Rohan Dennis of the BMC Racing Team gutted out a runner-up finish on Old Willunga Hill Saturday to keep the overall lead of the Santos Tour Down Under by two seconds over stage winner Richie Porte (Team Sky). With only Sunday’s 20-lap, 90-kilometer circuit race through the streets of Adelaide to go, Dennis is on the verge of scoring his first overall victory in a WorldTour race while teammate Cadel Evans sits in third after finishing fourth on the day.
“I am so, so happy,” Dennis said after donning the race leader’s ochre jersey in front of a sun-baked crowd. “I really could not have done it without the team. I know it is clich?, but they really were amazing. Every single time there was a stressful situation, they were there to surround and protect me and make my job as easy as possible.” After teammates Silvan Dillier, Michael Sch?r and Danilo Wyss helped with the pacemaking to bring back the last rider from the day’s breakaway, Peter Stetina and Evans went to work. The three BMC Racing Team riders combined efforts with three Astana Pro Team riders and two from FDJ to push the pace. The result was a nearly 10-second advantage that forced a furious pursuit before the group of eight was caught with 4.5 km left in the 151.5-km race. “We were up there with Peter, Rohan and myself and it was great,” Evans said. “We didn’t miss anything all day. But of course that left us a little bit more fatigued in the finish, which may have cost me in the last few hundred meters. But if I am behind, they are going to ride like crazy in front. So we had to be there being first and second on the general classification. Sometimes defending can be a little bit harder.” Porte, who won this same stage a year ago, made the first of several attacks with 1.2 km left. And like last year, Evans was first to follow. But the past Tour de France winner and world road champion could not keep pace, leaving Dennis to take up the chase. “I actually felt pretty comfortable when he (Porte) first went,” Dennis said. “But then he kept kicking and kicking ? and then he kicked again. I think it was at about 350 or 400 meters to go that I had had enough. I actually thought if I kept going, I would have dropped dead. But Richie sort of went ? in hindsight ? probably a little bit too late, because really he had better legs than me. I will have to thank him for that.” Porte crossed the finish nine seconds ahead of Dennis. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar Team) finished third ? seven seconds later ? with Evans arriving in the same time. In the overall standings, Evans is 20 seconds off the lead, with fourth-placed Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) a further two seconds back. Evans, runner-up at this race a year ago and set to retire after competing in his own race on Feb. 1, said he was glad he could help Dennis hold onto the lead gained Thursday after a solo victory on Stage 3. “Obviously he was riding a little bit better than me and the results proved that,” Evans said. “I would rather walk away with a high place on the classification. I wanted to come here and enjoy my time and do the best that I can. I really got everything out of myself this week. I don’t think we made any mistakes. We certainly are in a better position that we hoped to be.”