Richie Porte (BMC) kicked away from the field on Willunga as Gerrans fought to retain his overall lead by 8 seconds

Richie Porte was unmatched up Old Willunga Hill, as the Australian attacked, and then attacked again, to take his first win in BMC colors in the Santos Tour Down Under’s fifth stage. Sergio Henao (Sky) crossed the line second, followed by Cannondale’s WorldTour rookie Mike Woods.

Wilunga Hill has become a favorite launchpad for Porte. The Tasmanian attacked there in 2014 and 2015, taking stage victories on both occasions. Last year, Porte’s raid on Wilunga Hill nearly dethroned eventual winner Rohan Dennis (BMC).

Top 10, stage 5

 

Top-10 overall

 
But after Saturday’s win, Porte said he was surprised by his legs.

“To be honest, I never expected that one,” Porte said after the stage. “Today the BMC guys were absolutely incredible. They backed me here, which was nice, since it’s a new team. Its always nice to win in Australia.”

Porte took 17 seconds out of race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), but Gerrans will keep his ochre jersey by eight seconds. It was Porte’s third win on Willunga.

“You never discount Richie Porte, especially on a finish like that he loves,” Gerrans said.

With one sprinter’s stage remaining, the final will come down to bonus seconds. Porte is happy with second place he said, and doesn’t believe he can overhaul Gerrans, the superior sprinter.

“I couldn’t sprint out of sight on a dark night,” Porte said after the stage. “It’s nice to get the first win in the BMC jersey.”

The rolling 151km route began in McLaren Vale and finished with two climbs up the 3.5km Old Willunga Hill, first with 16.5km remaining and again at the finish.

Four riders struck out 15km into the 151km stage: Nelson Oliviera (Movistar), Lars Boom (Astana), Pim Lithgart (Lotto Soudal), and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data). Their gap peaked at six minutes before BMC and Sky took up a concerted chase with 40km remaining.

The gap was down to 2:40 as the leading four hit Willunga Hill for the first time. Van Rensburg struck out alone and hit the top of the climb with a 15-second advantage.

Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) attacked the main field half way up Willunga, earning minor separation, while BMC and Sky pulled at the front but made no real effort to isolate race leader Gerrans, who hit the top of the climb comfortably inside the top 15 riders, surrounded by three teammates.

Van Rensberg returned to his breakaway companions as the four plummeted down the steep backside of Willunga Hill, holding onto a gap of two minutes with 10km to go.

As the peloton closed in, Lithgart put on a final show for the TV cameras before all four pulled up and landed safely in the peloton.

Sky led onto Willunga for the final time, pulled by Peter Kennaugh and then Geraint Thomas. BMC’s Rohan Dennis, overall winner last year, made a brief effort before he was swallowed up. Lucas Hamilton (UniSA), just 19 years old, was the next to go before Porte took off under the red kite with 1km to go, charging past with Henao and Woods on his wheel.

Woods and Henao were unable to match Porte’s repeated accelerations in the final kilometer. Porte crossed the line alone, Henao kept his hold on the leader’s jersey, and Woods proved, once again, that he’s more than capable of mixing it up in the WorldTour.

The final stage, which starts and ends in Adelaide, is a 90km affair with no serious climbs.

Stage 5 results

 

General classification