Dennis wins the Tour Down Under, Wippert sprints to final-stage win
Wouter Wippert (Drapac) has taken his first-ever stage win in a WorldTour race, sprinting to victory on the sixth and final stage of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.
The 24-year-old Dutchman snuck along the barriers before hitting the front with roughly 200m to go and managing to hold off Heinrich Haussler (IAM) and Boris Valee (Lotto Soudal) for victory.
Rohan Dennis (BMC) finished safely in the bunch to maintain his overall lead and win the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.
The final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under saw the riders take to the streets of Adelaide for a 90km circuit race comprising 20 laps of a 4.5km circuit. The course took the riders from the event village in Victoria Square over the River Torrens then into a short clockwise loop before heading down King William Road towards Victoria Square once more.
There was the usual flurry of breakaway attempts in the opening lap-and-a-half before five riders managed to get clear and start compiling an advantage. Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Calvin Watson (Trek Factory Racing), Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) had an advantage of 25 seconds by the start of the fourth lap while Orica-GreenEdge kept an eye on proceedings at the front of the peloton.
That 25-second lead was the most the five leaders would have with Orica-GreenEdge bringing it down to 10 seconds by the start of lap 8. On that lap Drapac fastman Wouter Wippert drifted to the back of the main field, seemingly with a mechanical. Wippert offered some clarification in his post-race interview.
“I was a bit tired,” Wippert said. “I decided to go back but a teammate of mine took me to the front again ahead of the final sprint.”
While Wippert was being paced back to the main field by his teammates, Orica-GreenEdge was making contact with the five leaders at the front of the main field just before the first intermediate sprint. The chase had worked for the Australian-registered team — Daryl Impey, in the red jersey of the points classification leader, was able to roll off the front and take out the intermediate sprint, ensuring he’d win the classification overall.
An easing of the pace after the sprint allowed another breakaway to get clear. It was Team Sky’s Peter Kennaugh that initiated the six-rider break, being joined by Manuele Boaro (in his second breakaway of the day), Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Chris Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Lars Boom (Astana).
In the latter stages of lap 10 of 20 the six riders were 55 seconds ahead of the peloton. Boom, Kennaugh and Jensen took the KOM points on offer over Montefiore Hill but the result had no impact on the lead of jersey-wearer Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia).
On lap 11, with half the race completed, the six leaders had more than a minute’s advantage, prompting Jordan Kerby (Drapac) to come to the front to start pulling for Wouter Wippert. By the time the breakaway reached the second intermediate sprint, after 12 laps, the gap had grown to its maximum of 1:15. Bak took out the sprint, Howes was second and Boom was third.
With 14 laps complete the gap was down to 1:00 thanks to a sense of greater urgency in the peloton. Boom, Bak and Kennaugh crossed the KOM line in that order on lap 15 but again there was no change in the KOM classification.
After 15 laps, and with just five remaining, the gap was down to 50 seconds. A nasty crash on a left-hand bend the following lap saw Lampre-Merida’s Manuele Mori withdraw from the race. Meanwhile, the six leaders’ advantage was gradually coming down.
In lap 17 it was down to 30 seconds and one lap later it was within 10 seconds. Just as the break was about to be caught, at the start of the penultimate lap, Manuele Boaro punched clear of the lead group in a bid for solo glory. With Etixx-Quick-Step doing most of the chasing in the main field and Sky lurking just behind, a crash in the middle of the peloton caused a significant split.
The GC contenders were on the right side of the split and were able to continue with the lead group, while Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) was among the riders to be caught out and would lose his chance at victory.
By the end of lap 19 Boaro had been reeled in by the Sky-led main field of roughly 40 riders. IAM soon took up the charge as the race entered the final 4km, while Lampre-Merida was well placed in support of the team’s young sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio. As the finish line approached Drapac, Orica-GreenEdge and Etixx-Quick-Step made their presence felt by bringing their sprint trains to the front.
Orica-GreenEdge led the bunch into the final straight as the sprinters waited for their opportunity to pounce. Wouter Wippert made his move on the left-hand side of the road, squeezing through a small gap along the barriers to hit the front with roughly 200m to the line. Heinrich Haussler, wearing the green and gold jersey of the Australia national road race champion, was in the Dutchman’s slipstream but was unable to come around him in the lunge for the line.
For Wouter Wippert and his Australian Drapac team it was the perfect way to finish a week that had been full of just-abouts. After finishing third in the People’s Choice Classic last Sunday, Wippert also took third on stage 4 after hitting the front just a fraction too early.
For BMC it was a case of job done. Rohan Dennis had negotiated the final stage without incident, finishing on bunch time in 28th place; enough to maintain his two-second lead over Richie Porte and win the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.
“It’s an incredible feeling to win the Santos Tour Down Under,” Dennis said after the stage. “Doing it with Cadel during his last WorldTour 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.”
Daryl Impey took a comfortable win in the points classification, Jack Bobridge was crowned the winner of the KOM classification, and Movistar wrapped up the teams classification. And Rohan Dennis added to his prize haul with a win in the best young rider classification.
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