Daryl Impey of Mitchelton-SCOTT has taken the stage honours in Campbelltown after the first significant GC battle of this year’s Santos Tour Down Under took the race over the Corkscrew climb. Second place for Patrick Bevin of CCC Team was enough for him to maintain a 7 second lead overall and take the points classification lead.
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The first major challenge for anyone putting their hands up for the general classification arrived today with the climb of the Corkscrew peaking shortly before the finish line. The climb was 2.3km in length and averaged 8.9% gradient and would have a lot of interest present from the climbers; who would look to dent Patrick Bevin’s advantage overall before the swift 6km downhill race to the finish line.
Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal, Herman Pernsteiner of Bahrain-Merida, Jasha Sütterlin of Movistar, Nicholas White of UniSA-Australia, Benoit Cosnefroy of AG2R La Mondiale and Miles Scotson of Groupama-FDJ comprised the breakaway group of the day and this time the peloton gave them a significant lead of upwards of 5 minutes; triggering a reaction from a number of teams. The stage panned out quite differently for CCC Team compared to yesterday where they did the huge majority of the chasing, this time they had the company of Mitchelton-SCOTT, EF Education First, Astana, Team Sky and Jumbo-Visma at the head of affairs; with a time gap to bridge of 4.50mins with 74km to go.
At 64km to go the time gap for the break went below 4 minutes; still leaving the peloton with a lot of work to do and luring Trek-Segafredo to aide the chase. While the effort to catch the break was seeing a vast array of names and teams jostling for the front, with CCC Team also sending riders forward at various points during the stage, George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma was quite happy to sit towards the back of the bunch and wait for the Corkscrew climb that would be his first real chance to shine during the race.
Steadily the break’s lead dissipated to beneath 2 minutes with just under 40km to go and 1 minute with 34km to go as the peloton kept a strong tempo up to try and bring back the leaders who’d worked efficiently together throughout the stage. Rain before the 30km to go mark forced the peloton to just ease off just a bit and allow the break to rebuild their advantage to 1.36mins with 29km to go. The peloton held the break at about a minute all the way to about 22km to go, and there was a feeling that maybe the peloton had underestimated the breakaway.
Katusha-Alpecin, CCC Team, Trek-Segafredo, BORA-Hansgrohe and Team Sky all had a presence on the front of the race in pursuit of the break; a break that looked aware that they now had an opportunity to cause a major upset. Astana and Groupama-FDJ also came forward in pursuit of the leaders who by now were beginning to fragment. Pernsteiner, Scotson and Sütterlin were the last riders standing in the break and they hit the lower slopes of the climb together while behind them the peloton were at full gas in pursuit.
As the peloton turned onto the climb they stretched out into one long line with Patrick Bevin in a strong position at sixth wheel. Team Sky led the way, setting a fierce tempo, and for the first time it really looked like the bunch may now have the advantage as the speed difference was very clear between the bunch and the break. Bevin was very composed on the climb, positioning himself well and never allowing himself to drift back in the pack, as the first attack from the pack came from Remi Cavagna of Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Pernsteiner was the last of the break to be caught with Team Sky leading the way with 6km to go as back down the road the peloton were predictably blown to pieces. As Pernsteiner was caught Wout Poels of Team Sky, Michael Woods of EF Education First, Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo and George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma went on the attack and drille dthe pack that now had no leadership from Sky. Bennett was well positioned, sitting on the back of the group initially; while back down the road Bevin didn’t appear phased just yet although the gap was opening significantly.
When Bennett moved up it really looked like his pace put Poels in the hurt box, but it looked like Bennett was a little frustrated at the lack of cooperation from Poels and Porte; though the latter contributed slightly more. The quartet crested the climb and threw themselves into the descent; while behind them Patrick Bevin drilled the descent.
Despite no specialist descenders in the leading group the descent saw all four riders work well together, but Bevin was committed as he dragged the rest of the bunch to within 7 seconds at 2.5km to go. Despite the best efforts of the descenders ahead the catch was made 2.1km to go and from there Mitchelton-SCOTT took over on the front to try and lead out Daryl Impey.
Bevin was now sitting third wheel on the run in to the line with Luis Leon Sanchez ahead of him. Through the tight right hand bend Bevin was in the near perfect position to strike, but on his wheel was Daryl Impey. Bevin launched his sprint and came past Sanchez but with 80m left Impey then did the same to Bevin and the two – on opposite sides of the road – went head to head. Impey had the pace to take the stage ahead of the Kiwi; who was the first to shake the South African’s hand. Luis Leon Sanchez took third place with Ruben Guerreiro of Katusha-Alpecin fourth.
George Bennett took sixth place behind Ruben Fernandez of Movistar, and moved up to 7th overall at 21 seconds to Bevin. Impey’s stage win means he now closes to 7 seconds behind the Kiwi, with Sanchez third at 11 seconds and the rest of the GC contenders 21 seconds back with the same time as Bennett.
The points at the end of today’s stage means that Bevin now takes the overall lead in the points classification; 12 points ahead of Peter Sagan. George Bennett now also sits in second place in the king of the mountains classification; 4 points behind Jason Lea.