• Second overall in 2016, Henao has work to do at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
Sergio Henao’s Tour Down Under campaign has taken a hit with the Colombian climber enduring a costly mechanical in the run to the first hilltop finish on Wednesday.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
19 Jan 2017 - 7:26 AM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2017 - 9:34 AM

The Team Sky leader punctured twice within the final 40km of the 148.5km stage from Stirling to Paracombe that while less explosive than anticipated may still prove imperative to overall standings.

Henao’s Sky teammates all reconvened and dropped back to assist their leader, who reconnected with the frontrunners on the final climb Richie Porte (BMC) won on to take the leader’s jersey.

“The first few laps were easier than expected,” Sky captain Geraint Thomas recalled of the circuit start in Stirling. “I expected it to kick off and have a long hard day but for some reason, nobody seemed too keen to go in the break.

“We started riding with BMC the last time up to Stirling and then Sergio punctured at probably the worst moment possible. All the boys committed, we all waited at different times and managed to get him back.

I was looking after him at the end on the last kicker and unfortunately, he kept losing my wheel a little bit. I didn’t know where he was, was drifting back looking for him. He was just a bit too far back and probably gassed as well from the long chase.”

Henao, who BMC sports director Fabio Baldato had singled out as a threat to his team’s campaign, engaged in a long chase before finishing the stage in 12th place, 19 seconds behind Porte. The 29-year-old, who was third at the race last year, is currently 15th overall, 29 seconds in arrears.

Thomas said the misfortune had not completely thwarted his team’s overall objectives, which are part of a two-prong plan with sprinter Danny van Poppel also vying for stage wins.

“It’s all to play for on Willunga, for the podium,” Thomas said of Saturday’s queen stage. “And we’ve still got flat days with Danny. I think we’ve still got a lot to race for. For sure, overall is still possible, podium, and every stage. We’ll go full gas to try and win them as well.”

Meanwhile, Bora-Hansgrohe team leader Jay McCarthy is hedging more on Willunga after an ailment hampered his performance to Paracombe.

“The shape has been pretty good but I’ve been carrying a bit of a sore throat the last few days. I’ve been pretty good with it but I’m struggling a little bit when the high intensity is there,” he said.

“I did everything and the team helped me a lot into position. We also got some seconds earlier in the day, so hopefully as it go on I’ll feel a bit better. I’m still fourth overall and only a couple of seconds away from the podium, so it’s not massive, but I’m still a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t further up there today.”

McCarthy has been aggressive in the intermediate primes this tour, sprinting for bonus time. He was grateful to world champion Peter Sagan, who notably helped position him on the final climb.

“Peter wanted to get me into the climb first and we did that. He carried a bit more speed off, he was just telling me, as he let me go, to make sure I ride in my zone, don’t make any big accelerations too early, basically giving me some hints.

“It’s quite nice to have the world champion, who I spend most of the year riding for, giving me hints and a handout there. Hopefully, we can pay him back with a result later in the week.”