ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) – Tasmanian Richie Porte blew the Tour Down Under field wide open on Willunga Hill Saturday but just failed to overhaul Rohan Dennis as overall leader of the UCI season-opening race.
Just as he had in 2014, Porte launched a stunning attack on the second and final climb up the notorious Willunga Hill to win the 151.5-kilometre stage in 3hr 37min 32sec.
Dennis crossed the line nine seconds behind Porte to retain the leader’s ochre jersey by two seconds heading into the final stage through the streets of Adelaide.
Spaniard Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) finished third, ahead of Dennis’s BMC team-mate Cadel Evans and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
“I know this climb quite well — but I didn’t quite get the (leader’s) jersey which is disappointing,” Porte said.
“Full credit to Rohan, though. I gave it to him as much as I could and he didn’t crack.”
The fifth stage traditionally begins in the wine growing region of McLaren Vale and consists of three circuits through the vineyards and along Aldinga Beach, before two climbs up Willunga Hill.
Early race leader Jack Bobridge (UniSA) attacked from the opening kilometre, intent on staying ahead long enough to take King of the Mountain points on the first ascent of Willunga Hill.
He was joined by fellow Australian Jordan Kerby (Drapac) and New Zealander Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal) with the three opening up a five-and-a-half minutes lead after 30 kilometres of racing.
The three leaders held on for more than 100 kilometres until Kerby dropped off the pace as they left Aldinga Beach for the final time.
The peloton, led by the BMC team, did all the chasing and slowly closed Bobridge and Henderson down, the Kiwi finally giving up at the bottom of Willunga Hill.
But Bobridge held on and crossed the summit 50 seconds ahead to claim the points.
He was soon overhauled on the descent and with 20 kilometres remaining the race was on in earnest.
At the bottom of the final climb a group of about 40 riders remained in contention.