South African Daryl Impey has created history today, becoming the first male to win back-to-back Tour Down Under titles with a third-place finish on the final stage.
After winning on countback in 2018, Impey finished behind Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) up Willunga today to claim a more convincing 13-second victory in 2019.
The 34-year-old’s performance wraps up an incredibly successful fortnight for Mitchelton-SCOTT after world championship silver medallist Amanda Spratt won her third consecutive Women’s Tour Down Under title last Sunday.
Seven riders immediately surged ahead of the bunch at the start of racing as the peloton, led by Trek-Segafredo, EF Education First and Astana Pro Team, were content to let them take the intermediate sprints and bonus seconds on offer.
They sat at a steady three-minute advantage through the initial laps, but as they started to climb Willunga for the first time, it was down under two minutes and quickly diminishing. As soon as the road went up, they splinted, and the peloton had them in sight.
Pressure up the first climb:
Team Sky hit the front of the bunch from the bottom of the first ascent, putting pressure on those behind. It was enough to shell race leader Patrick Bevin (CCC Team), who was brave to start today’s stage whilst clearly hindered by the injuries of yesterday’s crash, and pull the remnants of the breakaway back.
Over the top, Team Sky had two riders with a small advantage, but they sat up and waited for the surviving chase group of around 60riders.
Richie wins on Willunga but Impey times to perfection
It was Team Sky who drove the pace once again on the final ascent. Porte reacted with 1.5km remaining, his usual launch pad, and quickly bridged across to Wout Poels (Team Sky) who was then alone.
Behind, Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Chris Hamilton (Team Sunweb) were the first reactors, but Impey stayed calm and sat on the wheel of teammate Lucas Hamilton, who rode beyond his 22-years.
Knowing his strengths, Impey used the final, flatter 500m to launch from Hamilton’s wheel and gain metres to finish just behind, on the same time as, Porte and Poels to secure the back-to-back victory.
Going off on a high:
After 20 years as a rider, the professional peloton saw Mathew Hayman ride his final race this afternoon, at a home race close to his heart.
Whilst his 2016 Paris-Roubaix victory, on his 15thattempt and six weeks after a broken arm, will go down as his biggest victory, Hayman’s impact on the peloton went beyond what a results sheet can explain.
A true professional and the ultimate teammate, the 40-year-old’s final ride was testimony to his character as he fought to regain contact after the first climb and work through the final lap before positioning Impey perfectly at the bottom of the final climb.
Hayman will continue to work in a variety of roles at Mitchelton-SCOTT for the remainder of 2019.
“I took the pressure but having the faith of the team goes a long way. We saw the boys committed right to the end. I couldn’t believe they (Porte and Poels) were that close so I just dug deep and went for it.
“That’s special to go back to back. I never dreamed to come here and win twice in a row. Every year we come here with strong ambitions. I knew the competition is always tough. I just believed in myself, and it was just fantastic to pull it off.
“Yesterday we really dug deep, and we took some valuable seconds. We knew we had some seconds on the climbing group. The stage win gave us a lot of momentum, and we started to believe we had a chance to win the race. The whole team rode great. The guys picked me up during the week.
“Last year I was a lot more ecstatic because I felt like I made a big step. I feel like I am maturing more as a rider, and that’s so exciting.
“I want to dedicate the win to him (Mathew Hayman). He’s been a fantastic team mate, a lot of my victories have come with Maty. To let him go out this way, we were going to celebrate his career anyway tonight, but to win the race overall it’ll be a double celebration.”
“I had very mixed emotions (up the final climb). I was off at the bottom by myself, having a bit of a wave and started getting a bit of a frog in my throat, and then all of a sudden my mind was back on to the race and how Daryl was doing.
“Next minute I had three teammates, (Alex) Edmondson, Heppy (Michael Hepburn) and Durbo (Luke Durbirdge) with me and it came over the radio that he’d won and that took my mind off the retirement and reminded me this is why I do this.
"It’s a big event, we raced all week and we needed every single one of us to be on. I couldn’t think of a better way to go out, not just because we won but how we raced.
“My whole family was on the hill, I didn’t know they were going to be out there, and that was really special. They are all quite emotional, but very special to have everyone come to see your last day of work.
“I just held it together but probably just because I was excited about the win for Daryl and that takes the mind off it. I really reckon it’ll be in a couple of week’s time before it registers.
“It’s been an emotional high all week. We needed everyone on, every day there was a plan, things to think about, so although I was being pulled in a few extra directions than normal, the number one priority was racing and it’s so nice to be able to race to the death.”
Tour Down Under – Stage 6 Results:
1. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) 3:30:14
2. Wout Poels (Team Sky) ST
3. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
Tour Down Under – FINAL General Classification:
1. Daryl Impey (Mitcheton-SCOTT) 20:30:42
2. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) +0:13
3. Wout Poels (Team Sky) +0:17
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.