George Bennett’s performance on the final climb to Paracombe was enough to see him surge to fifth place on the general classification as Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo took the stage and ochre leader’s jersey.
The first of two significant climbing stages in this year’s Santos Tour Down Under took the field from Unley to Paracombe. The 131km stage took in just the one categorised climb, but it was a category 1 ascent up Paracombe averaging 9.5% and reaching 11% in places.
Three riders entered the first move of the day, with Miles Scotson of Groupama-FDJ, Geoffrey Bouchard of AG2R La Mondiale and Guillaume Boivin of Israel Start-Up Nation shooting up the road. With Trek-Segafredo and Mitchelton-SCOTT leading the chase effort – with Jack Bauer playing a strong role for the latter – the race was kept safely under control and inevitably the break would be caught. Boivin was the first to be swept up, with an attack from Scotson seeing Bouchard also drift back to the bunch before Scotson was caught with 10km to go.
Richie Porte headed into the stage as one of the principal favourites for the win and he didn’t disappoint. The Tasmanian blasted the field away with a piercing attack at 2km to go. Behind him George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma and Team Sunweb’s Jai Hindley formed a brief alliance with Simon Yates of Mitchelton-SCOTT; trying to peg back the deficit, but there was nothing that could be done to bring back Porte.
The Tasmanian crested the top of the climb and entered the final corner with clear daylight. He maintained his lead, while Yates tried to go on the attack himself; only to find that he was reeled back in by the rest of the chase group, Bennett included.
Porte eventually crossed the line 5 seconds clear of Robert Power of Team Sunweb, with Yates third, Rohan Dennis of Team Ineos fourth and Diego Ulissi of UAE-Team Emirates fifth. Bennett crossed the line in 9th place and climbed up to fifth overall; 14 seconds behind Porte and 6 seconds off the podium.
Shane Archbold of Deceuninck-QuickStep and Jack Bauer both finished a little under 4 minutes behind Porte, with Tom Scully of EF Pro Cycling in a small group that included breakaway artist Geoffrey Bouchard.