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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, January 21, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. - John Lennon

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

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Tour Down Under stage 6 team reports

GC winner Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this:

South African Daryl Impey has created history today, becoming the first male to win back-to-back Tour Down Under titles with a third-place finish on the final stage.

After winning on countback in 2018, Impey finished behind Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) up Willunga today to claim a more convincing 13-second victory in 2019.

Daryl Impey

Daryl Impey enjoys his win. Sirotti photo

The 34-year-old’s performance wraps up an incredibly successful fortnight for Mitchelton-SCOTT after world championship silver medallist Amanda Spratt won her third consecutive Women’s Tour Down Under title last Sunday.

Seven riders immediately surged ahead of the bunch at the start of racing as the peloton, led by Trek-Segafredo, EF Education First and Astana Pro Team, were content to let them take the intermediate sprints and bonus seconds on offer.

They sat at a steady three-minute advantage through the initial laps, but as they started to climb Willunga for the first time, it was down under two minutes and quickly diminishing. As soon as the road went up, they splinted, and the peloton had them in sight.

Team Sky hit the front of the bunch from the bottom of the first ascent, putting pressure on those behind.  It was enough to shell race leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team), who was brave to start today’s stage whilst clearly hindered by the injuries of yesterday’s crash, and pull the remnants of the breakaway back.

Over the top, Team Sky had two riders with a small advantage, but they sat up and waited for the surviving chase group of around 60 riders.

It was Team Sky who drove the pace once again on the final ascent.  Porte reacted with 1.5km remaining, his usual launch pad, and quickly bridged across to Wout Poels (Team Sky) who was then alone.

Behind, Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Chris Hamilton (Team Sunweb) were the first reactors, but Impey stayed calm and sat on the wheel of teammate Lucas Hamilton, who rode beyond his 22-years.

Knowing his strengths, Impey used the final, flatter 500m to launch from Hamilton’s wheel and gain metres to finish just behind, on the same time as, Porte and Poels to secure the back-to-back victory.

Going off on a high:
After 20 years as a rider, the professional peloton saw Mathew Hayman ride his final race this afternoon, at a home race close to his heart.

Whilst his 2016 Paris-Roubaix victory, on his 15th attempt and six weeks after a broken arm, will go down as his biggest victory, Hayman’s impact on the peloton went beyond what a result's sheet can explain.

A true professional and the ultimate teammate, the 40-year-old’s final ride was testimony to his character as he fought to regain contact after the first climb and work through the final lap before positioning Impey perfectly at the bottom of the final climb.

Hayman will continue to work in a variety of roles at Mitchelton-SCOTT for the remainder of 2019.

Daryl Impey:
“I took the pressure but having the faith of the team goes a long way. We saw the boys committed right to the end. I couldn’t believe they (Porte and Poels) were that close so I just dug deep and went for it.

“That’s special to go back to back. I never dreamed to come here and win twice in a row. Every year we come here with strong ambitions. I knew the competition is always tough. I just believed in myself, and it was just fantastic to pull it off.

“Yesterday we really dug deep, and we took some valuable seconds. We knew we had some seconds on the climbing group. The stage win gave us a lot of momentum, and we started to believe we had a chance to win the race. The whole team rode great. The guys picked me up during the week.

“Last year I was a lot more ecstatic because I felt like I made a big step. I feel like I am maturing more as a rider, and that’s so exciting.

“I want to dedicate the win to him (Mathew Hayman). He’s been a fantastic team mate, a lot of my victories have come with Maty. To let him go out this way, we were going to celebrate his career anyway tonight, but to win the race overall it’ll be a double celebration.”

Mathew Hayman:
“I had very mixed emotions (up the final climb). I was off at the bottom by myself, having a bit of a wave and started getting a bit of a frog in my throat, and then all of a sudden my mind was back on to the race and how Daryl was doing.

“Next minute I had three teammates, (Alex) Edmondson, Heppy (Michael Hepburn) and Durbo (Luke Durbirdge) with me and it came over the radio that he’d won and that took my mind off the retirement and reminded me this is why I do this.

"It’s a big event, we raced all week and we needed every single one of us to be on. I couldn’t think of a better way to go out, not just because we won but how we raced.

“My whole family was on the hill, I didn’t know they were going to be out there, and that was really special. They are all quite emotional, but very special to have everyone come to see your last day of work.

“I just held it together but probably just because I was excited about the win for Daryl and that takes the mind off it.  I really reckon it’ll be in a couple of week’s time before it registers.

“It’s been an emotional high all week.  We needed everyone on, every day there was a plan, things to think about, so although I was being pulled in a few extra directions than normal, the number one priority was racing and it’s so nice to be able to race to the death.”

Patrick Bevin's CCC Team sent me this report:

20 January 2019, Willunga Hill (AUS): A battered and bruised Patrick Bevin showed resilience and determination on the final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under to push through injuries sustained in a crash on stage five to finish the race and win the sprint classification.

