The fifth stage of the Tour Down Under to Victor Harbor did not end with a massive sprint on Friday, and Marc Sarreau was then unable to fight for the win. Only fifty riders or so made it through the last climb, including our Swiss climber Kilian Frankiny who keeps his chances to get a good GC result before the last, decisive stage, up to Willunga Hill tomorrow.
As it occurred in the previous days, the GC battle pushed the fight for the breakaway into the background in the first part of the stage. Mitchelton-Scott made sure of keeping things together as they were determined to maximize the chances of the two times defending champion Daryl Impey, who succeeded in taking the leader’s jersey thanks to five bonus seconds picked up along the way today. “They blocked everything,” confirms Jussi Veikkanen. “They really wanted to go for the time bonuses because that is their only way to win the race as Willunga Hill is Richie Porte’s private game. They controlled everything until the second intermediate sprint, located after 56 kilometers. Then the race took another turning point, a small breakaway of four riders went off but it was caught quite early”.
“There might be something to get in the GC”, Jussi Veikkanen
After some time spent in the front of the race, Ian Stannard (Ineos), Ide Schelling (Bora-hansgrohe), Josef Cerny (CCC) and the World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) were reeled in at the bottom of the climb of Kerby Hill, with 22 kilometers to go, and that’s where the bunch shattered. “We were expecting that in this climb, Mitchelton-Scott would set a high pace to get rid of the sprinters, adds Jussi. They got some help from Astana but their plan did not really work out since almost all the sprinters ended up returning. Marc, Viviani and a few others were missing. It was a sprint of 50-60 riders, without us, won by Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT). I feel like the guys were not in a great day overall. Fortunately, Kilian made it to the leading group.”
It was still very close for the Swiss rider. As he told his sports director afterwards, he was not in a good position at all before the climb and he really had to push hard to get back. Something to keep in mind ahead of tomorrow’s last stage. “Especially that there might be something to get in the general classification,” says Jussi. “Tenth place is just ten seconds away. If we manage to put Kilian in the top 10 overall, it would be a great satisfaction. Better than that will be difficult. Willunga Hill (3.7 km at 6.8%) suits him more than Paracombe (Stage 3) as there will be more fight beforehand and that the climb is longer, steadier. It is not his real specialty because it’s still very punchy but we will try and we will see what happens. We will also have to see if the others can go through the first ascent of Willunga Hill, because I hope to have people around Kilian to help him at the bottom of the second ascent.”