January 19, 2023
Tour Down Under 2023 – Stage 2 – Brighton – Victor Harbor : 154,8 km
For the best part of two decades, Australia’s flagship stage race –
January 19, 2023
Tour Down Under 2023 – Stage 2 – Brighton – Victor Harbor : 154,8 km
For the best part of two decades, Australia’s flagship stage race – the Tour Down Under – has been regarded as one of the biggest early-season events on cycling’s international calendar. Taking place in the southern hemisphere’s summer, it also serves as a perfect getaway for pros who want to make their debuts in sunny Australia, rather than in cold and damp Europe. The race takes place in and around Adelaide, the capital of South Australia and the fifth-most populous city in the country. Ever since its first edition in 1999 it has been held over six days, with each stage setting off from a similar location before heading out and touring the varied terrain around the city. Several cruise along the coast, while others head deep into the rugged Adelaide Hills.
Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) won stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under and took the race lead after jumping away from a big-name, five-rider attack group that distanced the peloton on the ride to Victor Harbor.
Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), Mauro Schmid (Soudal-QuickStep), Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) were also in the attack that formed on Nettle Hill with 20km to go.
Michael Matthews’ was not there and his overall hopes suffered a major blow. The Jayco AlUla leader was bumped by other riders and suffered a mechanical problem with 22km to go. He chased hard all the way to the finish but finished two minutes down on Dennis.
All the attackers apart from Yates worked hard to ensure they stayed away, he was hoping that Matthews would close the gap.
In the twisting final kilometre, Dennis chased and then attacked Hindley and finished two seconds ahead of Vine, Schmid and Yates, with Hindley at five seconds and Caleb Ewan (Australia) bringing home the peloton at 11 seconds.
Dennis gained enough time to take the leader’s ochre-coloured leader’s jersey. Previous leader Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) was hit by cramps late in the race and lost contact with the peloton.
Dennis now leads Vine by three seconds in the overall classification, with Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) third at 12 seconds. The race now heads deeper and higher into the Adelaide hills for stage 3 to Campbelltown, with the Corkscrew climb just 5.8km from the finish.
“This was the first WorldTour race I did. It really did help me get into the pro ranks and has helped a lot of young Aussie riders do the same, so we’ve got a lot to give back to this race. I’m really proud to wear the ochre jersey tomorrow,” Adelaide-native Dennis said.
“That was a lot of work for a few seconds in GC. I just battled over the climb to get across to Jai Hindley and Simon Yates. From there it was just a battle and I was hoping Yatesy wouldn’t attack because he had sat on before helping us in the final five kilometres.
“I didn’t expect to go to the line. I thought it’d be hard over the climb and it’s a tricky run-in too, so hard for teams to control it. So all’s well that ended well.”
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to test ourselves against Matthews. It’s never nice to take time via a mechanical but you have to take chances when you get them.
How it unfolded
With the wind forecast to blow and perhaps sparks splits and echelons, the riders were quiet and nervous at the sign-on in Brighton, with no time to enjoy the views of the beach.
The stage started slow as the riders saved themselves for the finale. Jayco AlUla also controlled the early attacks to ensure Matthews could fight for the bonus seconds at the first intermediate sprint after 33km near Aldinga Beach..
The Australian team tried to lead out the sprint but other teams and other riders fought for the front and the bonus seconds. Marc Brustenga (Trek-Segafredo) came up along the right to win the sprint and take three seconds. The Spaniard was well placed overall after a good prologue time trial and so rightly looked for bonus seconds.
Behind Matthews rubbed shoulders with Hugo Page (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty). They were close on the line but race judges ruled that Page was second and so he took two seconds, with Matthews taking one second.
An attack came as soon as the peloton reformed, with Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan) and Johan Jacobs (Movistar) surging away. The peloton let them open a 4:00 gap and then EF Education-EasyPost took up the chase to defend Bettiol’s race lead.
The race was controlled and relaxed but that suddenly ended with 102km to race as the riders climbed up from Myponga onto an exposed plateau.
The wind was blowing and so UAE Team Emirates hit the front and upped the speed, looking to take advantage of the climb and the crosswinds.
In a matter of seconds a front group of 35 riders got away, with Jayco Alula also riding hard to drag them clear. Most of the true overall contenders made the split including race leader Bettiol but Caleb Ewan was stuck behind with Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and others.
Bahrain Victorious had Pello Bilbao in the move plus two other riders and they drove the attack with Jayco AlUla’s Simon Yates, Luke Durbridge and Lucas Hamilton riding for Matthews. The 35 riders soon caught Boaro and Jacobs, with the chasers at 40 seconds. The race was on.
The attackers drove to the second intermediate sprint and Matthews again hunted for bonus seconds. However Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) was again stronger and won the sprint to take three seconds. Matthews took two, with Bettiol sweeping up the one-second bonus.
In the virtual GC, Matthews moved to just four seconds from the race lead. Little did he know it would be as close as he would get.
The riders reached the feed zone soon after the sprint, with 80km to race. UAE Team Emirates tried to drive the attack but the chasers were also committed. They managed to close the gap to bring the race back together but more crosswinds and more attacks were expected.
Only Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana Qazaqstan) tried a solo attack but he was left to hang out front. However he was first over Parawa Hill, with Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) jumping away to second. Lucas Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) chased him to third.
Gruzdev was soon caught with 64km to go, signalling a pause in hostilities before the final climbs and so the peloton stayed together on the ride towards Victor Harbor.
Matthews delayed by a mechanical
The pace and tension rose after the turn left back into the hills, with the best teams fighting for position at the front.
On the lower slopes of Nettle Hill with 22km to go, Matthews was suddenly out of the back of the peloton with a mechanical problem after dropping his chain. It later emerged he had been bumped by other riders, with a touch of wheels adding to his problems.
The Jayco AlUla team car arrived and convinced Matthews to take a new bike. He began to chase but was timed at a minute behind as the race exploded up front. It was tragic for the Australian, who had targeted the Tour Down Under and was considered a real favourite.
Up front, Vine attacked first to try to go clear. Yates marked him and then Dennis, Hindley and Schmid joined them. It was the attack of the day.
Behind Matthews caught a chase group and his Jayco AlUla teammates worked to try to close the gap but it was over a minute and kept growing. The peloton was closer thanks to Ineos Grenadiers leading the chase but they faced a huge task.
With 12km to go the high pace hurt Bettiol. Cramps forced him to ease up and then stop. He banged his thighs to fight the pain and waved away a television motorbike in frustration. His time as race leader was over.
Dennis, Hindley, Schmid, Vine and Yates drove towards Victor Harbor determined to hold off the peloton. Yates began to work too, knowing that he was now Jayco Alula’s protected rider.
The Ineos Grenadiers peloton could see them on a straight road but failed to catch them. In the twisting final kilometre Hindley tried to anticipate the sprint but Dennis used him as something to aim for. He stormed across to him and then stormed past him, going clear to win by two seconds.
That was enough to give him the race lead as well as the stage victory and so complete a perfect day for the Adelaide-born rider. Now he and Jumbo-Visma have to defend the jersey from the expected attacks on the climbs from Vine, Hindley and especially Yates.