Rohan Dennis has held on to his overnight lead at the Santos Tour Down Under by a thread and is set to close out the race tomorrow, despite a phenomenal performance from Team Sky's Richie Porte on Willunga Hill.
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

In an exhibition of thrilling racing on the slopes of Willunga Hill, Richie Porte's frenetic attacking display lit up the climb, and the crowd, but it wasn't enough to deliver the Australian the overall lead. Porte needed 15 seconds going into the stage to topple, but could only pull back 13 after his rampage on Willunga.

It was the second straight win on Willunga for the 29 year old, but it was a very different display to the one 12 months previous. Last year Porte attacked early to distance overall leader Cadel Evans (BMC). This year, Porte left it late, charging forth with a kilometre and a half to race, putting Evans, then Dumoulin, then finally Dennis in his wake.

But with so little distance before the finish, Porte's gap wasn't substantial enough for the race lead to change hands. Porte crossed the line in a record time up the climb, but Dennis nine seconds behind did enough to hold on.

"My team were in front all day with only a little bit of help. They were amazing," said Dennis. "Richie sort of went.. in hindsight, probably a little bit too late because really, he had better legs than me today. I gotta thank him for that. But also my team, which has been absolutely awesome."

Porte was disappointed with the result but happy enough having given his all to distance the Dennis.

"I know this climb really, really well, better than the finish in Paracaombe," Porte said. "I'm just disappointed that I came short of getting the jersey.

"Full credit to Rohan though. I gave it to him as hard as I could but it just wasn't quite to be. I'm very happy to win the stage. It's a great way to start the year. I had it rough last year so it's just nice to get it off to a good start."

The final stage of Santos Tour Down Under finishes in Adelaide, tomorrow.

Rohan Dennis will hold the lead by two seconds.

Stage 5: 151.5km, McLaren Vale - Willunga Hill
1 Richie Porte (AUS) Team Sky 3:37:32
2 Rohan Dennis (AUS) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
3 Rubén Fernandez (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:16
4 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team
5 Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Giant-Alpecin
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:19
7 Tiago Machado (POR) Team Katusha 0:00:24
8 Moreno Moser (ITA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:26
9 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:28
10 Arnold Jeannesson (FRA)

General Classification
1 Rohan Dennis (AUS) BMC Racing Team 17hr 19min 09sec
2 Richie Porte (AUS) Team Sky 0:00:02
3 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team 0:00:20
4 Tom Dumoulin (NED) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:22
5 Rubén Fernandez (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:24
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:31
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:38
8 Tiago Machado (POR) Team Katusha 0:00:46
9 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (ESP) Movistar Team 0:00:52
10 Jarlinson Pantano (COL) IAM Cycling 0:00:53


3:21PM: Richie Porte wins Willunga Hill back to back. But is it enough to win the race.

Porte attacks on the climb, drops Evans but Dennis too good. Porte with a brutal attack, keeps attacking. Dennis in trouble.

3:14PM: Orica and Team Sky lead into the bottom the climb as it begins to bite.

Was that a mistake by BMC? The race will come back together here, but freshness will no longer be there for Dennis and Evans.

Two main echelons have formed. BMC's Evans and Dennis in front group, along with Luis Leon Sanchez. Behind, Richie Porte, Tom Dumoulin, and Jack Haig.

Astana ripping the main field to pieces. Echelons forming in the cross winds.

The escape is officially over, with Jack Bobridge assumed back into the bunch just over the top of the climb. Astana's Lars Boom leading the bunch on the descent off Willunga. LL "Cool-J" Sanchez looking for another win on Willunga?

Bobridge seals KOM after going through summit. Picks up a bottle amid roaring crowds, and continues on. Half-expected him to sit up. Won't be long until he's caught in any case.

Bobridge looks the goods to seal the KOM title here. Gap is falling away steadily, but Bobridge will hold on. Field splitting on pressure from Astana at the front of the peloton. Looks to be no more than 50 riders still in bunch. 23.4km to go.

Henderson slings Bobridge up the road as the South Australian goes forth chasing the KOM title. Henderson now dropped. The gap is 1min 36sec.

Henderson is named most aggressive rider. With 30km to race, the gap has fallen to 2min 32sec.

