Rohan Dennis has held on to his Ochre jersey despite a brilliant attack by Richie Porte on Willunga Hill in the penultimate stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.
Porte (Team Sky) launched his attack with less than two kilometres left on Stage 5, with Dennis and BMC teammate Cadel Evans able to go with him early, before Evans found the pace too hot and was dropped.
Dennis clung to Porte’s wheel with everything he had, but with 800 metres to go the pace Porte was pushing was too much, allowing him to pull away from Dennis.
It looked like Porte might be going well enough to gain the 15 seconds he needed to take the lead in the General Classification, but Dennis dug deep and used every ounce of strength to minimise the damage.
After the stage, a relieved Dennis said “Richie went, in hindsight, probably a bit too late because really he had better legs than me today so I gotta thank him but also my team was absolutely awesome, absolutely awesome.”
Porte thoroughly deserved the stage win but looked shattered to see that he had only taken 9 seconds off Dennis, meaning that once time bonuses were applied Dennis had a two second advantage in the GC.
There is still a chance that Porte could win the Tour Down Under in tomorrow’s final stage if he can match it with the sprinters and finish in the top 3; the time bonus would dislodge Dennis, provided Dennis does not also finish in the first 3 placings.
That task is much easier said than done, however, as there will be many teams interested in the stage win, and some very good sprinters likely to feature in the finish.
Porte, himself, admitted that he hasn’t given up hope yet.
“I am very happy to win the stage,” said Porte. “It’s a great way to start the year and my team has been fantastic.
Full credit to Rohan, I mean I gave it to him as hard as I could but it just wasn’t quite to be.
I was hoping to finish it (the GC race) off here but it’s so nice to win on this stage but it is a bit disappointing to be so close to the jersey but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Evans battled on bravely to secure 4th spot on the stage and 3rd position on the GC, meaning a podium finish in his final World Tour race is likely, but he will have been bitterly disappointed that he didn’t have the legs when he needed them most.
Evans trails Dennis by 20 seconds so cannot secure a top 2 finish, but will need to make sure that Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) doesn’t pick up a time bonus, as he has a lead of just 2 seconds over the Dutchman.
Jack Bobridge (Uni SA) has sewn up the Subaru King of the Mountain title as he found his way into another breakaway, and though it disintegrated before the summit of the first climb up Willunga, Bobridge had enough legs to go solo and take the first lot of KOM points on offer.
Bobridge has had an outstanding Tour and has admitted that he may not proceed with his attempt at the Hour Record now.
Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) still leads the iiNET Sprint Classification with 39 points, with Evans 2nd on 37 and Dumoulin 3rd with 36 points. With a potential 25 points on offer for the stage and intermediate sprint winners on the final stage, there is plenty of interest remaining in this Classification.
The final stage is a 90km, 20 lap race around the Adelaide city streets, and a massive crowd is expected. They are certain to be saluting yet another Australian Tour winner, the only question is will be it Dennis or Porte.
Stage 5 Top 10: 151.5km, McLaren Vale – Willunga Hill
1 Richie Porte (AUS) Team Sky 3:37:32
2 Rohan Dennis (AUS) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
3 Rubén Fernandez (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:16
4 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team
5 Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Giant-Alpecin
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:19
7 Tiago Machado (POR) Team Katusha 0:00:24
8 Moreno Moser (ITA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:26
9 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:28
10 Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) FDJ.fr
General Classification Top 10:
1 Rohan Dennis (AUS) BMC Racing Team 17hr 19min 09sec
2 Richie Porte (AUS) Team Sky 0:00:02
3 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team 0:00:20
4 Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:22
5 Rubén Fernandez (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:24
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:31
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:38
8 Tiago Machado (POR) Team Katusha 0:00:46
9 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:52