Third day of racing, and second top position for Paul Penhoët. After his fifth place in a bunch sprint, the young man from Groupama-FDJ overcame the climbs of the Tour Down Under’s second stage on Thursday to claim tenth place. Like five of his teammates, he finished inside a reduced peloton, a handful of seconds behind a quintet that went away in the day’s final climb. Miles Scotson has moved up into the top-10 of the general classification, which should change quite a lot on Friday.
On paper, things were supposed to get a bit tougher on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under. Heading towards Victor Harbor, a hilly terrain and strong winds could create a lively race. But that was not the case from the start. “It started very slowly because Jayco-AlUla wanted to control for the intermediate sprint”, said Paul Penhoët. “It was even boring at first, and we didn’t really know what to expect or what strategy the big teams were going to have. “The peloton was half asleep, even more with the headwind”, confirmed Jussi Veikkanen. Two men finally broke away after about thirty kilometres: Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan Team) and Johan Jacobs (Movistar). The peloton took it easy for a while, but the race then opened up in the first climbs of the day. “In an area we knew well from past editions, a big show of echelons started”, said Jussi. “For twenty kilometres, the peloton was split in two, at least. In the group of thirty at the front, we had our three riders for the overall: Rudy, Michael and Reuben. They were careful, it was well done by them. In the end, however, the headwind that came after the second bonus sprint calmed the leading group down and everything came back together. Then, it was more mentally exhausting”. “The echelons stressed out everyone”, added Paul. “After that, it was nervous for the rest of the stage, because everyone expected that it could split again with each change of direction”.
“Having six guys up front proves that the work over the winter was well done”, Jussi Veikkanen
The pack however remained together after catching the early fugitives and got to the bottom of the decisive Nettle Hill (2km at 7.8%), located 22 kilometres from the finish. “We managed to position ourselves well”, explained Paul. “We knew a sprint was possible if we got over that climb”. But in the highest slopes, five overall contenders managed to get away as the bunch lost riders from the back. At the top, only about fifty men remained in chase of the quintet. “Our group did very well overall”, pointed out Jussi. “We had six riders in the peloton, which was not bad at all. That’s a real satisfaction of today”. “There were still big sprinters, but not all of them”, said Paul, who was up there. “On the other hand, given that it is the first race of the season, everyone was a bit dead in the group after this big effort. We never managed to be organized enough to come back to the leading five who were really strong. It is a pity”. “The five up front were much stronger to be able to stay away despite the headwind for twenty kilometres”, added Jussi. “We tried to take part in the chase as soon as we were able to, but it didn’t work out. We were disappointed not to have given Paul the opportunity to sprint for victory”.
Eleven seconds behind the winner and new leader Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma), Paul Penhoët took fifth place in the peloton, meaning tenth in the stage. “I was a bit tired in the final, even though Miles once again did a great job and positioned us well for the last 500 meters”, explained the young man. “It wasn’t for the win, that’s how it is, but I could see that the legs were good in the climbs, and for the whole team too. It’s a good thing considering the difficult stages ahead.” “Paul showed his abilities in the climbs, it’s very interesting and a real positive outcome of the day”, continued Jussi. “Having six guys up front (team with most numbers, editor’s note) also proves that work over the winter was well done. It’s always better to win, but you think about the positive, and it shows that we have qualities”. Miles Scotson also progressed to tenth place overall on Thursday, but he will not be the most anticipated man tomorrow in Campbelltown, where a climb will feature six kilometres before the finish. “The climbers are motivated”, concluded Jussi. “We did a complete recon of the stage. Now, it will come down to the legs in the climb, and we will try to seize any opportunity if they arise”.