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Tour Down Under winner Richie Porte relishing leader’s role

BMC Racing man seals overall victory as Caleb Ewan wins again on final stage

Richie Porte hopes victory in the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under will prove he can repay the faith BMC Racing have put in him as team leader.

Australian Porte, 31, won his home race for the first time having twice been a runner-up, and the former Team Sky man is relishing his role as team leader for the coming season.

Having finished safely in the peloton on the final stage – won in Adelaide by Caleb Ewan, who completed a clean sweep of all four sprint stages – Porte admits his victory was a relief after his near-misses in the past.

Richie Porte won the Santos Tour Down Under for the first time, and hopes to continue repaying the faith BMC Racing have put in him (pic – Sirotti)

“I’ve often been the plan B but BMC Racing Team has put a lot of faith in me this year,” he said. “I think now I’ve shown that I can repay that faith they’ve put in me.

“Quite a few of the guys here will do a program in the lead up to the Tour de France with me. That’s exciting that I’ve got a team built around me for the first time ever.

“To win it is a massive relief. I’ve been close two times before so it just feels fantastic. Cycling is kicking massive goals in Australia with the crowds you’re seeing on the road.

“I must say I’m so happy with my team too. They rode incredibly the whole week so it’s just an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction to win this.”

Porte only really had to stay upright on the final circuitous stage, having won on the uphill finishes in Paracombe and Willunga Hill to open up a 48-second overall lead.

It is the biggest winning margin at the UCI WorldTour’s season opener in more than a decade, with second-placed Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) unable to match Porte’s power on the climbs.

Jay McCarthy (Bora-hansgrohe) snatched the final podium place, meanwhile, after world champion Peter Sagan led him out to claim vital bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint on the final stage.

The stage itself proceeded largely as expected, with Thomas de Gendt spending long enough in the day’s break to grab the remaining climbing point – enough to wrestle the King of the Mountains jersey from Porte.

Thereafter, nothing looked likely to disrupt the bunch sprint, with Ewan winning his fourth stage of the 2017 race, outsprinting Sagan once again.

Caleb Ewan won the final stage, to complete a cleansweep of the four sprint stages. Only he and Porte came away from the season’s first race with stage wins to their name (pic – Sirotti)

With Ewan and Porte the only stage winners, it is the second consecutive year no non-Australians have come away with stage success.

The BMC Racing rider’s attention now turns to Paris-Nice, a race he has won twice before, as he continues his build-up to the Tour de France, but he insists he is not feeling any pressure.

“It’s early days but I’m ok with any pressure,” he added. “If there was pressure here from the team, then I didn’t feel it. Nothing was really ever said.”

Santos Tour Down Under 2017: stage six – result

1) Caleb Ewan (AUS) – Orica-Scott – 1.55.28hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Bora-hansgrohe – ST
3) Marko Kump (SVN) – UAE Abu Dhabi
4) Danny van Poppel (NED) – Team Sky
5) Sean de Bie (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
6) Lorrenzo Manzin (FRA) – FDJ
7) Koen de Kort (NED) – Trek-Segafredo
8) Jasha Sutterlin (GER) – Movistar
9) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Dimension Data
10) Jay McCarthy (AUS) – Bora-hansgrohe

General classification

1) Richie Porte (AUS) – 19.55.49hrs
2) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) +48”
3) Jay McCarthy (AUS) – Bora-hansgrohe +51”
4) Nathan Haas (AUS) – Dimension Data – ST
5) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – UAE Abu Dhabi +59”
6) Rohan Dennis (AUS) – BMC Racing +1.02
7) Rafael Valls (ESP) – Lotto-Soudal – ST
8) Robert Gesink (AUS) – LottoNL-Jumbo
9) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Team Sunweb
10) Jhonatan Restrepo (COL) – Katusha-Alpecin +1.04
Selected others
38) Ben Swift (GBR) – UAE Abu Dhabi +4.16
49) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +6.27

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