2:26PM: Kerby has been dropped by Bobridge and Henderson. Looks absolutely cooked. The chase meanwhile is really ramping up behind. BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo, and Giant-Alpecin prominent.

Approaching the final 50km, and that means not long now until the bunch hits the first of its two loops around Willunga Hill. Rather than turning back down Aldinga Rd on for a fourth lap, the riders will turn eastward from Willunga, toward Willunga Hill. And then things get serious. Don't expect the first time up the climb to be too decisive, but as the riders position themselves on the final descent we'll get a real sign as to who is feeling good.

1:49PM: Let's talk Willunga. People often ask, how hard can a three kilometre climb really be? Well, it's not, but the opening two kilometres are genuinely steep. Given the climb is done twice and this is only early in the year, and it's deceptive how selective Willunga can be.

83km gone, a gentle 41.1km/h for the first two hours. The break still clear by four minutes.

95km to go, 4min 30sec the gap. The race is looking very civilised. Chatter in the peloton. Riders feeding. Calm before the storm.

It's BMC all over the front controlling the break's advantage. Interesting to note. Evans, behind Dennis is the line. Not overly unusual, Evans playing the sweeper for BMC, but it's an obvious sign that the team is still committed to both Dennis and Evans today. Rob Arnold spoke to BMC's Jim Ochowicz about the team's two pronged strategy here. "We'll fight for our position and try to defend where we are and if that means Rohan stays in the jersey, then that's great – and Cadel is fine with that."

12:32PM: The gap has blown out to 5min 27sec. Greg Henderson, Jack Bobridge and Jordan Kerby still all present and accounted for. Eclectic mix of riders. Henderson has been a pro for an age.Kerby's is just beginning, and Bobridge, well he's somewhere in between. The South Australian went WorldTour in 2010 with Garmin, spent time at Orica-GreenEDGE and Belkin, but is now back racing domestically with Budget Forklifts.

Got to get your spots reserved early on Willunga. It'll be packed later on today.

12:11PM: Jack Bobridge has been ever-present in breakaway's this year's Tour Down Under. Chasing that wee bit of extra intensity training before his Hour Record attempt at the end of the month.

Michael Tomalaris is on the ground. It's hardly a glamour job. Cutting video in the back of cars using tethered internet from an old phone.

This will be the day's break. The trio now have more than 1min 30 sec. Bunch appear pretty happy to let them go. Just shy of 10km in now.

11:47AM: Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal), Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) and Jordan Kerby (Drapac) have established a breakaway at the 3km mark.

This guy is in the box seat though. Rohan Dennis. 24. An Adelaide local. Reckon he'll be hard to beat.

Alright enough from yesterday. Let's talk Willunga. So much could happen. Richie Porte, Cadel Evans, Rohan Dennis, are all right up there. A smorgasbord of Australian talent.

The crash saw quite a few casualties. Drapac's Travis Meyer, and young American Lawson Craddorck were among them. Never good to go down like that so early in the year.

Tomo even donned a special cap in the post-race bike shorts.

Speaking of yesterday's stage, that crash was rather dramatic.

11:07AM: Steele Von Hoff won yesterday's sprint finish in Mount Barker. The first WorldTour win of the Australian's career. Von Hoff came off Wouter Wippert's wheel in a crash-marred finish to take the win in a sprint. He was a pretty happy boy at the finish. It's been a very successful Tour for Von Hoff's UniSA-Australia team, too. Jack Bobridge won the race's opening stage, and wore ochre for the first three stages. It continues a proud tradition of the team at the Santos Tour Down Under.

10:59AM: Well just a quick wrap from yesterday's stage before we get underway. Rohan Dennis (BMC) holds the overall lead by 7sec over team-mate Cadel Evans, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) at 9sec, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) at 13sec, and Richie Porte at 15sec. Basically it's very close at the top end, and considering time bonuses, we wouldn't look past riders as far back as Luis Leon Sanchez, 13th overall, at 25 seconds.

Today's stage runs from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km with two loops of the finishing climb. Willunga is a 3km climb with an average grade of 7.6 per cent, and last year saw Richie Porte win atop its hallowed slopes.