Australia welcomed the first UCI World Tour stage race of 2017, as fans got a glimpse of the new teams and jerseys that will be seen this season. The six-stage race played out as expected with a few surprises. Here’s a recap of the action from this past week.
The opening stage of the Tour Down Under played out much like last year in terms of the final sprint. In the end, it was Caleb Ewan taking the victory for Orica-Scott. Right behind the Australian were Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky) and Sam Bennett (Bora Hansgrohe). The stage was shortened by one lap due to warm temperatures.
It was the first real test for the general classification riders as they were met with the ascent of Paracombe climb in the final stretch of stage two. The battle up front was a fierce one with Richie Porte claiming the stage and overall lead with a fantastic move over the last kilometer. Coming in behind the Team BMC rider were Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
Ewan made it two stages wins on the streets of Victor Harbor, as the young sprinter made a brilliant move to bounce to the outside and overtake his competitors. He found himself in a tough spot heading into the final straightaway, but did well to make the most of it. Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) and Niccolò Bonifazio (Bahrain–Merida) finished in second and third place.
The first big crash of the race unfolded in the last few kilometers. As Izagirre found himself involved in the wreck. However, he would remain second overall at the end of the day.
A breakaway upset bid fell short for Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors) as the New Zealander was caught with less than five kilometers remaining. This allowed the setup of a bunch sprint, and it was Ewan taking the win once again. He got the best of Sagan and Van Poppel, who both claimed their second top three finishes.
Porte remained on top in the general classification standings, as Izagirre and Chaves followed suite heading into a crucial stage five.
The famous Willunga Hill climb would decide stage five and effectively decide the general classification, as well. All eyes were on Porte, who would be going for this fourth ever win on the climb. He was met with a host of attacks–as expected–but none amounted to anything dangerous and the Australian went on to win by 20 seconds.
Finishing behind Porte were Nathan Haas (Team Dimension Data) and Chaves. There were a few shakeups in the general classification at the end of the day, as Chaves moved into second overall and Haas third. Jay McCarty (Bora Hansgrohe) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Abu Dhabi) rounded out the top five.
Ewan made it four wins for Orica-Scott in Adelaide, winning yet another bunch sprint. Sagan was close behind in second place and Slovenian Mario Kump (Team UAE Abu Dhabi) took third.
No one was able to displace Porte on the final day, as an absolute disaster seemed to be the only way a change up top would occur. There was, however, a change in the top three, with McCarthy earning a mid-race time bonus to displace Hass in third place. The Colombian Chaves held on to second place to finish up a stellar all-around performance from Orica-Scott.
Other jersey winners at the end of the day included Thomas De Gendt (Subaru King Of The Mountain) and Jonathan Restrepo (Young Riders Jersey). Ewan comfortably claimed the Iinet Sprint Jersey with his four stage wins. The top team was UniSA-Australia, as they outpaced Movistar and Trek-Segafredo, who were both over a minute back.
Featured Image Credit: @BMCProTeam