Peter Sagan took his world champion’s jersey to its first World Tour win of the 2018 season. The BORA-Hansgrohe rider claimed the stage victory ahead of Mithcelton-Scott’s Daryl Impey and Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana. George Bennett’s consistency so far saw him climb up to 8th overall with the stage of Willunga Hill to come tomorrow.
Norwood to Uraidla would take the remaining field of just under 130 riders a distance of 128.2km. UniSA-Australia were once again on the offensive from early on, this time with Zak Dempster and Alex Porter going on the attack. It appeared that the duo had caught the peloton napping today, with the two of them free to build their lead to a quite substantial 9.26mins. Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott rode tempo to limit the gap to the leaders while behind them AG2R La Mondiale and EF Education First-Drapac close to the front as well.
Despite the big gap for the leaders the difficulty of the course suggested that the leaders would have a very hard time staying clear. Bauer remained on the front of the race for several kilometres but didn’t dent the advantage severely for the leading duo. Their gap finally really began to topple as the field approached 50km to go. The advantage was still hovering at just about 4.30mins but with half their lead evaporated and the peloton far from at full flight.
On a downhill section of road Dempster and Porter separated with Dempster pressing on. With 39km remaining Dempster had 4 minutes in hand over the pack which was still being led by Bauer after a brief lull for him at the front. But a major acceleration by both Astana and Team Sky at the front of the race served to eat into Dempster’s lead; bringing the gap back to 45 seconds with 20km left to race. Finally the inevitable happened and Zak Dempster was mopped up with just under 19km remaining.
From here Team Sky injected some serious pace along with EF Education First-Drapac as the climb of the day drew near. The pace was already proving too much for a number of riders in the peloton who fell back through the cars and got set for a long journey home to the finish. Caleb Ewan was among those to quickly fall off the pace set by the boys in pink. But a number of riders remained in contention despite the high intensity pace setting.
Among those riders was George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo. The Kiwi paid close attention to the goings on at the front, even putting in his own move with a fair distance still to go. Bennett’s move drew out a short-lived attack by Richie Porte but as they neared the summit of the climb nothing had been able to stick. The two hadn’t finished their attacks though and another move came from Bennett and Porte who together managed to gain a crucial gap on the rest, forcing Peter Sagan to chase. While Bennett appeared annoyed at the lack of cooperation in the move, Peter Sagan proceeded to take full advantage of the delay as he put down the power and gap Bennett, Porte and Rohan Dennis who’d come across with the world champion.
Gradually Richie Porte brought back the world champion and with that came two riders here, three riders there, just as Richie Porte and Luis Leon Sanchez put in the next move heading under the kilometre to go point. Suddenly out of nowhere came a move by Daniel Moreno who looked to have caught the others out with a late attack, but Peter Sagan rallied to jump on the wheel of Daryl Impey. The South African hit for home, but Sagan was able to keep on his wheel and launch from about 150 metres to go, coming through on his right hand side and taking a superb sprint win.
George Bennett’s aggressive riding in the finish saw him cross the line in 15th place. The result was a strong one from Bennett who also took 8th place overall on the eve of the climb to Willunga Hill.