Bevin (CCC) stacked at high-speed 10km from the finish of the sprint stage that had been aggressive from the start given his slender lead on the general classification and the time bonuses that were available via intermediate primes.
Television commentators called that the bunch had sat-up while the bloodied ochre jersey limped onto a spare bike and started riding back with teammates. But White ruined the rosy-tinted tale at the finish in Strathalbyn, South Australia.
“Optical illusion,” he said. “No-one waited. No-one waits at eight kilometres to go on a sprint stage. It’s too stressful. It had already been stressful for 30 kilometres before that, so the only thing that changed was 10 guys hit the deck and people scrambled to get back to where they were.
“It might have looked like it because they had fanned across the road but there were [sprint] trains in place, everything was in place and it kept going as it was. It does not happen in any bike race that close to the finish.”
White sympathised with Bevin, who remarkably did get back on with the assistance of his team but was taken to hospital for scans post-race and didn’t attend the daily podium ceremony. His condition on Saturday night had not been confirmed by the team.
CCC and Mitchelton-Scott sit first and second on the general classification with Bevin and defending champion Daryl Impey, respectively. The pair both contested primes evenly throughout the stage to put time into the pure climbers in the race. The climbers are set to light-up today’s final and deciding stage to Willunga Hill but whether they can do enough to steal the race title remains to be seen.
Impey trails Bevin by seven seconds after five stages with Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) 16 seconds in arrears and marquee climbers including Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) now 26 seconds back.
“We’re five seconds better than we were 24-hours ago, which is a big, big bonus,” said White. “Still I think the race is going to be decided in the last three minutes tomorrow.
“It’s unfortunate what’s happened with Pat. Hopefully, he’s at 100 per cent tomorrow. There is no soft landing at that sort of speed, but our focus is on us.
“We know Daryl has got to get to the top of that climb as quickly as possible, and if he gets there quick enough, he’s got a chance of winning the tour. But we’ve still got to beat Pat across the line and we also can’t finish too far behind the best climbers here.”
Despite White’s adamant observation, some riders in the peloton said they did observe a brief “lull”.
Viviani rues lost sprint opportunity
Elia Viviani started the Tour Down Under as the celebrated sprinter of the race and almost left undetected yesterday as the melee around Australian Caleb Ewan erupted.
The Italian national champion appeared relaxed at the beginning of the penultimate stage and final for sprinters, sat under a makeshift sun shelter made out of a hotel bedsheet.
Viviani and his Deceuninck-Quick-Step navigated what was a tense day for everyone in the peloton – fighting either for the general classification at intermediate primes, position in crosswinds, or line honours in Strathalbyn, South Australia.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step appeared to come out of it perfectly poised with Viviani at the front of the race within the last, technical kilometre.
The 29-year-old was sat second wheel behind teammate Fabio Sabatini, unaware of the headbutting scrap a few positions behind him that saw Ewan (Lotto Soudal) relegated and a UCI verdict ultimately deliver Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) the win. However, he faded to fifth and was clearly disappointed as he rode up alongside the team van past the line, not keen to stick around.
The five-time Giro d’Italia stage winner had claimed stage one and first leader’s jersey of the race with a late move around Max Walscheid (Sunweb), having anticipated the headwind finish. But he said he wasn’t as savvy yesterday and went too early in similar conditions.
“Like I say, we win smart the first stage, we lose like stupid today,” he said. “I think we did a perfect lead-out but not in that finish. It’s not a sprint to keep in the front, it’s a headwind like the one I win the first day.”
Viviani had swapped his race radio for phone and commenced a solo ride back to race HQ in Adelaide before the drama around the race result was broadcast. Disappointment aside, he can still count a solid campaign in which he also marked a stint in the points leader’s jersey.