ADELAIDE (Reuters) – Richie Porte raced away from his rivals on the final climb to open a decisive 20-second lead after the second stage of the Tour Down Under on Wednesday, the Australian putting himself on course for a first victory in the event.
The BMC team leader has finished second twice in the six-stage race around South Australia but with previous editions normally won by a handful of seconds, Porte’s advantage will be difficult to reel in over the four remaining days.
“It’s incredible to wear the jersey in the biggest race in Australia,” the 31-year-old Tasmanian all-rounder said after racing clear of his rivals on the 1.6 km Paracombe climb.
“I’d love to win it. There are a few hard days to come, but I enjoyed today and the work the BMC guys did for me was just absolutely incredible,” he added..
“Of course, there is (pressure) — even a bad time to get a puncture or something like that. It’s definitely not over. But it’s just nice to win a stage like this and start the season off in a good way.”
Porte, who suffered a broken shoulder blade when he crashed at the Rio Olympics last August, beat Spaniard Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) by 16 seconds, with Colombian climber Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) in third place on the same time.
The time bonus for crossing the line first extended his lead by four seconds over Izaguirre, six over Chaves, and the two-time Paris-Nice champion should have little trouble defending his jersey in Thursday’s Glenelg-to-Victor Harbor third stage.
“It would be great just to finish off the race with plain sailing, but I don’t expect that,” Porte added.
“There are 130 other guys in the peloton who want to make things as difficult as possible but that’s where we have the team to control things.”
The Tour Down Under is the first event on the 2017 UCI WorldTour calendar and it concludes in Adelaide on Sunday.
(Writing by John O’Brien in Singapore; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)