It’s a BMC water bottle half-full, half-empty empty scenario.
BMC captain Riche Porte won big atop the Willunga summit finish on stage five of the Santos Tour Down Under. He attacked at exactly the same place he always attacks, on a steep section 1.5 kilometers from the top.
Pushing over 700 watts on a gradient close to 7.5%, the Tasmanian quickly broke clear of a group of about thirty riders with only Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jay McCarthy able to claw his way onto Porte’s rear wheel.
It was an exhausting and short-lived achievement for McCarthy. Once Porte launched a second searing attack, his rival for overall victory faded out of view, never to be seen again until trailing across the finishline 24 seconds behind.
It was a fantastic day for Porte, who is the unofficial King of Willunga, having won on the summit five times in a row. He’s predictable, it’s repetitive, it works every time.
However, Porte also lost the bigger prize by a painful, almost non-existent margin. Countryman Daryl Impey, a sprinter for Mitchelton-Scott, rode an exceptionally smart tactical race, measuring his efforts perfectly, racing to the line for second place and finishing just eight seconds behind Porte.
Having started the day ahead of Porte on time and with time bonuses working in his favor, Impey took the orche jersey on count back. Tomorrow’s final sprint stage all but guarantees that Impey, not Porte, will hoist the champagne and kisses the podium girls.
Thus, the half-full, half empty conundrum that was reflected in Porte’s post-stage quotes. On the plus side: “Last year winning with the ochre jersey was special but this is up there as one of the most special too.” Then on the down side: “For me that’s unfortunate. Impey has ridden smart. I wasn’t quite good enough to finish it.”
While a Tour Down Under title would have started Porte’s 2018 campaign off with a bang, a high profile victory on Willunga sets him up nicely with plenty of confidence.
And be forewarned, next year, 1.5 kilometers from the top of Willunga Summit, expect Richie Porte to attack. You can kind of plan on it at this point, right?