Rohan Dennis flies to stage 3 win and overall lead in the Tour Down Under

by Matt de Neef


Rohan Dennis (BMC) has won stage 3 of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under after flying past an elite lead group on the steep final ascent into Paracombe.
Dennis was followed over the line three seconds later by his team leader Cadel Evans, the result pushing Dennis and Evans into first and second on the general classification respectively.
Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) finished third on the stage, with the same time as Evans, and now sits third overall.

ADELAIDE, Australia (CT) – Today’s 143.2km third stage of the Santos Tour Down Under began in warm conditions in the suburb of Norwood in Adelaide’s inner east. After a neutral zone of more than 7km the race began with a long uphill drag into the Adelaide Hills, for the second day in a row.

After an initial flurry of activity in which several riders attempted to break clear, it was Will Clarke (Drapac) — one of the main aggressors in last year’s race — who moved off the front of the race and got the breakaway started.

“This morning it was either me or (team mate) Travis Meyer who’d go away,” Clarke said after the stage.  “He got pulled back after I tried first so it was my turn.”

Clarke was joined a few kilometres later by Calvin Watson (Trek), Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Lasse Norman Hansen (Cannondale-Garmin).

The peloton seemed content with the composition of the break and allowed the gap to grow. After 8.5km of racing the four leaders had 1:45 over the main field and after 14km it was out to 2:35 with Sky and UniSA-Australia controlling the peloton for Richie Porte and overall leader Jack Bobridge respectively.

Having headed east out of Adelaide to Birdwood and then south towards Mount Torrens, the four leaders enjoyed a maximum advantage of 3:30 after 41km of racing. But by the time the race reached the town of Lobathal to start three laps of a 25.7km circuit through Lenswood, Woodside and Charleston, the gap was starting to come down, courtesy of Team Sky.

The four riders had less than three minutes when Will Clarke took the first intermediate sprint in Charleston after 67.4km (five points, three bonus seconds), with Hansen second (three points, two seconds) and Domont third (two points, one second).

stage3map

With the temperature hovering around 34 degrees on the roads east of Adelaide, the four leaders extended their lead out beyond three minutes again, but it wasn’t long before it started trending in the opposite direction once more.

With Sky, UniSA-Australia and now Movistar controlling the bunch the gap was down to 2:40 after 87km of racing.

In a mirror image of the first sprint, Will Clarke beat Lasse Norman Hansen and Axel Domont in the second intermediate sprint in Charleston. Domont, meanwhile, was struggling in the break. With roughly 100km covered and 40km remaining — including one lap of the Lobethal circuit — Domont was dropped from the breakaway and started drifting back to the peloton.

At the third and final intermediate sprint Clarke again took maximum points, with Hansen and Watson picking up the minor placings. At that stage the three-rider lead group was slowly being reeled back in by the Movistar- and Sky-led peloton, their advantage down at 2:25.

With 20km to the finish the gap was down to 1:35 despite the best efforts of the three leaders. Hansen was the next to be shed from the lead group while the gap to the group continued to drop, reaching one minute with 18km left to race.

Calvin Watson sat up in the break with 15km to go — seemingly on team orders — leaving Will Clarke alone at the front of the race. He stayed there for the next 6km but with 9.2km still to race, in the small town of Cudlee Creek, he was swept up and the race was back together. His efforts in the break would see him receive the award for the most competitive rider.

Inside the final 10km the riders bombed down Cudlee Creek Road and Gorge Road, just as they had on stage 1 en route to the finish in Campbelltown. The bunch flew down the technical descent in excess of 60km/h, Team Sky and Giant-Alpecin stringing out the peloton as the final climb approached.

stage3profile

Riders started popping off the back of the bunch as the road ramped up and when the race turned right to begin the steepest section of the climb, on Torrens Hill Road, the bunch exploded.

Richie Porte (Sky) attacked from the front group with 1.2km left to race — and 800m before the KOM line — with only Cadel Evans, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) able to follow for any length of time. Porte tried another attack that was quickly marked by Evans while a little further down the hill overnight leader Jack Bobridge faded well out of contention.

With the top of the climb in sight, and despite having his team leader in the lead group just ahead, Rohan Dennis attacked from the splintered bunch, powering past Evans and Porte just before the KOM line. Dennis took the 16 points on offer at the KOM and continued on towards the finish of the stage just 400m up the road.

By the time the 24-year-old crossed the finish line he’d opened enough of a gap to win the stage by three seconds, his teammate Evans crossing the line second after overhauling Dumoulin in sight of the line.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to win,” said Dennis of his stage victory. “The plan was for me to attack halfway into the climb but I was too far back to follow the plan.

“I have the ochre (leader’s) jersey now but Cadel and I are still both protected,” he explained. “There’s still Willunga (Stage 5) and a lot of racing to come.”

The victory and the 10 bonus seconds that came with it see Rohan Dennis move into the overall lead, seven seconds ahead of teammate Cadel Evans. It’s an interesting development in the race, not least because most predicted Cadel Evans would be the BMC rider to beat at this year’s race. What BMC will do from here on will be interesting to observe.

It’s also interesting to note that, ahead of their respective attempts at the hour record in the next few weeks, both Jack Bobridge and Rohan Dennis have won a stage at and led the Tour Down Under this year.

By cresting the Torrens Hill Road KOM first Rohan Dennis now also leads the KOM classification, but Pozzovivo will wear the polka dot jersey. Dennis also leads the best young rider classification but Tom Dumoulin will wear the white jersey.

Cadel Evans now leads the points classification and BMC, in what was an exceptional day for the team, also leads the team classification.

Tomorrow’s fourth stage of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under takes the riders 144.5km from Glenelg to Mount Barker in a stage that is expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Click here to see our report from stage 1 of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under, and here to see our report from stage 2.

Photo gallery

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Race results

[rrresults format=’full’ id= 149846]