Patrick Bevin has broken into the top 10 on GC in his first World Tour season. The Cannondale Pro Cycling rider held his own on the climb of Old Willunga as Richie Porte of BMC Racing took the stage and Orica GreenEDGE’s Simon Gerrans all but sealed his 4th Tour Down Under crown.
McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill is always a treat of a stage to watch. The 151.5km trek is typically the race decider and today was set to prove no exception. Any number of candidates could take overall victory but first came the break of the day. Four riders broke away to form the move with Pim Lithgart of Lotto Soudal, Lars Boom of Astana, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg of Team Dimension Data and Nelson Oliveira of Movistar.
With 25km covered the break had 1.30mins in hand of the bunch and that proceeded to climb to 2.33mins 4km later. Again it was Orica GreenEDGE who led the chase effort but the gap continued to climb as the break’s lead extended to 5.35mins, and eventually peaked at 6 minutes with less than 50km to go. Orica GreenEDGE were still predictably leading the pack, but Tinkoff were paying attention to the front, as were BMC Racing and AG2R La Mondiale. Despite the big gap everybody knew that it could all change on the climb of Old Willunga Hill though.
On the first time up the climb Van Rensburg struck out alone, dropping his companions and cresting the Hill alone before the break caught up with him again, the peloton gradually closing and closing to 1.53mins with 17km remaining. Finally Team Sky lent their support to the chase effort and this saw the break’s lead drop almost like a stone with 28 seconds being vacuumed up within 4km. Not only were the peloton now fighting to get the break back, but they were also fighting to be the first team on the front for the final climb up the Hill.
Cannondale Pro Cycling, BMC Racing, Tinkoff, Team Sky, Lampre Merida and more were all competing with Orica GreenEDGE for the front and that saw the break finally evaporate with 4km remaining. From there it was game on as the riders hit the slopes of the climb. However, the pace set by Peter Kennaugh of Team Sky prevented any attacks going for a good few kilometres before the Hill finally drew out the attackers.
Simon Clarke of Cannondale Pro Cycling went first, with the boys in green enjoying numbers in the front with Michael Woods there and Patrick Bevin also present. He was brought back into the fold quickly though, but another attack went clear from UniSA’s Lucas Hamilton and that grew a dangerous advantage with 1.5km to go.
George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo saw it as his opportunity to spring into life on the climb, and he took it upon himself to launch a counter-move; unfortunately for him though so too did the main contenders. Bennett and Hamilton were both swept up and then Richie Porte of BMC Racing attacked, drawing Michael Woods and Sergio Henao of Team Sky with him.
Initially Woods could hold his wheel but not for long, as the stage quickly became a two-horse race between Henao and his former teammate who stamped on the pedals, not caring for a sharing of the pace setting at this late stage of the climb. Porte’s efforts were rewarded, with his experience of winning up Old Willunga Hill finally cracking Sergio Henao who dropped off of the Australian’s wheel; leaving Porte to celebrate solo across the line for the third year running. He had confirmed himself as the master of Old Willunga Hill.
Sergio Henao crossed the line second 6 seconds later and maintaining his lead in the king of the mountains classification. Meanwhile Michael Woods crossed the line third. Behind him it was all about the clock, and Simon Gerrans crossed the line with 9 seconds still in hand in the GC battle in a group that included Patrick Bevin who finished 10th on the line and moved into 10th overall. With one day to go Bevin holds 2 seconds over Diego Ulissi in 11th; while Cannondale Pro Cycling are also 9 seconds clear of Movistar as leaders of the team classification.
After his gutsy attack up the climb, George Bennett finished 17th on the line behind Louis Meintjes of Lampre-Merida, moving himself into the top 20. Jesse Sergent of AG2R La Mondiale finished in a group containing former Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal; while Greg Henderson of Lotto Soudal finished alone behind Sean Lake of Uni-SA and Alexis Gougeard of AG2R La Mondiale.