Mitchelton-Scott teammates Caleb Ewan and Daryl Impey led from BORA-Hansgrohe teammates Jay McCarthy and Peter Sagan in stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under. The sprint to Stirling was a tricky one and suited the power sprinters with a little climbing ability, but Ewan was the best of them all. George Bennett finished safely in the bunch to remain in a strong position going into the next few days of racing.
148.6km took the riders from Unley and through the three laps of the finishing circuit to Stirling. Questions loomed over whether Andre Greipel would be able to back up from his stage win the day before in a location he’d never before won despite having won an impressive 17 Tour Down Under stages in his career.
The early break of the day featured Nicholas Dlamini of Dimension Data, looking to consolidate his lead in the king of the mountains classification, Will Clarke of EF Education First-Drapac, Scott Bowden of UniSA-Australia and Jaimie Castrillo of Movistar. Dlamini was the first to drop back, but not until he’d taken the points at the top of the KOM climb that would guarantee him the jersey for at least another day.
All in all the break managed to build a lead of 6.30mins before the teams of Lotto Soudal and Bahrain-Merida worked together to bring back the advantage. Eventually Will Clarke – after taking first place across the intermediate sprints – and Scott Bowden both dropped back to the bunch, leaving Jaimie Castrillo on the front and alone as he went through Stirling for the first time. He maintained a lead of around 1.15mins with 35km to go but inevitably the catch was going to be made.
Bahrain-Merida were still on the front of the pack as the lone leader’s advantage was held in limbo. Behind him a new development in the pack saw AG2R La Mondiale and Bora-Hansgrohe both sent riders up the road to contribute to the chase effort. The lift in the pace at the front – which also saw Trek-Segafredo get in on the action – saw Castrillo’s lead drop to under a minute with 20km left to race.
Next to challenge on the front of the race was EF Education First-Drapac and they really drilled the peloton in pursuit of Castrillo. Challenging them on the front were Team Sunweb and BORA-Hansgrohe, and with multiple teams all wanting a piece of the action on the front it served to bring Castrillo’s lead right back until he was finally swept up with 14km remaining.
At 10km to go EF Education First-Drapac continued to lead with Quick-Step Floors challenging on the front of the race this time. A good deal of the peloton were still together, although Greipel was not. He would eventually lose 7.27mins and his ochre jersey. Tom Scully and Jack Bauer were both visible on the front of the peloton for their respective outfits. Bauer was hoping to line up Caleb Ewan for the win and he held sixth wheel with 5.5km to go as Katusha-Alpecin hit the front of the race.
As the kilometres ticked away the number of teams remaining in contention was pretty high. A late attack from UAE Team Emirates stretched the field but EF Education First-Drapac were onto him with 1km remaining. LottoNL-Jumbo led the way from there with Mitchelton-Scott just biding their time for now. Peter Sagan was sat on about 7th wheel behind Caleb Ewan but then UAE Team Emirates and BMC Racing both came towards the front.
But through the final turn Daryl Impey and Peter Sagan turned on the pace to hit for home, but Caleb Ewan showed a great deal of composure to time his acceleration to perfection and claim the stage win. Teammate Daryl Impey took second with BORA-Hansgrohe duo Jay McCarthy and Peter Sagan took third and fourth with Nathan Haas of Katusha-Alpecin completing the top five.
George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo was the highest placed of the Kiwis finishing in the peloton while Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing finished 54 seconds back, Jack Bauer 1.42mins back after aiding Ewan to the win in the latter stages of the race, Tom Scully rolled home 2.09mins after his work on the front, while Alex Frame arrived home for Trek-Segafredo in the same group as BORA-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett a few minutes later.