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In an exciting head-to-head battle with the race leader, Porte dropped Dennis with 500m to go to win the Tour Down Under queen stage again; Dennis limited his losses to defend a 2-second lead ahead of the final stage

Photo: Sirotti










24.01.2015 @ 12:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Richie Porte (Sky) underlined his status as the best climber in the Tour Down Under when he won the queen stage to the top of Willunga Hill for the second year in a row. In an exciting duel with Rohan Dennis (BMC), he dropped the race leader just 500m from the line but Dennis limited his losses sufficiently to defend a narrow 2-second lead over Porte on the eve of the final criterium in Adelaide.


One year ago Richie Porte created huge expectations for his 2014 season when he took an incredible solo win on the top of Willunga Hill to conquer the Tour Down Under queen stage in impressive fashion. The rest of the season ended as a nightmare for the Australian but he is again set for big things after he repeated his performance in the 2015 edition of the battle on Australia’s most famous cycling climb.


Having been disappointed to see BMC dominate stage 3, Porte went into the stage in a determined mood but he found himself on the back foot in the tricky run-in to the final climb. The wind was blowing strongly in the area and when Astana forced the pace with Luis Leon Sanchez, Lars Boom and Dario Cataldo, the peloton split, with only the BMC trio of Peter Stetina, Rohan Dennis and Cadel Evans and the FDJ pair of Arnold Jeannesson and Jeremy Roy able to stay with the trio from the Kazakh team.


The 8 leader went all in to try to get an advantage before the climb and this put Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE on the defensive. Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Luke Durbridge, Simon Clarke and Cameron Meyer had to work hard to bring their leaders back in contention and with 4.5km to go, the junction was made.


All was now set for a big showdown on Willunga Hill and it was Orica-GreenEDGE who took the responsibility to set the pace. Clarke led the peloton onto the climb and when Thomas took over, riders dropped off in large numbers.


However, it was an impressive Meyer who really did some damage, with the 2011 winner riding strongly on the front until only 17 riders were hanging onto his pace. Halfway up the climb, only Porte, Evans, Dennis, Impey, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Tiago Machado (Katusha), Sanchez, Davide Villella, Moreno Moser (both Cannondale-Garmin), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jeannesson, Ruben Fernandez, Gorka Izagirre (both Movistar), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) were still in contention.


With 1.5km to go, Porte made his move but Evans was quick to jump onto his wheel, with Dennis and Dumoulin following in their slipstream. However, there was no fairytale ending for the 2011 Tour champion who quickly cracked and Dennis had to dig deep to bridge the gap with Dumoulin in tow.


While Evans fell back to Fernandez and Pozzovivo, Porte continued to ride hard on the front and when he passed the flamme rouge, both Dennis and Dumoulin were clearly on their limit. The Dutchman was the first to crack with 800m to go but Dennis seemed to be unshakable.


With 500m, the dramatic highlight occurred when Dennis had to let Porte go and from there, it was a battle for second. Porte rode hard all the way to the line, taking no time to celebrate his win in an attempt to maximize his gains.


However, it wasn’t to be for Porte as Dennis crossed the line just 9 seconds later which was enough for him to maintain a narrow 2-second advantage over the Sky leader. Fernandez, Evans and Dumoulin finished 7 seconds later, with Pozzovivo being 3 seconds further adrift.


With his splendid performance, Dennis is now the race leader as they go into the final stage of the race. As usual, the race ends with a fast and flat 90km criterium in Adelaide and even though there are bonus seconds up for grabs, it will be hard for Porte to nullify is deficit on a day when the sprinters are expected to dominate.


The queen stage

After one day for the sprinters, it was time to find out who’s going to win the Tour Down Under in the 151.5km queen stage from McLaren Varen to the top of Willunga Hill. The riders started the race by doing three laps of a flat, windy circuit that partly send them up the coast before they finished the stage by tackling a small circuit that included the Willunga Hill. The riders first went up the climb with 22.8km to go before they descended back down to the bottom to go up the ascent one final time for the finish.


After the big crash in yesterday’s stage, it was a wounded field of riders that turned up for the start under a beautiful sunny sky. Four riders had suffered severe injuries and were unable to continue, with Olivier Le Gac, Lorrenzo Manzin (both FDJ), Travis Meyer (Drapac) and Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Soudal) all failing to take the start.


Aggressive Bobridge

After a short neutral section, the race was off to its usual aggressive start and it was KOM leader Jack Bobridge (UniSA) who kicked off the action. The Australian briefly escaped with 10 riders but that move was too dangerous for BMC who brought it back.


Bobridge refused to give up and when he went again, only Jordan Kerby (UniSA) and Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) followed. The peloton was content with the situation and after 3km, the escapees were already 30 seconds aheasd.


BMC take control

The field was in no hurry and the gap grew very quickly. After 11km of racing, it was 3.45 and 2km further up the road, it had passed the 5-minute mark.


BMC now started to ride tempo on the front and they kept the gap stable between 5.00 and 5.30 for most of the day. However, things got a bit nervous in a crosswind section where splits briefly appeared but things came back together and the peloton calmed down. However, the action had brought the gap down to 4.30 with 100km to go.


Tjallingii abandons

Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) who went down in yesterday’s crash, had to abandon the race while BMC continued to ride on the front. When Kerby beat Henderson and Bobridge in the first intermediate sprint, the gap had been reduced to 4.12.


The peloton again took a final breather before the final showdown and the gap went up to more than 5 minutes before the chase again got serious. With 50km to go, the peloton had the gap down to 3.30 and it seemed that everything was under control.


Kerby cracks

Henderson led Bobridge and Kerby across the line in the final intermediate sprint but at this point, the gap was down to 2.40. The escapees responded well to bring it back up to more than 3 minutes.


The fast pace was too much for Kerby who cracked with 45km to go at a time when the gap was still 2.50. The peloton had again calmed down a bit but as the fight for position kicked in, the gap melted away.


Bobridge wins the mountains competition

At the bottom of Willunga Hill, the gap was 1.47 and Henderson immediately had to let Bobridge. The young Australian lost lots of time but he made it to the top as the first riders to secure his win in the mountains classification.


In the peloton, Astana had taken control and it was Cataldo and Davide Malarcarne who led Dennis, Evans and Sanchez over the top less than one minute later. The fast pace spelled the end for Bobridge who sat up with 20km to go.


Astana continued to ride hard on the front that had been significantly whittled down. When they came down from the descent and hit the flat, windy roads at the bottom, the peloton split and the exciting finale started.



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