PAtrick Bevin

Patrick Bevin took home the points classification jersey. Sirotti photo

X-rays and CT scans on Saturday evening confirmed that Bevin did not sustain any fractures or internal injuries, but a bruised hip and ribs, and multiple contusions were always going to make for a tough day of racing.

Bevin, who won stage two and held the race lead since then, was determined to start stage six and after being cleared by CCC Team’s medical team this morning, took to the start line of the Willunga Hill stage with a seven-second advantage over Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT).

Surrounded by his teammates on the three laps of flat terrain, Bevin was able to sit in the peloton out of trouble but as soon as the pace was lifted on the first ascent of Willunga Hill, he was unable to maintain contact.

Bevin didn’t give up and with the help of Joey Rosskopf and Łukasz Owsian, he pushed through the pain and powered on up the final ascent where huge cheers greeted the New Zealander as he crossed the line.

With a stage win, second place, fifth place, and multiple points picked up in intermediate sprints, Bevin started the day with enough points to win the sprint classification and secured that win by finishing stage six.

Although Bevin was unable to keep the ochre jersey, the New Zealand time trial champion’s dominance from stage one, stage win, aggressive style of racing, and courageous battle today signalled his intentions for the season, with two wins to his name already.

Bevin’s win on stage two was not only the first UCI WorldTour win of his career, but the first UCI WorldTour win for CCC Team in 2019.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) took the Willunga Hill stage honors while Impey held on to claim the ochre jersey for the second consecutive year.

Patrick Bevin:
“I take the Ziptrack sprint jersey away from the race as a nice result for the week’s work. Obviously, it’s tough to touch down yesterday and watch my work evaporate on the GC but that’s bike racing. There are no guarantees. We take a lot of positives out of the race and look forward to the next one. I think someone must have told the crowd that I was Australian today as I had so many fans around the course. I had a lot of support. I had a great time here, an absolute blast coming here and racing from kilometer zero and I plan on sticking to that all year. I’m going to go out and scrap for everything all year. This race really only sets a precedent for what’s ahead.”

“I’m a bit beat up, a bit sore. Crashes are a part of racing and it’s such a shame to do all that and have it come tumbling down. But, there will be another race and if nothing else, I’ll be back at the Tour Down Under next year ready to roll my sleeves up and box on again. I was very sore to start with and then I didn’t feel too bad once we got rolling. Honestly, I was entertaining the though of getting around. I had nothing to lose and I was going to go out and just hang on. But, we started fighting on the run up to the climb and I was in the red there, I was in trouble. I tried to regain my composure as we hit the climb and push on, but I couldn’t do it. It’s a pretty awful feeling to watch the race ride up the road. Until a lap to go, I kind of still thought I could win the race. I’ll be back here again going for the time bonuses and putting it to the little guys and we’ll see how it plays out next time.”

Jackson Stewart, Sports Director:
"I can't say enough about the way Paddy and the team raced this week. It really is a credit to them and had it not been for the crash yesterday, I think we would have been seeing Paddy up there on the podium. He was flying all week and really showed his dominance here. There are not many riders who would push through the pain and injuries like he did today so you have to hand it to him. There is nothing more we could have done.”

“The team has been phenomenal all week. The experience of Víctor de la Parte, Joey Rosskopf, and Fran Ventoso was invaluable. We also saw amazing performance from Jakub Mareczko, Łukasz Owsian, and Szymon Sajnok who have stepped up to the WorldTour. This is the first time they have ever defended a leader's jersey in the WorldTour and they showed enormous potential. Although we were so close to winning the race, we can leave Adelaide very happy with a stage win, four days in the ochre jersey, top five results on four stages, and the sprint classification. It has been a great start to the season for CCC Team"

Here's the report from stage winner Richie Portes' Trek-Segafredo team:

Richie Porte takes his sixth straight win atop Willunga Hill and clinches second overall in the final stage at the Tour Down Under.

It’s a home country race that’s difficult to win for Richie Porte, but it didn’t stop him from taking victory in the final stage atop the infamous Willunga Hill for a record sixth straight year, and his first win for Trek-Segafredo. It also launched him from 16th place to second overall – perhaps the best finish the Tasmanian could attain with time bonuses once again making the difference in the six-day WorldTour race.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte wins again on Willunga Hill. Sirotti photo

"It’s a hard race for someone like me to win, one hilltop finish and that’s it. But we came here with Trek-Segafredo – my new team – and the boys were absolutely fantastic the whole week, and they put me in good position again today. Hats off to Daryl Impey for the win, but to win six times on Willunga is a great feeling." – Richie Porte

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) used his sprinting prowess to gain precious bonus seconds that secured him his second consecutive Santos Tour Down Under title, while race leader Patrick Bevin (CCC) succumbed to the injuries he sustained in yesterday’s stage five crash and faded out of the picture the first time up Willunga Hill.

