Tasmanian Richie Porte won the fifth stage of the Tour Down Under following a brilliant solo attack up the second ascent of Willunga Hill in South Australia yesterday.
Porte (Team Sky) waited until halfway up the final climb to the finish line on top of the mountain, before powering past race leader Cadel Evans and racing away to win by 10 seconds.
Evans, who took a seven-second overall lead into the stage, faded over the final 200m as general classification rivals Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Simon Gerrans swept past to claim the minor places in the 151.5km stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill.
Gerrans’ third place ensured the Orica GreenEdge rider regained the ochre leader’s jersey from Evans by just one second.
Ulissi is a further four seconds back in third, with Porte jumping six places to fourth, 10 seconds behind Gerrans.
“I tried to conserve as much as I could on the climb because it was quite a strong head wind, so the second you put your nose in the wind you really dive down,” Gerrans said.
“I could see that Cadel was obviously a little bit nervous because he had to do a lot of work, and when we jumped in to finish there he wasn’t able to respond,” he added.
The penultimate stage took the riders on three circuits through the vineyards of McLaren Vale and along the beachfront at Aldinga and Snapper Point before two ascents up Willunga Hill, the longest and steepest climb of the Tour.
The stage invariably produces some of the best racing of the week and it was no exception yesterday as four riders, led by 42-year-old German Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), launched a breakaway.
Crowd favourite Voigt was joined at the front by Mikhail Ignatyev (Katusha), Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and they must have had some hope of staying away when they got the lead up to about 10 minutes.
However, slowly but surely the peloton began to increase the pace and reel the leaders in as the first climb up Willunga Hill approached.
Lobato was dropped at the bottom of the hill, but the other three stayed clear and made it to the summit before finally being caught on the descent.
Voigt then had the huge crowd watching on giant screens atop Willunga Hill in raptures as he launched another attack at the bottom of the hill, but it was to be in vain as the peloton, led by Gerrans’ Orica GreenEdge team, caught and passed him at the start of the climb.
Evans tried to emulate his stage win from earlier in the week when he attacked up Corkscrew Road Hill and held on to win, but this time Porte was able to go with him, and Evans — whose BMC Racing teammates had been dropped earlier — could not respond.
The winner of the UCI World Tour race will now be determined on the final 85km circuit through the streets of Adelaide, a stage unlikely to help Porte’s bid for a podium finish.