Lyons on his way to victory on Willunga Hill.

Whelan victorious at the TDU Festival as Lyons wins on Willunga

With the breakaway taking the final stage, Richie Porte wasn't able to win on Willunga for the eighth time.

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Despite being docked a minute on GC for motorpacing from his team car on stage 1, James Whelan (BridgeLane) has emerged victorious at the Santos Festival of Cycling in South Australia. Whelan held firm in the peloton as the race’s final stage, finishing atop Willunga Hill, was decided by the breakaway.

Angus Lyons (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) was part of the nine-rider move that led for much of the race, before riding away from his companions on the 3 km stage-ending climb. Callum Scotson (BikeExchange-Jayco) finished second at 22 seconds behind, with Cooper Sayers (Nero Continental) rounding out the podium at 32 seconds, narrowly beating Brendon Green (Cycling Development Foundation) with a bike throw to the line.

At 1:22 behind Lyons, Luke Plapp (Garmin-Australia/Ineos Grenadiers) was the first non-breakaway rider across the line in eighth place, but didn’t feature on GC after losing time due to a mechanical on stage 2. Plapp’s teammate Richie Porte, a seven-time winner atop Willunga Hill who was racing up the climb for the last time as a professional, finished in 10th. He was six seconds behind Plapp and just ahead of Whelan.

The third and final stage of the men’s Santos Festival of Cycling started in McLaren Vale and took the riders 113 km to the summit of nearby Willunga Hill. Scotson was the first to attack, sparking a move that would see five riders get clear. A chase group of four set off a short time later and made contact with the front of the race with 90 km to go, three minutes ahead of the peloton. Among the nine leaders: Scotson, Lyons, Lyons’s teammate Declan Trezise, Sayers, and Green.

The nine leaders worked well together and built a gap that touched five minutes at one stage. And while that lead came down slightly as Willunga Hill approached, the leaders still had an advantage of more than three minutes by the time they started the final climb.

Trezise rode strongly in support of Lyons in the lead-up to that final ascent, but it was Scotson that made the first significant attack. He was soon joined by Lyons and Green, before Lyons made his race-winning move with 2 km to climb.

For Whelan, the overall victory was built on an impressive solo victory on stage 1. Whelan rode away to a 1:27 lead on GC but that was later slashed to 0:27 thanks to a controversial commissaires ruling.

Completing a BridgeLane 1-2 on GC was Matt Dinham who finished second on the opening stage. Chris Harper (Villawood/Jumbo-Visma) moved up to third overall with ninth on the closing stage.

The Santos Festival of Cycling is a domestic-level National Road Series event for women and men that replaces the COVID-affected Tour Down Under. The TDU is expected to return in its usual capacity in 2023.

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