Paracombe climb shakes up Tour Down Under GC
Neo-pro Enric Mas put in a strong effort to conclude the day in the top 20.
Unlike yesterday, it was much cooler at the start of Tour Down Under stage 2, with temperatures of just 17 degrees Celsius, an attempt of the weather in South Australia to make it up to the riders after the extreme conditions on Tuesday, when they had to endure 40 degrees Celsius. That was the good news of the day; bad news was that the peloton had to cover 2500 meters of vertical gain before hitting the foot of the Paracombe Hill, a 1.2km climb averaging 9.9%.
The race stayed together until after the first intermediate sprint of the day, which was contested by the peloton; as soon as things calmed down, Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) moved away from the bunch and opened a 4:40-minute advantage, remaining at the front until inside the final 30 kilometers.
Despite a couple of attempts, a compact bunch arrived at the bottom of the Paracombe climb, where the pace rised with every meter, until the peloton became stretched out. Positioning was key on the narrow and twisting roads, and as more and more riders got dropped, Richie Porte (BMC) decided to attack just at the gradient started to kick in and soloed to the finish line, taking the win and the ochre jersey. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) rounded out the podium on a day which produced some serious damages in the overall standings.
Around 20 seconds later, a reduced group crossed the line, and Enric Mas was part of it; the 22-year-old Quick-Step Floors Cycling neo-pro, winner of the Volta ao Alentejo and Tour de Savoye in his last U23 season, kept his composure as the race hotted up and rode his own pace in the final two kilometers, when a flurry of attacks made it difficult even for the more experienced riders.
Mas, a Klein Constantia alumni and at the same time one of the most talented riders to turn pro this year, finished 17th at the end of his just second World Tour day – which coincided with one of the toughest stages in the history of the Tour Down Under – thus making a significant jump in both the general classification (17th) and the youth rankings, where he is now lying in second place.
"Our plan was to be in a good position at the bottom of the climb, which we did. It was a very hard stage, but looking at the results you can see that the top 20 riders are just 19 seconds behind the leader, so anything can happen in the days ahead. Today, Enric demonstrated his talent and showed he has the potential to become a very good rider. Little by little, he will develop this season and we will discover what he is capable of", said sport director Rik Van Slycke following the race's second stage.
Photo credit: ©BrakeThrough Media