Richie Porte sealed his second overall victory at the Tour Down Under with a dazzling attack up Willunga Hill to bring the race back together and cross the line ahead of all his GC opponents.
No-one could stay with the Tasmanian as he sprinted out of the saddle up the climb, breakaways fracturing ahead and slipping back to the main field. Apart from Brit Matthew Holmes that is, who had been part of an earlier move.
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The Lotto-Soudal rider took up Porte’s wheel as he rode away from the rest of the field, then proving to have the stronger legs as he countered the Trek-Segafredo rider’s sprint for the line in the last hundred metres.
Nevertheless, Porte hasn’t been beaten on Willunga Hill since 2014 and Holmes’ victory in his first-ever WorldTour race is a statement of intent.
Daryl Impey was unable to defend his race lead, fading on the final climb, whilst Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Geschke (CCC) both finished seven seconds behind Porte to take up second and third place on the podium.
Rohan Dennis finished fourth in his debut race for Ineos, while Daryl Impey ended up in sixth, 30 seconds down on Porte. Simon Yates was the best of the Brits, the Mitchelton-Scott rider finishing seventh in the general classification.
How it happened
The final stage six of the 2020 Tour Down Under provided a thrilling finale to what has been an exciting week of racing. The main event of the day would be the two ascents of Willunga Hill, the second providing the summit finish line. Impey would be looking to defend his slender lead from Richie Porte, who has won on this climb every year since 2014.
26 riders went clear inside the opening kilometres, including Ineos’ Luke Rowe and Joey Rosskopf. The CCC rider was looking to secure his KoM jersey but also posed a threat on GC, sitting only 58 seconds down in the overall classification.
André Greipel (Israel Cycling Academy) won the first intermediate sprint before Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Iljo Keisse took a tumble following a touch of wheels. Keisse’s team-mate Sam Bennett would then roll through to take the second intermediate sprint.
World champion Mads Pedersen drove the peloton as Trek-Segafredo looked to set things up for Richie Porte. With the breakaway two minutes ahead with just over 20km remaining, Astana’s Luis León Sánchez attacked in an attempt to bridge the gap.
Joey Rosskopf led the break over the first ascent of Willunga Hill to claim the necessary points to claim the KoM classification, with the group’s advantage out to over 2-30 with 10km remaining. However, at the foot of Willunga Hill for the second time, the break’s lead was down to just over a minute with 3km to go.
The bunch began to sweep up Sanchez’s breakaway group but a number of riders were still up the road. Meanwhile, Daryl Impey’s dreams of taking a record third successive ochre jersey were fading fast as he dropped back with 2km still to climb.
Sunweb’s Michael Storer had attacked the bunch earlier on the climb and now found himself up front in a trio with Matthew Holmes and Groupama-FDJ’s Bruno Armirail, defending a 23-second lead with just the final kilometre left to race.
Porte then launched his attack, with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) jumping on his wheel before the Tasmanian kicked again under the 1km banner.
Porte caught the leading trio with 800m to go, then accelerating again with 500m left. He looked to have put in a decisive gap to the last riders challenging him for the stage win, but Matthew Holmes found the energy to ride back up to his wheel.
Porte went again around the final bend to the finish but Holmes proved to have the fresher legs, coming past the Tasmanian to cross the finish line first.
Despite Porte being bested on Willunga Hill for the first time since 2014, he still punched the air as he had sealed his second overall victory in his home stage race.
Tour Down Under 2020: Stage six, McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill (151.5km)
1. Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto-Soudal,in 3-24-54
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at three seconds
3. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana, at 4s
4. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7s
5. Michael Storer (Aus) Sunweb
6. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
7. Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC
8. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos
9. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos, all at same time
10. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 23s
Final general classification
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, in 20-37-08
2. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 25 seconds
3. Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC
4. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos
5. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos, all at same time
6. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 30s
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 37s
8. George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 46s
9. Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 52s
10. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-McLaren, at 54s
Final points classification
1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates, 63 pts
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, 48 pts
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, 47pts
Final KoM classification
1. Joey Rosskopf (USA) CCC, 51 pts
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, 38 pts
3. Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, 18 pts
Final youth classification
1. Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos, in 20-38-13
2. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain McLaren, at 15s
3. Jarrad Drizners (Aus) UniSA-Australia, at 31s
Final team classification
1. Ineos (Gbr), in 61-53-19
2. Mitchelton-Scott (Aus), at 25s
3. Sunweb (Ger), at 1-19