By David Hunter
McLaren Vale – Willunga Hill 151.5km
It’s time for Willunga.
The intermediate sprints come at 63km and 103km, which isn’t ideal for Mitchelton-Scott, but as they know 2 seconds is not likely to be enough I think we’ll see them be creative and try to do something. They’ve got to be careful though, Impey won’t want to burn too many matches sprinting for bonus seconds and then not have enough left for the finish.
The wind isn’t particularly strong, but the approach to Willunga Hill is very exposed and teams always try to split the bunch at this point. Coming from the west, it’s perfect to put the race in the gutter and put some of the pure climbers into difficulty. The only problem is that this move is attempted every year and it never succeeds.
Fans always want to see attacks the first time up Willunga Hill, but we rarely see any. The problem is the gap between the two climbs, it is relatively easy for teams to pull back the attackers and set up a big finish.
When on the final climb, all eyes will be on Trek-Segafredo and Richie Porte. His team did the business in Paracombe, especially the neo-pro, Juan Pedro López. In the days leading up to the race, the team did a full gas effort on the climb, and López set a very impressive time on the opening section of the climb. The team will attempt to smash the lower slopes of the hill, allowing Richie to attack from around the 1.6km mark. As the wind is coming from the west, it’s a crosswind on the climb, although it could swing round a little to be a slight cross/headwind. It won’t be as bad as the Paracombe stage when it was a block headwind for a large part of the effort.
No doubt we’ll see Mitchelton-Scott try something on the climb, they cannot afford to simply let Trek dominate and launch Porte. In Lucas Hamilton and Simon Yates they have two riders who could attack from the bottom of the hill trying to isolate Porte, but that is very difficult to do on a climb this short. I expect the race to follow a similar pattern to recent years.
Richie Porte – you could see in the Paracombe stage just how good his current form is. Richie is looking to win this stage for the seventh consecutive year, that is one hell of a record. Last year was the closest others got to him, but the headwind was a help to those who were chasing. With the wind being a little more favourable, expect to see Porte light it up from distance to try and secure just his second ochre jersey.
Anyone else – it’s hard to see anyone beating Richie. The European riders are not at the same level he is, and the southern hemisphere riders aren’t climbing as well as him.
The Fight for Ochre
The current gap between Impey and Porte is 2 seconds. We have 10, 6 and 4 on the line. In the last couple of years Impey has finished 2nd and 3rd on the climb, with Porte winning. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, 2 seconds isn’t enough. If Impey manages to win the two intermediate sprints, his advantage goes out to 8 seconds, which is a much better lead. This would mean Porte has to win the stage, but also get a gap on Impey. Mitchelton have to chase the sprints, even if it means Impey burns some energy.
A stage win and the ochre jersey for Richie Porte, I see him winning this stage by over 5 seconds.
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