Richie Porte confirmed that he is ready to make up for a disappointing 2014 season when he took a maiden win in the Australian time trial championships. After a close battle with Rohan Dennis on the hilly course in Buninyoung, he came away with a narrow 7-second win over the BMC rider while Jack Bobridge completed a podium that was without any riders from Orica-GreenEDGE.
2014 was a poor year for Richie Porte who suffered from health issues for most of the season. However, the Sky rider has claimed that he is now back at full health and today he fired a warning shot to his Giro d'Italia rivals when he won the Australian time trial championships.
Porte was up against Rohan Dennis and Jack Bobridge who are both training for Hour Record attempts in the near future but his in-form compatriots were unable to match his speed on the 40.9km course in Buninyoung. He gauged his effort perfectly to overcome a deficit at the halfway point where Dennis was fastest ahead of Bobridge and the Sky rider. In the end, Porte had turned things around, beating Dennis by 7 seconds, while Bobridge had to settle for third at 26 seconds.
Orica-GreenEDGE had lined up their three time trial stars Luke Durbridge, Damien Howson and reigning champion Michael Hepburn who all finished on the podium 12 months ago but for the first time in the history of the team, the Australian squad was unable to take the jersey. Durbridge could only manage fourth, Howson was fifth and Hepburn had a disappointing ride for seventh. U23 world champion Campbell Flakemore was 6th in the high-level field while former triple world champion Michael Rogers could only manage 8th.
The race was held on a 40.9km out-and-back course in Buninyoung and there was virtually no flat road at all. It was always up or down, making it a different affair compared to last year's flat route.
The first rider down the ramp was 51-year-old Brett Cottee who took off in rainy conditions but it was the fourth rider Dylan Pierre-Humbert who was the first to reach the finish. His time 54.36 turned out to be surprisingly hard to beat and he led the race for most of the day before ultimately finishing 11th.
The first rider to get close to Pierre-Humbert was Mitchell Lovelock-Fay but he was 56 seconds slower than the leader when he slotted into second. Along the way, it seemed that Craig Evers would take the lead but when the youngster crossed the line, he had been beaten by 16 seconds.
Nick Bensley was even closer as he was only 15 seconds from taking the lead but Pierre-Humbert remained firmly placed in the hot seat until Drapac's Lachlan Norris hit the course. He lowered the mark by 11 seconds to take the provisional lead in the race.
Former U23 champion Jordan Kerby had a poor ride to flot into 10th and so all eyes were on Bobridge who was expected to be the first contender for the overall victory. The Budget Forklifts rider didn't disappoint as he stopped the clock in a time that was 2.08 faster than Norris'.
Bobridge held off the challenges from William Clarke and Campbell Flakemore who slotted into second, but it quickly became clear that he was about to be beaten. Despite being behind Bobridge at the midpoint, Porte set a new best time by lowering the mark by 26 seconds.
Michael Rogers could only make it into third but all eyes now were on Dennis who had set the fastest split time. In the end, however, he had to be content with second.
After Ben Dyball had set the 6th best time, only the Orica-GreenEDGE trio of Howson, Durbridge and Hepburn remained. Howson set the fourth best time before he was beaten by his teammate Durbridge and when Hepburn could only manage 7th, Porte could step onto the podium as the winner.
Most of the contenders from today's race will be back in action on Sunday in the road race.
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