Defending champion Daryl Impey yesterday took the overall lead in the Tour Down Under from chief rival Richie Porte as Italy’s Giacomo Nizzolo won the fifth stage after a bunch sprint.
South Africa’s Impey takes a two-second advantage over Porte into today’s final stage up Willunga Hill as he chases his third straight victory in the UCI World Tour season-opener.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider finished second and first at two intermediate sprints, collecting enough time bonuses to supplant overnight race leader Porte of Trek-Segafredo.
Impey’s narrow, but psychological lead is likely to be important as he attempts to hold back the Australian, who has won the past six stages up the torturous 3km climb to the finish line.
“It’s fantastic to lead the race going into Willunga,” Impey said. “The whole week we’ve been trying to get into the lead here and put myself in a position tomorrow to beat Richie. I’m two seconds up, I don’t know if it’s enough, but we’ve given ourselves every chance to win this bike race and it’s all up to tomorrow.”
Porte knows the equation to win his second Tour Down Under.
“It’s not a massive deficit tomorrow, but it will be hard,” Porte said. “If we can win the stage, we can win the race. We are going to have to have guys up there tomorrow. I was a little isolated today, so hopefully tomorrow the boys are on again.”
Nizzolo scored the first win for NTT Pro Cycling thanks to his teammates leaving him poised for a final charge into Victor Harbour.
Fellow Italian Simone Consonni of Cofidis was second, ahead of Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
“I can’t thank my teammates enough. They did a great job,” Nizzolo said. “That was the plan, that if I was a bit off they would come back and wait for me on the climb. They did it perfectly and I was in the perfect place, and I just put everything on the pedals I had. It worked in the end, so I’m so happy.”
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