Porte, knowing that the overall victory would take a miracle, focused on the stage, and knew precisely when and where to launch his winning move on Willunga Hill.  When he made the attack, only Wout Poels (Sky) answered, albeit briefly. Porte opened the gap he needed and headed for his sixth straight victory on Willunga, as Poels and Impey held strong behind to complete the final podium.

“The stage was probably easier for me than it ever has been because I was in a good position. But when Kenny Elissonde did a fantastic ride there for Wout Poels, that was hard to have to take it up myself. I had to gauge my effort. To be honest, I thought I’d had it there, but when I heard (director) Kim Andersen on the radio telling me that everyone behind me was suffering too, it gave me a second wind. But I tell you what, the last 300 meters were probably the longest 300 meters, it really hurt. But it was a sweet victory.”

Trek-Segafredo came into the Tour Down Under with a team focused on one goal: Richie Porte and the overall win. While the overall victory eluded Porte again, finishing runner-up for the second straight year, the team never relented throughout the six stages, racing each day to keep Porte protected and in the GC fight.

“It’s always good to start with a new team, and they have faith in you like that,” continued Porte. “But here, you have to climb better than the sprinters, and then sprint better than the climbers – it’s not a race that really suits me. It [suited me] two years ago with the Paracombe climb as well.  But I think it’s just nice to get a victory, the team was absolutely fantastic out there today.”

Director Kim Andersen summed up the week of racing for Trek-Segafredo:
“We were riding for today the whole week, and to realize that Richie had won six times here, that is something that is unbelievable. For that reason, statistically, it was hard to believe that we could do it again – it was amazing, really. We had hoped a little bit more on stage four because we knew it would be difficult to get the overall today. I am really happy for him and for the team. I think we chose the right tactic the whole way through and today we got a nice victory and a nice second place.”

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent this update:

Another sweltering day brought the Tour Down Under to a close, and BORA-hansgrohe featured in not one, but two of the day’s breaks. From the start, Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, made his move in a group of seven before a second group went out after the first ascent of Willunga Road – the day’s decisive climb – this time with Daniel Oss represented. An explosive finale brought the Tour Down Under to a close in a race that saw Slovakian National Champion, Peter Sagan, claim victory on stage 3, and challenge on multiple stages, but in the GC race, in spite of high hopes, the team didn’t have the legs to challenge for a better position in the overall standings.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan won a close one against Luis Leon Sanchez in stage three. Sirotti photo

On a circuit that took in ocean views, city streets and rural scenery, the Tour Down Under was taking in all that Australia had to offer on this final stage. The 151.5km parcours for the grand finale of the race was not only the longest of the 2019 edition, but also the one with the hardest climb – the infamous Willunga Hill. The peloton would make two passes of this climb and depending on how their day was going, would give riders a chance to check out their strategy for the uphill finish or to dread what would be an excruciatingly difficult second pass. It was here though, that the stage and the race would be decided. With the sun blazing, it would be a brave rider who jumped in the break, especially with Willunga on the day’s menu, but it was the Austrian National Champion, Lukas Pöstlberger, who took his chances.

Lukas joined six others, his group of seven making the most of the flatter roads at the start and building a lead of 3:40. While there was no urgency in the bunch to make the catch, the gap fell dramatically on the first climb of Willunga Hill – the 7.5% climb slowing down the escapees and making the catch easy. No sooner had this group been swept up that another one went out – this time with Daniel Oss in the mix for BORA-hansgrohe, but again, a determined peloton brought things back together swiftly for the day’s – and the race’s – final climb. The pace ramped up and with some explosive attacks, the race came to a close. Gregor Mühlberger was the first BORA-hansgrohe rider across the line in 23rd position to conclude a race that saw the team claim a victory on stage 3 but come up short in its ambitions in the overall classification. 

"Although I had spent a good part of the day putting a strong effort, I felt I had the legs and I was with the select group in the first climb up Willunga. After we crested, I followed the move by Carretero and we formed a breakaway of three. I wanted to see whether I could stay ahead and help Jay and Gregor for the final climb but the group behind us was strong and closed the gap. I tried to make sparks fly in that final part of the race but the main GC contenders were strong and determined to keep everything under control.” – Daniel Oss

"The final stage of the Tour Down Under was hard and fast. We put Lukas Pöstlberger in the breakaway group that was formed early on. It had several strong riders and although we knew Lukas wasn't at this best, we wanted to give it a try. Gregor Mühlberger and Jay McCarthy were in the leading group in the final kilometres but didn't have the legs to stay with the main contenders the second time they climbed on Willunga. Overall, I could say that in the 2019 Tour Down Under our achievements were below our expectations. We did score one stage victory with Peter Sagan but in the GC our final result was clearly not what we were aiming at." – Patxi Vila, Sport Director  

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