Matthew Holmes announced himself to the rest of the WorldTour by winning stage six of the Tour Down Under, with some even calling for Willunga Hill to be renamed Wiganlunga after the Brit’s exploits in Australia.
Richie Porte will no doubt be disappointed at having lost his streak of wins up the climb, dating back to 2014, but will be satisfied with a second overall title at his home stage race.
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More interestingly, is what this performance could mean for the rest of Porte’s season. Since leaving Sky in 2015 to pursue his own Grand Tour ambitions he’s had a fairly tough time of it. The 34-year-old’s best Tour de France finish is fifth in 2016 and in the following years he’s had two DNFs followed by an 11th on GC in 2019.
What will give the Tasmanian hope, however, is that judging by his own performance on Willunga Hill he seems to be flying this year.
According to his Strava data, Porte knocked half a minute off his previous best times on Willunga Hill over the past two years. While Strava measures the climb 700m short of the 3.7km in the Tour Down Under roadbook, it still provides a reference point with which to compare the Trek-Segafredo rider.
In 2018, Porte finished the climb in 7-08 as he beat Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) by eight seconds on the day.
Then in 2019, having transferred to Trek-Segafredo, he improved his time by six seconds to 7-02, beating Impey and Wout Poels (Ineos) on the line but again finishing runner-up to the South African in the general classification.
However, his 2020 time blows these two most recent attempts out of the water, not only breaking the seven-minute barrier but smashing it.
Averaging a speed of 17mph, Porte climbed the 729ft of elevation in 6-34, beating his 2019 time by 28 seconds.
The difference may well have been that in 2020 he had many riders up the road to use as markers, which will have helped his effort.
In 2018 and 2019, Porte attacked with around 1.4km to go on the same section of road where the gradient increased. In 2018 he had only Wout Poels and Kenny Elissonde further up the road to aim for and the following year he attacked on his own and soloed to victory.
However this year there were two fragmenting groups ahead of the GC pack, which Porte had to work his way through to try and take both the stage win and overall victory instead of making one big effort to drop the field.
With Simon Yates tracking Porte as they dispensed with the rest of the field with 1.5km to go, also catching breakaway riders, the Australian then attacked under the 1km banner. He bridged the gap to Holmes’ group 200m later, before attacking again with 500m remaining. The fact that Porte had to fight the Lotto-Soudal rider right up to the finish line meant there was no let-up at all.
Porte’s new best time on the climb is nine seconds faster than Simon Geschke (CCC), who rode a strong race and final climb to rise up to the third GC spot.
Meanwhile, Impey now holds the ninth-best time on the climb, despite faltering and losing the race lead, eventually ending up in sixth on GC, 30 seconds down.
Whether the circumstance of the stage finale was the reason behind Porte’s speedy ascent or an indicator of his form this season, we’ll just have to wait to find out.