South Africa’s Daryl Impey took a surprise lead into the final stage of the Tour Down Under after finishing second to Richie Porte on yesterday’s iconic stage to Willunga Hill.
Porte claimed his fifth successive stage win at Willunga, when he unleashed his trademark second kick 1km from the finish line at the top of the climb.
However, Impey dug deep and finished eight seconds behind Porte to take the ocher leader’s jersey on a count back from the Tasmanian, thanks to his three second placings this week.
“I’m stoked and I can’t believe it,” Impey said, adding that he did not come to the Tour with the aim of winning.
Impey said once Porte attacked on Willunga Hill, he used the dropped riders in front of him as a motivation to keep going.
“I knew they were all riding for the podium and I just rode my own race to the top,” he said. “It was always in the back of my mind that I had to do a big sprint to the end, and when I saw Jay [McCarthy] just in front of me I thought there goes the podium if I don’t catch him.”
“I didn’t know where Richie was, but when I came to the top I saw the time and I thought maybe there’s a chance,” he added. “I’m glad I pushed all the way to the line.”
The 151.5km fifth stage from McLaren Vale to the top of Willunga Hill is a constant on the Tour and often determines the race winner.
The stage takes three circuits through the McLaren Vale vineyards and along the Aldinga beachfront before two climbs up Willunga Hill.
A group of seven riders, including King of the Mountains leader Nicholas Dlamini, cleared away at the front, at one stage opening a lead of five-and-a-half minutes.
The peloton were content to let them go until they began to reel them in approaching the first climb up Willunga.
Dlamini and Belgian Thomas De Gendt stayed clear until the King of the Mountains points, at which point the young South African sat up and waited for the peloton.
De Gendt tried to go on his own, but he too was caught with 10km to go.
World champion and race leader Peter Sagan was dropped with 2km to go and when Porte kicked 1.5km out, only fellow Australian Jay McCarthy could go with him.
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