Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) claimed a fine win in the 132 kilometre second stage of the Santos Tour Down Under from Unley to Stirling, making it two out of two for the host nation. McCarthy beat a fast-finishing Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to the line, with defending champion Rohan Dennis (BMC) doing his overall ambitions no harm with a third place finish. Kiwi Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) is making the most of his World Tour debut, taking a fine sixth place after his team put in a strong effort in the finale.
Stage 2 was another lumpy course from Unley to Stirling, with the 132km starting by going straight up from Unley before entering a circuit to be completed no less than 5 and a half times in all before the finish. The stage was shaped by a long solo move by eternal optimist Adam Hansen (Lotto), who spent 86 of the 132 kilometres off the front. Hansen attacked after an early move by Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Patrick Lane (UniSA), and Yoann Offredo (FDJ) was brought back.
However, Orica-GreenEdge were working at the head of the peloton to keep the lead manageable, never allowing Hansen much more than two minutes. Hansen spent much of the race as the virtual race leader, but on the approach to the final circuit some of the other teams started taking an interested in bringing the lone leader back into the fold, with BMC lending a hand in the chase.
With some 18 kilometres left to go, the bunch swallowed up Hansen, as the main players sent their teams to the front to deter attacks and keep things together on the run in to the final ascent and sprint. A number of other teams were now in evidence at the front of the peloton, with Lampre-Merida clearly focussed on delivering victory for Ulissi, while most of the other major teams including Astana, Sky, Cannondale, Tinkoff, Trek-Segafredo, Katusha, and Giant-Alpecin also put in showings on or near the front of affairs.
The peloton strung out as they headed into the final kilometres up the climb, as the attacks started coming hard and fast. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) made a move, with Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal) on his wheel. That was quashed as Cannondale-Garmin organised at the front and wiped out Kennaugh’s lead, with a drastically reduced group on their wheels. However, the peloton was badly disrupted as an Astana rider went down with some 500 metres to go, taking one of the stage favourites, Simon Gerrrans (Orica-GreenEdge) with him, as well as Gerrans’ leadout man Daryl Impey.
The crash caused disruption for the riders hoping to move up the right side of the road, but played into the hands of those on the left hand side, and in the ensuing chaos first Tinkoff, then Lampre came through, but McCarthy took it for Tinkoff, just ahead of Ulissi, with Rohan Dennis staking his claim with a strong third place finish. His team mate Danilo Wyss followed him home in fourth, with Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) finishing in fifth, just ahead of Bevin.
The result means that McCarthy takes over the race lead, four seconds ahead of Ulissi, with Dennis in third, a further two seconds behind. Bevin moved up into 6th place overall, ten seconds behind the leader.
Tomorrow the riders face a 139 kilometre stage from Glenelg to Campbelltown, but for those with an eye on overall victory, their sights will already be set on stage five, with the finish on Willunga Hill promising to be decisive once more when it comes to deciding the home of the leader’s jersey.