• Matthew White and Daryl Impey at the Mitchelton-Scott van on Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Mitchelton-Scott's third consecutive tilt at ochre for Daryl Impey was perfectly executed all week, until the final kilometre.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

26 Jan 2020 - 9:10 PM  UPDATED 26 Jan 2020 - 9:25 PM

A subdued pall hung over the team gathering around the Mitchelton-Scott team van after the Tour Down Under finish atop Willunga Hill.

Gone were the back slaps and upbeat conversation of previous days, replaced by a bunch of tired riders.

Their low spirits may be buoyed by the knowledge they rode an aggressive and near-perfect race, without over-extending, to put Impey in with the best chance of overall victory.

"Very proud of the way the boys rode the whole week," Mitchelton-Scott director Matt White said. "We rode a tactically smart race the whole week."

The Australian squad made no secret of their strategy heading into the race: grab bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints - as they have done with Impey and Simon Gerrans in yesteryear - and hold on, up Willunga Hill.

They kept stages together early so they could contest intermediates, launched a daring attack into Victor Harbour that nearly stole a march on the peloton and then laid off the front of the race on the final stage to heap the pressure on Trek-Segafredo and Richie Porte.

But the ideal situation on today's stage  - where a few non GC threatening riders skip away up the road and win the stage, Porte attack with Yates on his wheel but the British star accelerate past him near the summit, Impey maintain his tempo paced by Cameron Meyer or Lucas Hamilton - nearly happened.

“We knew coming into the race that he (Porte) was the best climber here,” Mitchelton-Scott director Matt White said. "So the plan was to grab bonus seconds wherever possible from Day 1… or today, not having bonus seconds available.

“That’s why we let the break go out so much (today), so we’d not have time bonuses on the line."

"It nearly worked, only Richie got across. Regardless, Simon couldn’t follow Richie and Daryl was just off the mark for a podium place.

“They (Trek-Segafredo) had to earn their win and they earnt it today.”

Impey himself was clearly not on his best day when the race hit the final climb, starting to lose contact with the main bunch with 1.9 kilometres still left on the climb.

“I struggled on the early slopes and I probably banked quite a busy week," Impey said. "We gave it our all. In view of the performance, slightly disappointed, I would have liked more.

“Last year I finished on his wheel, thought that was a possibility this year, but the body didn’t respond today like last year.

“I don’t want to pull excuses, Richie was the best climber. I would have preferred the 20 second buffer that we usually come with. It was a lot closer this year.”

Despite the lack of an overall win they’ve come to expect, the Tour Down Under and Australian summer remains a success from White’s perspective.

“We’ve won two national titles, and you saw how cohesive the boys were racing here,” said White. “We’ve got a big chunk of this team racing the Giro d’Italia.

“This is an experienced group, it’s about knowing their roles in certain situations and this was the first phase of that process to hopefully win the Giro.”

If the Tour Down Under was a dry run for what we should expect to see the rest of the season, it should be an entertaining one for Mitchelton-Scott fans.