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Porte-free Bevin taking advantage of freedom

The 27-year-old is able to ride for victories on the CCC Team, now that Richie Porte has moved to another outfit.

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) stepped boldly into the winner’s circle Wednesday with a victory that’s been years in the making.

The highly touted New Zealander upset the sprinters in the second stage at the Santos Tour Down Under to barnstorm into the leader’s jersey and claim his first WorldTour win.

After a season of riding in the shadow of Richie Porte, Bevin is taking full advantage of new leadership opportunities created by the demise of the once-mighty BMC Racing Team.

“He’s our big dog now,” said CCC Team sport manager Jackson Stewart. “The team’s changed a lot. He was showing amazing performances last year, but he was always second or third behind the other guys on the team.”

BMC’s closure at the end of 2018 opened up some room for Bevin. Porte moved to Trek-Segafredo and BMC rides on, at least in spirit, with a new iteration as CCC Team. With Porte gone, Bevin has space to move. And so far at the Tour Down Under, he’s riding free and unfettered.

“This [CCC Team] is a revamped outfit with a totally different mindset, totally different goals, and we want to give it everything we have,” Bevin said. “This sets a precedent for this team. We’re going to fight for everything we can.”

Bevin, 27, rode into the breakaway in Tuesday’s opening stage, earning him the most aggressive rider prize. More importantly, he got five seconds in mid-race time bonuses. Add his stage-winner bonus Wednesday and he’s suddenly 15 seconds ahead of most of the GC favorites.

And in a race that can go down to count-backs, Bevin suddenly has a target on his back.

“Bevin is in very good shape and he’s a class bike rider. There’s a target for me right there to win the Tour Down Under,” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “He’s got 15 seconds right now, and for a guy like him, I think 20 seconds would nearly guarantee him the win in the Tour.”

Still only 27, Bevin’s been racing for a decade. He raced four seasons with Bissell and another with Avanti before bumping to the WorldTour with Slipstream in 2016. In 2018, he moved to BMC and became part of the team’s formidable team time trial squad.

The mood was ecstatic around the CCC Team van post-stage. No one expected the team’s first WorldTour win to come so early in the season.

“Paddy has been working hard and knocking on the door for a result like this for a while so it’s great to see it become a reality for him,” Stewart said. “It’s a great feeling for the whole team. We started the season with a new title sponsor, new colors, a lot of new faces, so this is a fantastic way to kick the season off.”

If he hopes to win the Tour Down Under, Bevin will need as big a lead as he can get. Thursday’s hilly stage on a circuit finale presents a stout challenge before Sunday’s uphill, race-ending finish at Old Willunga Hill. Who will be the favorite there? Richie Porte, of course.