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Tour Down Under: Nizzolo takes stage win, Impey edges in to GC lead

Nizzolo takes first win for team under leadership of Riis, Impey sets up final-stage showdown with Porte.

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Giacomo Nizzolo opened the account for his newly-branded NTT Pro Cycling team with a sprint win at Santos Tour Down Under Stage 5, Saturday. The Italian beat Simone Consonni (Cofidis) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) with a long, dragging sprint in Victor Harbor.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) was able to scoop a number of intermediate sprint bonuses through thee stage to give him a two-second GC lead over Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) with just one stage remaining.

Nizzolo scooped his stage win after his NTT teammates worked to pull him into contention after he lost ground on a late climb. The victory is the first for his team since they re-branded from Team Dimension Data and Bjaarne Riis took up a position in management.

“It’s important for us, with so many new things, with me coming in,” said Riis. “For me personally, it’s nice, but I think about the whole team. Hopefully this will give us a boost to work even harder and do what I want them to do, which is ride as a team. When you go out on the roads, you keep fighting as a team.”

Impey and Mitchelton-Scott went into the stage looking to collect as many points from intermediate sprints as possible to reduce the deficit to GC leader Porte before the decisive final stage on Willunga Hill, Sunday.

Defending champion Impey battled for the two intermediate sprints with world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), working to defend teammate Porte’s advantage, and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates). Impey was able to claim a second place and first place, enough to move him two seconds ahead of Porte on the overall.

The stage finished with a flat run-in, though a short climb 20km out added complications as sprint teams looked to keep their fast men in position. Mitchelton-Scott piled on the pressure over the climb in an effort to distance the sprinters and allow their leaders Impey and Simon Yates to scrap for a stage win, but the sprint teams pulled hard to bring the race back together in the final 10km.

From there, NTT worked well to position Nizzolo before he opened up his long, 200 meter sprint and overpower Consonni.

With just two seconds separating Porte and Impey and only one stage remaining, it will all come down to a fight on Willunga Hill. Rob Power (Sunweb) is also still in contention, nine seconds back on GC.

“It’s fantastic to lead the race going into Willunga,” said Impey.  “The whole week we’ve been trying to get into the lead here and put myself in a position tomorrow to beat Richie. I’m two seconds up, I don’t know if it’s enough, but we’ve given ourselves every chance to win this bike race and it’s all up to tomorrow.”

Impey will have a tough battle with Porte on Sunday, who has won atop Willunga Hill six times in six years.

“It’s going to be a hard race tomorrow,” said Porte. “That’s it – I think if we can win the stage, we can win the race.”

Stage 5 results:

  1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Lotto-Soudal): 3:32:45
  2. Simone Consonni (Cofidis): S.T.
  3. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): S.T.

GC after stage 5:

  1. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott): 17:12:15
  2. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo): +0:00:02
  3. Rob Power (Sunweb): +0:00:09

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