ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — South Africa's Daryl Impey became the first man to post back-to-back wins in the Tour Down Under, the opening race of cycling's World Tour, when he edged Australia's Richie Porte Sunday who finished second for the fourth time.
For the first time in its 21-year history the six-stage tour ended atop Willunga Hill at the end of its longest and steepest stage. Porte won the stage for the sixth straight year, accepting the keys to the town of Willunga in acknowledgement of his status as King of Willunga.
But for the second year in a row he wasn't able to sufficiently shake off Impey to claim the overall tour victory.
On a dramatic stage, the overnight leader on general classification, New Zealander Patrick Bevin, dropped out with 25 kilometers to go as he found himself unable to overcome injuries sustained in a fall on Saturday's fifth stage.
That left Impey as the presumptive tour leader but he knew that Porte could still take the overall race win with another victory on the 151.5-kilometer stage.
Porte began the final stage 26 seconds behind Bevin and 19 seconds behind second-placed Impey. The Australian knew that if he won the stage he would claim a 10 second time bonus but would also have to finish nine seconds ahead of Impey to claim the overall tour win.
The same scenario unfolded last year when the Willunga Hill stage was the fifth of the tour's six stages. Porte again had to beat Impey by a margin of more than eight seconds on the stage to claim the overall victory but Impey was able to finish within that margin to claim the tour.
Riders on Sunday had to make two climbs to the summit of Willunga Hill. The first half of the climb is the steepest, before a slightly less grueling last two kilometers to the peak. That has been where Porte has made his attacks in recent years.
He tried to do so again but his plan was complicated by Team Sky Riders Kenny Elissonde and Wout Poels who pressed the issue at the front of a leading group of 60 riders which included Porte and Impey. When Porte finally went, late on the second climb, it may have been too late.
Impey, with close support from his Mitchelton Scott teammates, kept in touch with Porte and was credited with the same time as the Australian when he crossed the line.
On general classification he finished 13 seconds ahead of Porte while Poels took third place a further six seconds behind.
"I'm pretty stoked of course with the bike ride," Impey said. "I accepted the pressure but of course I had faith in my team which goes a long way."
For most of the stage the riders raced in flat conditions near the coast and a group of seven riders made an early break and stayed away for almost 125 kilometers of the stage.
Bevin, who had led the tour from stage two, was still part of the leading group as it passed through the township of Willunga and turned up the narrow road to the top of the hill for the first time. It was then that his injuries told and he slowly dropped out of the peloton.
Impey was left in charge of the race but knew he had to track Porte to ensure his victory.
He did so with the assistance of his teammates Cameron Meyer, Lucas Hamilton and Australian Matt Hayman who is riding his last professional race at the age of 40.
"I dedicate the win to Matt Hayman," Impey said. "He's been a fantastic teammate for the last five or six years now. A lot of my victories have come with Matty so to let him go out this way...
"We were going to celebrate his career anyway tonight but with the race overall, it's going to be a double celebration."
Porte did everything he could to take the overall win but Impey was too strong.
"It's a hard race for someone like me to win," Porte said. "There's one hilltop finish and that's it.
"But I came here with...my new team. The boys were absolutely fantastic all week, they put me in a good position today... hats off to Daryl Impey for the win but to win six times on Willunga is a great feeling."
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