Richie Porte all but sealed his first GC win in the Santos Tour Down Under by taking his fifth career stage win in the race and his fourth on Old Willunga Hill. Porte of BMC Racing now leads the overall standings by 48 seconds ahead of Esteban Chaves and 51 seconds ahead of Nathan Haas. Elsewhere Jack Bauer was attacking again, once again being crowned most aggressive rider.
It was always going to be the big decider. 151.5km from McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill; the climb itself to be tackled twice in the final 30km of racing. The stage has become all about Richie Porte in recent years as he’s made this race his own. But the early stages of the race were once again illuminated by Jack Bauer of Quick Step-Floors. The Kiwi who was yesterday’s most aggressive rider once again infiltrated the breakaway in the company of Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal, Will Clarke of Cannondale-Drapac and Jeremy Maison of FDJ.
The journey would be a tough one if they were going to last any great length of time, particularly with BMC Racing in control of matters behind them. The advantage for the break grew to 2.30mins, but for Thomas De Gendt it was not as much the stage honours that were first and foremost in his mind as it was the chance to secure the king of the mountains classification.
With 103km of the race covered the pace was high in both the bunch and break, with De Gendt forcing the pace in the break and stretching the lead to 2.50mins. On the climb of Old Willunga Hill for the first time, Thomas De Gendt and Jack Bauer were clearly the strongest as Will Clarke dropped off the pace. Behind them Jeremy Maison hung on to the duo, while behind them Team Sky, Orica-SCOTT, Lotto Soudal and BMC all jostled for the front of the race. The gap had been reduced to less than 2 minutes at the top but from there the time gap would plummet still further.
Despite Jack Bauer belting down the descent at some 92kph, it was the speed of the peloton – exceeding 100kph – that brought the gap right down to just under a minute. With less than 10km to go the leading trio were finally swept up by Orica-SCOTT and the peloton, and after being in the breakaway for the day, Jack Bauer now turned domestique for his teammates.
On the climb of Old Willunga Hill the creme of the crop emerged with Esteban Chaves of Orica-SCOTT, Sergio Henao of Team Sky, Diego Ulissi of UAE Abu Dhabi, Jay McCarthy of Bora-Hansgrohe and Nathan Haas of Dimension Data all forcing the issue at the front. But so too was Richie Porte.
On the latter stages of the climb Porte was isolated and without teammates, but after a brief attack by Sergio Henao Porte pounced. With 1.5km to go Porte danced up the climb solo to claim the stage convincingly with Nathan Haas and Esteban Chaves crossing the line 20 seconds further back.
Jack Bauer crossed the line 2.10mins in arrears with Patrick Bevin and further two minutes back after working for teammate Tom Jelte-Slagter for the day. But the story wasn’t over for Bauer as he’d once again – for the second day in succession – earned himself the most aggressive rider title; following on from his exploits .