• Sagan interacting with the fans at the 2017 Tour Down Under (AFP)Source: AFP
The rider who impressed Anthony Tan the most Thursday at the Tour Down Under was, rather ironically, the very person with the least to prove.
Cycling Central
19 Jan 2017 - 7:05 PM  UPDATED 14 May 2017 - 7:03 PM

I could write 500 words saying the race isn't over till its over. Which is not altogether untrue, because in bike racing, as in life, even when the odds are with totally with you, as they are with BMC Racing's Richie Porte right now, anything can happen.

But with Team Sky leader Sergio Henao's double puncture in the final hour of the stage to Paracombe and Movistar man Gorka Izagirre's crash Thursday, which, although it did not see him lose time, thus retaining his second place overall, the same cannot be said for his skin, his left shoulder shredded red raw by the pile-up, luck has effectively eliminated two of Porte's greatest adversaries this week.

"If you hadn't watched him before, you'd say the way he so deftly avoided that crash was a fluke."

Yes, Willunga is a completely different climb, but if anything, it suits Richie even more so than Paracombe. After all, he's won there three out of the last three occasions: you can't get someone much more suited than that, can you? As far as the Tour Down Under is concerned he is the King of Willunga Hill. Is Esteban Chaves, Jay McCarthy or Nathan Haas, respective third to fifth on the current general classification, a better climber than the Tasmanian? It's worth noting that on the 1.87 kilometre-long climb of Paracombe, Porte gained as much time as he lost in aggregate in the previous three TDUs he contested, when he finished fourth, second and second overall (2014-16).

Enuff said till Saturday.

Caleb Ewan was awesome today. Eighth wheel into the final corner, he needed all his aerodynamic efficiencies plus some to overcome world champ Peter Sagan in Victor Harbor. Losing lead-out man Daryl Impey in the same incident that befell Izagirre, apart from being dropped off by Luke Durbridge in the final kilometres, the 22-year-old New South Welshman had to do it all himself - and he was brilliant. It wasn't unlike a number of Mark Cavendish's stage wins at the Tour de France where the Manxman, seemingly gone for the money, uses his superior acceleration and dexterity to prevail against those more burly than he on a technical finish.

Ewan battles Sagan for TDU stage win
The Santos Tour Down Under returned to flatter terrain on Stage 3 with Caleb Ewan capitalising on the change in profile to take his second win.

I can't wait to see this young man (don't call him a kid anymore, orright!) up against Cavendish, Kittel, Greipel et al. in the Grand Tours on a regular basis. I know he's itching to go there; he's already told Orica-Scott head sports director Matt White he wants to do the Tour! So far he's ridden two 'Grandies' (Vuelta in 2015, Giro in 2016) and won a stage in the Vuelta where he beat Degenkolb and Sagan, but is yet to complete one. He also finished second to Greipel on Stage 12 of last year's Giro; a sure sign he's growing stronger as the years progress. I'd imagine he'll be down to ride the Giro once more and possibly the Vuelta too - though it'll be at least another year or two before he gets a solid look-in at La Grande Boucle. It's premature to say if he'll need to follow Michael Matthews to realise this.

Actually, the one who impressed me most today is the guy who, because of what he's already accomplished, is arguably the hardest to impress. If you hadn't watched Peter Sagan ever before, you'd say the way he so deftly avoided that crash that took out Izagirre was a fluke - but if you have, and that's probably everyone with a remote interest in professional cycling, then you know its Sagan's Sixth Sense coupled with his incredible way with the bike. As commentator Paul Sherwen observed, if it was just about any other rider, they would have been the meat in the shit sandwich.

Okay, the eloquent Englishman didn't say it quite like that.