Tour Down Under review: Dennis dominates season opener

Rohan Dennis took over the ochre jersey on stage three’s tricky uphill finish and defended it with a gutsy rearguard action on Willunga Hill to claim overall victory in the 2015 WorldTour season opener, the Tour Down Under.

Rider of the race

Nominating Rohan Dennis would be the obvious choice after an impressive overall victory which built on his runner-up finish at last year’s Tour of California. With Cadel Evans retiring and Tejay van Garderen not yet a dominating force, the young Aussie will have plenty of opportunities to take on team leadership for BMC in stage races.

Jack Bobridge caps off a flag-to-line breakaway with a victory salute (Image: Regalllo)

Jack Bobridge caps a flag-to-line breakaway with a victory salute (Image: Regalllo)

Instead, however, I’m going for Jack Bobridge. Now 25, he seems to have been on the scene forever without ever quite breaking through into road cycling’s top ranks. He’s a multiple track world champion and a former under-23 world time trial champion, but up until now his most notable road result was a stage win at the Eneco Tour back in 2010.

He can now add the opening stage here – having won from a kilometre-zero breakaway – and the mountains jersey to his palmares. By this time next week, he could also be the new holder of the hour record. He’s scheduled to make an attempt in Melbourne on Saturday, and with the kind of form he showed in animating the race as part of breakaways on three of this week’s six stages there is every chance he will succeed.

That isn’t quite the end of the story. After Bobridge, the next rider to attempt the hour record will be … Rohan Dennis, in Switzerland on February 8th. Born in Adelaide just ten months apart, the pair really are all but inseparable.

Four things we liked

1. The parcours. Early season races need to be challenging but not excessive and the Tour Down Under strikes a fine balance that always provides close, exciting racing. This year’s parcours was a good one, with the difficulty gradually increasing towards an exciting climax on Old Willunga Hill on the penultimate day. The short, sharp final climb on stage three, Torrens Hill Road, included ramps of 20% – enough to shake off any remaining off-season rust!

2. Second chances? Jack Bobridge and Steele von Hoff (both competing here for UniSA-Australia) were racing for WorldTour teams last season but have now dropped all the way down to Continental level – Bobridge with the Australian Team Budget Forklifts and von Hoff with Britain’s NFTO. Both are surely too good to be racing in cycling’s third tier, but a stage win each will have boosted their causes.

3. Farewell, Cuddles. Next Sunday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race will be the swansong for the 2009 world champion and 2011 Tour de France winner, but this was his last appearance at WorldTour level. True to his nature, Cuddles didn’t turn up just to wave to the crowds. He was in the thick of things throughout and there was no disgrace in finishing third overall. I’ll always remember Cadel for his ‘immodest’ riding style and for the fact that what he lacked in acceleration he more than made up for in determination. Chapeau, Cuddles, and adieu.

Evans mixed it with the big guns right to the end (Image: Regallo)

Evans mixed it with the big guns right to the end (Image: Regallo)

4. One to watch? Aside from having a brilliant name, Drapac’s Wouter Wippert had quite a week. The 24-year-old Dutch sprinter was third in the warm-up People’s Choice Classic, third in the sprint on the lumpy stage four and then sped to victory in today’s finale. He was a regular winner on the Asia Tour last year, including the final stage of the 2.HC Tour of Hainan. Remember the name – we might see it again.

The race in numbers

6 – The wearer of the ochre jersey after all six stages was a rider from Adelaide in their mid-20s: 25-year-old Bobridge after stages one and two, and 24-year-old Dennis thereafter.

2 – In seconds. Dennis’s margin of victory over Richie Porte – the fourth time in the last five years the race has been won by two seconds or fewer.

132.6 – Bobridge’s win in the opening stage came from a successful breakaway which lasted for the entire 132.6km distance.

2 – Porte won the queen stage to Old Willunga Hill for the second year running.

3 – Australia swept the final GC podium – the second time this has happened at this race – with the top three being Dennis, Porte and Evans.

10 – Australian riders have now won ten of the 17 editions of this race, including four of the last five.

General classification

1. Rohan Dennis (BMC) 19:15:18

2. Richie Porte (Sky) +0:02

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:20

4. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) +0:22

5. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) +0:24

6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:31

7. Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEDGE) +0:35

8. Tiago Machado (Katusha) +0:46

9. Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) +0:52

10. Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) +0:53

Link: Official race website

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