Credit: Chris Auld/Santos Tour Down Under
A brutal pace set by Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott) on the final categorised climb of Stage of the Tour Down Under into Victor Harbour was the latest in a series of moves from Mitchelton-Scott to try and garner Daryl Impey the Tour Down Under title.
Hamilton’s acceleration saw the majority of the peloton dropped by the sheer tempo of the surge, leaving just a select group of ten over the top of Crow’s Nest Hill with 20 kilometres remaining to the finish. The main peloton crested with 35 seconds disadvantage on the group, but Deceuninck-Quickstep in particular regrouped quickly to begin hauling the dangerous move back.
“It was the plan to try and split it up there to try and give Daryl more of a chance against the fast guys in the final there,” said Hamilton. “Unfortunately, it didn’t pay off as we got caught with, I think, four kilometres to go. The teams behind must have been working pretty hard to bring us back.
“We were trying to keep going. You never know what’s going to happen behind, they might sit up. We had a really strong calibre of riders that were there, we gave it a good shot.”
Hamilton’s form has been very good this summer, and likely if the attack orders were reversed with Cameron Meyer at the Australian nationals, it would be the 23-year-old from Ararat in the green and gold bands. He again showed his form as he shredded the peloton, with most notably three Astana riders directly on his wheel dropping off the hellish pace.
“The plan was roughly to have a group of that size over the top,” said Hamilton, “but it’s always good for the confidence when you rip it and that happens. I love that sort of stuff.”
Mitchelton-Scott go into the final stage up Wilunga Hill with just a two-second advantage for new race leader Daryl Impey, with the South African saying in the post-race press conference that his assault on the intermediate sprints for time bonuses wouldn’t continue in Stage 6 in order to go ‘all in’ for the hill-top finish.
It will be a tough ask for Impey and the Australian WorldTour team, with a stage victory for Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) set to give the overall race win to the Tasmanian. With six stage wins on Wilunga from the last six editions of the race, Hamilton was loath to predict an upset.
“The odds are against us if you go off the last six years,” said Hamilton. “We’ve got a super strong team here, I don’t think anyone doubts that. With Daryl, he almost finished on the same time last year and if conditions suit and we all give it our best shot I’m sure we’ll be close to the win.”
Hamilton saved special praise for Robert Power, who sits third on the general classification, with the ex-teammate singling him out as a threat as well.
“Rob’s obviously back to his best, he’s an absolute freak,” said Hamilton. “It’s good to see him do really well and tomorrow that climb absolutely suits him. That sort of ten-minute climb, he’s a big threat too.”
The Tour Down Under concludes with the final stage from Maclaren Vale to Wilunga Hill, with action to start from 10.40am ACDT.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger