Australia Day came early in Adelaide with Rohan Dennis heading a clean sweep of the podium in the Santos Tour Down Under. Racing in front of a crowd of 115 thousand fans the ?South Australian from the BMC Racing team can now boast of a UCI World Tour victory after claiming the Santos Ochre Leader?s jersey by a two-second margin over Tasmanian Richie Porte (Team SKY). Dennis finished 20 seconds clear of team-mate and compatriot Cadel Evans, who after a 20 year professional cycling career ended his final World Tour event in overall third place.
?It’s an incredible feeling to win the Santos Tour Down Under,? said Dennis. ?Doing it with Cadel during his last World Tour race took a lot of pressure off me but I was not comfortable at all in this last stage. ?I was following Richie Porte in the sprints in case he’d go for the (time) bonus but I didn’t have to worry because my team rode awesome. “I couldn’t fault them, they sat at the front and made sure I was out of the wind,” Dennis said. “Even when I got pushed back someone always dropped back and pulled forward. “They have really helped me win this and made it a lot easier.” It was a deserved win for the 24-year-old who has won world titles on both the road and track as well as Commonwealth and Olympic Games silver medals in his short career. BMC Racing General Manager Jim Ochowicz says the win is significant for Dennis who joined the team in August last year. ?For Rohan, it?s the beginning of a career, this is his first big win as a pro, and to have it be a World Tour event says even more,? said Ochowicz. ?He went against a real seasoned rider, Richie Porte, to fight the fight, that was a great sign for the future. ?We came here for Cadel, he tried, he got third, but Rohan was just better.? ?Cadel is so happy to end his career like this,? said Ochowicz of the 2011 Tour de France champion who will now work with BMC Racing in the role of company Ambassador. ?It?s a great end to a great career.? With only two seconds separating Dennis from Porte at the start of the day there was an opportunity for Porte to try and grab some bonus seconds during the race but it?s a hard ask on the final stage especially with a super attentive BMC Racing team on the alert to protect their race leader. For Porte coming so close to the top step of the podium was bitter sweet but he was content to be in the placings and to have won yesterday?s ?Queen? stage. ?I am happy,? he said. ?I enjoyed it. It was a great week of racing. It?s just incredible to see the growth of racing in Australia. ?It?s a massive confidence boost,? Porte explained. ?I won the same stage (stage 5) last year, but this year, I feel I have a lot of motivation back, and I am looking forward to having a big season.? Today?s Be Safe Be Seen Stage 6 was raced over 20 laps of a 4.5 kilometre circuit that this year extended from Elder Park up through North Adelaide and back before sweeping up through the city along King William Street to Victoria Square. The stage is traditionally an all-up massed sprint and it looked set to be so again until a nasty crash on the final lap took a host of favourites out of contention. That opened the way for Dutch sprinter Wouter Wippert to snatch the win edging out Australian road champion, Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) with Belgian Boris Vallee (Lotto-Soudal) third across the line. ?It was a really nervous race,? said Wippert. ?The team rode all day in the front (but) I was a bit tired and I decided to go back but a teammate of mine took me to the front again ahead of the final sprint. That was fortunate for him because he was in front of the crash and able to ride on to the finish without mishap. ?I saw a crash happening but not much because the race was so fast,? he said. ?It’s fantastic to win here, being part of an Australian team in Australia for a World Tour race.? On lap ten and fifteen of the 90 kilometre stage the riders contested a Category 3 Subaru King of the Mountain climb. The first time under the arch it was Lars Boom (Astana) ahead of Peter Kennaugh (Team SKY) and Michael Schar (BMC Racing). Boom again took the maximum points on the second climb but this time Denmark?s Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) was second and Kennaugh third. The climbing results today had no impact on the race for the Subaru King of the Mountain jersey that began the day on the shoulders of Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) and went home with him as well. His final tally of 36 points was two ahead of Dennis with Porte well back in third on the climber?s classification with 22 points. ?I didn’t crash but I was caught behind the crash,? said Bobridge after the stage. ?It’s just bad because I wanted to help Steele von Hoff in the final sprint. ?But the whole week has been fantastic and I couldn’t ask for much more,? said Bobridge who on top of his Subaru KOM win also won the opening stage and wore the leader?s jersey for two days. The stage also featured two iiNet intermediate sprints, the first at the end of lap eight and the second at the end of lap twelve. The Orica-GreenEDGE team of iiNet Points leader Daryl made sure his hold on the jersey was secure by sending several team-mates with him in an early break. The South African locked up the lead with a win in the first intermediate sprint ahead of his team mate, Australian Mathew Hayman and Schar, who was policing the break for BMC team, in third place. At the second intermediate sprint Bak was first ahead of American Alex Howes (Trek-Cannondale) and Boom. When the points were tallied at the end of the stage Impey finished with 55 points well clear of Italian Niccolo Bonifazio (Lapre-Merida) on 39 points with Evans third in the iiNet classification with 37 points. Images copyright Regallo