Tour Down Under: De La Cruz climbs in the GC
The Spanish rider gave it his all on Willunga Hill, and is now 22nd in the overall standings.
The longest stage of the race (McLaren Vale – Willunga Hill, 151.5 kilometers) had action right from the start, when Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Lars Boom (Astana) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal) attacked and build a substantial lead of more than five minutes. Aware that the general classification will be decided on this day, the bunch quickly began to shave up those minutes way before the first time up Willunga Hill, the race's most iconic location.
On the ascent, Van Rensburg gave it his best shot and moved along from the other three, but was caught on the descent inside 20 kilometers to go, when the four still had a 2:30 gap on the chasers. At one point, it looked like they could make it to the line, but it was just an illusion, because the pack rode full gas and narrowed the lead of the men at the front.
By the time the peloton hit Willunga Hill for the second and last time, Sky came at the front and winded it up, in order to bring Sergio Henao into the best position. It wasn’t him, but BMC’s Richie Porte who made his move, and even though the Colombian tried to stay locked on his wheel, the Australian pummeled his opponent on the climb and won on top of Willunga Hill for the third year in succession. Henao crossed the line six seconds later, followed by Michael Woods (Cannondale). Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) came in 17 seconds after Porte, but it was enough to keep his lead in the general classification, where the podium is rounded out by Porte and Henao.
Riding the Tour Down Under for the second year in a row, David De La Cruz was the first to cross the line for Etixx – Quick-Step on Willunga Hill. The 26-year old Spanish cyclist finished 18th, just ahead of teammate Carlos Verona, and thanks to his brave ride climbed to 22nd in the standings, being now on the verge of improving his result of last year, when he came 24th at the end of the week-long race.
"The relatively young team we brought to the Tour Down Under did well. Overall, I think we can be happy with the effort the team put into the race. It's a good start to the season. We had good weather, a very intensive week of racing, and the riders' condition will only improve in the future. They didn't suffer too much in the heat, and they fared well. Importantly, they have made strides towards improving their form for the European events, so they'll be in better condition when they return to racing there. If everything goes according to plan in tomorrow's final stage, I think we can be satisfied from our trip to Australia", said sport director Rik van Slycke of the team's ride in the first World Tour event of the season.
Last stage of the Tour Down Under will be a criterium which will consist of 20 laps of 4.5 kilometers each, and will take place in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.
©Tim De Waele