Tour Down Under: #youngdudes stage five update

We’re onto the penultimate stage, which features two ascents of the (in)famous Willunga Hill. We’re enjoying following the exploits of two young neo-pros, #youngdudes  Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) and Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb)  in their first ever WorldTour race. Every morning we get their feedback on the previous day’s stage, some thoughts on today’s stage and pose a personal question or two, so as to get to know them better.

Ruben Guerreiro

Ruben relaxed, smiling and chatting to compatriot Tiago Machado (image: Richard Whatley)

Ruben relaxed, smiling and chatting to compatriot Tiago Machado (image: Richard Whatley)

This morning, Ruben was still holding the hotly contested jersey of Best Young Rider but the more experienced Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha) and Michael Storer (UniSA), the youngest rider in the race, were still on the same time as him. Did everything go to plan yesterday, I asked?

It was a sprint stage, so I tried to conserve energy and tried to finish in the best position possible but it was a chaotic sprint.

So what were his plan for today’s summit finish?

Today, just follow during the stage. Try to save energy as much as possible, try to be in the front and finish the climb of Willunga in the first positions of the group and try to be top ten. Yesterday I entered in the top ten, I’m looking to keep it and hold the jersey. But if that can’t be, priority is to stay in top ten.

Ruben made a valiant effort on the final and second ascent of Willunga Hill but got caught out by the fierce crosswind and the searing pace proved a bit too much for him. He crossed the line in 21st place, losing the Best Young Rider’s jersey to Restrepo by 18 seconds. He’s now 18th overall. Teammate Peter Stetina said:

It was a good learning experience for our young neo-pro Ruben; it sounds like he just lost the white jersey by a bit. But he learned how to fight for a jersey in his first WorldTour race, which will be important for the future.

Of course, there’s a world of difference between racing at this level and riding in under-23s, so I asked Ruben how he’d found it. He said:

It’s the intensity, for sure. Here are some of the best in the world. After racing under-23, you still need to learn for two or three years.

Ruben’s already demonstrated he’s a quick learner. [Here at VeloVoices Towers, we’re thrilled with Ruben’s performance in this TDU – he’s got the guts! Onwards and upwards! – Ed.]

Lennard Hofstede

Lennard checking he's got enough bars and gels in his back pocket (image: Richard Whatley)

Lennard checking the bars-and-gels situation behind him (image: Richard Whatley)

Lennard has been working hard as part of Nikias Arndt‘s sprint train and protecting their GC rider, Wilco Kelderman. First, I asked how yesterday’s stage had gone and how the train had fared.

It was quite a hard start but I felt quite well and then it was quite boring. The final was really hectic and I think at a certain point we said we were good together and the plan was working out quite well. But, in the last 3km, my lead-out guy and the sprinter, they missed me, they went in the bunch and I was on the left side. Then I got into quite a good position to the last corner but they were not on my wheel. So the lead out went not so well, but the GC guy was good in the final, so overall it was a good day.

I sympathised, it takes a while to get a lead-out train working really well. Lennard agreed:

We’re new guys on the team and for us we need to learn a lot and I think two of the three times it worked out quite good and we started to sprint from the first five positions. You can expect that sometimes it goes wrong.

Today was another summit finish, so I assumed Lennard would be working for Kelderman, helping him to move up the classification.

Yeah, we need to protect him and make sure he will start Willunga Hill in a good position. If he’s feeling good, he will probably attack.

Kelderman must have been feeling good, he finished 11th on the stage and has moved up to 9th overall. A top ten finish, but Kelderman hopes to improve on that:

We had good intentions but things didn’t go perfectly towards the last climb. I could still ride a good finish and move into the top 10 on GC and I will try to move up even more tomorrow.

Of course, it’s a big step up from under-23 racing to WorldTour. I asked Lennard what the biggest difference was for him.

It’s especially when – wow! – you think it’s going really fast, really hard. You turn round, look back and everyone’s still there! No one’s dropped. In under-23s, if you go hard and look back, there are only 40 guys there.

It’s clear our #youngdudes are still finding their feet but adapting quickly to life in the fast lane.

Look out for our final update from tomorrow’s TDU and follow their progress on twitter #youngdudes.

Header: Ruben, racing to the finish on Willunga Hill; TDU, Stage 5 © Richard Whatley

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