelaide – Adelaide (90km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica – Scott, in 1-55-28
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Marko Kump (Slo) UAE Abu Dhabi
4. Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
5. Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
6. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ
7. Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek – Segafredo
8. Jasha Sutterlin (Ger) Movistar
9. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
10. Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora- Hansgrohe, all same time
40. Ben Swift (Gbr) UAE Abu Dhabi, same time
Final overall classification
1. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, in 19-55-49
2. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Scott at 48s
3. Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 51s
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data, same time
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Abu Dhabi, at 59s
6. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing, at 1:02
7. Rafael Valls (Esp) Lotto Soudal
8. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, all same time
10. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1:04
12. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 1:06