photo credits @ TDU
South Australia’s living time trial legend Rohan Dennis greeted a raucous crowd to take a stage win and GC in his own backyard.
Jumbo-Visma’s Dennis – a 2015 Tour Down Under champion – was far too good, using his time trial skills when it counted to claim the Oakley stage 2 Brighton to Victor Harbor.
Dennis joined a breathtaking five-man breakaway group on the final climb including two Grand Tour winners.
Simon Yates (Jayco AlULa), Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe) Australian gun Michael Matthews (Jayco AlUla) and Swiss Mauro Schmid (Soudal-Quickstep) was a field of dreams which added to the late race drama before the Victor Harbor finish line.
“It was hard,’’ Dennis said. “It was always going to blow up on that climb. It was done before, like when Daryl Impey won in 2018 but I honestly thought it would come back and I wasn’t willing to take that risk when Jay and Yates went up the road. So, I buried myself and hoped it paid off and it did,” he added.
Dennis recorded his first Tour Down Under stage win since claiming the 2015 title when he showcased his bike skills at the uphill Paracombe finish line.
The two-time world-time trial champion and reigning Commonwealth Games gold medalist finished the race ahead of Vine, Schmid, Yates, Hindley and Australia’s sprint gun Caleb Ewan at Victor Harbor.
Although Dennis rued the absence of teammate Robert Gesink who crashed and broke his hip during the Ziptrak stage 1 Tanunda to Tanunda, he was forced to play a tactical game with a man down.
Jayco AlULa was also dealt a major blow on race day when Australia’s Chris Harper didn’t start.
He joined Gesink, Jordi Meeus (Bora-hansgrohe), Australians Graeme Frislie (Australian National Team) and Conor Leahy (Australian National Team) and Patrick Bevin (Team DSM) while Great Britain’s James Knox (Soudal-Quickstep) was disqualified after drafting team cars following a crash on stage 1.
After a tepid start on the Southern Expressway from a Brighton departure Alberto Bettiol’s overall lead came to an abrupt sad ending.
Bettiol appeared to suffer from a cramp to his left leg about 11km from the finish line and threw his water bottle onto the tarmac in anger.
However, the battle was on for the early time bonuses in the Ziptrak sprint 1 Esplanade, Snapper Point, Aldinga Beach at the 33.6km mark.
It was a chaotic lead into the sprint which pleased ochre jersey leader Bettiol when Trek-Segafredo’s Marc Brustenga clinched the intermediate sprint pole position.
Jayco AlUla’s Michael Matthews was third, earning a one-second bonus to stay behind Bettiol’s overall lead.
Bettiol’s EF Education-Easypost team had the Italian well protected when south-easterly 25km/h winds made riding uncomfortable as the peloton approached Sellicks Hill.
Bettiol’s teammates were heading the main peloton as a breakaway led by Italian Manuele Boaro from Astana Qazakstan and Swiss Johan Jacobs maintained a four-minute gap.
As Myponga Reservoir approached the peloton split as they chased down Boaro and Jacobs.
Dennis kept the split company alongside the efex king of the mountain polka dot jersey of Luke Plapp from Ineos Grenadiers alongside teammate Magnus Sheffield who recovered from his stage 1 crash.
As the Ziptrak sprint 2 on Main South Road, approached Bettiol was still in good shape to cause an upset.
Matthews made a dash for more time bonuses in the intermediate sprint but the Italian stayed on his wheel to pick up a bonus second as the Australian came in second behind Corbin Strong from Israel Premier Tech.
At that stage of the race Bettiol still held a four-second overall lead over Matthews and Sheffield.
Kazak Dmitriy Griuzdev then soloed to earn the first efex King of the Mountain of the day at Parawa Hill earning seven points with 67.6km before the Victor Harbor finish line.
Italy’s Alessandro Covi was second up the summit and put the heat on wrestling the polka dot king of the mountain jersey from Plapp who was third before the Nettle Hill summit was in sight, 20.9km from Victor Harbor.
In the lead-up to the second king of the mountain, Matthews was forced to change bikes after a mishap with Sheffield before Jay Vine (UAE Emirates) led a breakaway with Dennis, Yates, Hindley and Schmid.
Vine claimed King of the Mountain honors and will own the polka dot jersey for the Hahn stage 3 Norwood to Campbelltown on Friday.
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