Santos Tour Down Under
Stage 6) McLaren Vale - Willunga Hill
Willunga Hill brings down the curtain over Tour Down Under
Last stage of the 22nd Tour Down Under had an interesting development, with a 26-man group featuring Shane Archbold and Iljo Keisse taking off early and gradually building a nice gap which went north of five minutes, thus putting quite the pressure on the peloton. The escapees worked well together, and as a result, the gap was still holding at over four minutes with 60 kilometers remaining.
The first of the two trips up Willunga Hill brought that much needed change of pace for the chasers, who shed riders out the back as they finally began to cut the leaders’ gap to around two minutes. As the break split into several groups, more teams decided to chip in and pull behind the riders up the road, who threatened to deliver a major shake-up to the general classification.
Mattia Cattaneo and Dries Devenyns were still part of the reduced peloton on the early slopes of the second ascent of Willunga Hill, when the first big attacks came, adding further damage to the group. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) was the one to pile on the pressure and take off with 1500 meters to go, surging to overall success, as Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) soloed to the stage victory from the break after more than three hours in the saddle.
For the third consecutive year, Dries Devenyns concluded the Tour Down Under as the best placed Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider on the general classification – in 12th, only three seconds off the top 10 – and just ahead of teammate Mattia Cattaneo, whose strong display in his first race for the team bodes well for the rest of the season. In addition to these results, the Wolfpack notched up three top 3 finishes, including Sam Bennett’s maiden victory for the squad, on the very first day of the season.
“It was obvious it was going to be a large group in the front today, so we sent two guys up the road and they did a good job. At the same time, Dries and Mattia waited in the bunch and gave their best to make it in the top 10 overall, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Despite that, they can draw a lot of confidence from how they rode this week. Same goes for Sam, who took that nice win in Tanunda and showed that his form is on the rise for the next appointments here in Australia”, sports director Rik Van Slycke explained after the year’s first World Tour event.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images