I told you it was simple! The pocket rocket Caleb Ewan wins and takes the opening Ochre jersey of the race.
Although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Aussie as Van Poppel and Bennett ran him very close with Ewan winning by about half a bike length. Saying that, he never looked as if he was going to be overhauled.
Unfortunately from a punting side, Theuns went a bit early and never got near the podium. He was even overhauled on the line by Planckaert which ruined the H2H double, but oh well, moving on!
Ewan has no chance of retaining Ochre after today/tonight/whatever day this is stage, so let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders who want to win this race overall.
The Queen stage and the toughest in Tour Down Under history. The riders will be thankful that it appears if it will be a lot cooler than the searing heat of stage 1 and we might even get a small rain shower.
At just over 3,300m of elevation gain over 150km, this will be a sore one for the peloton. The laps around Stirling won’t see any major action aside from movement in the breakaway, it will just be a case of a slow increase in pace back in the peloton.
Unlike 2015, the riders approach the Paracombe ascent via a different route. Instead of the fast descent in that edition, this year they climb for the majority of it, with a few minor descents thrown in. This certainly changes how the riders will approach the finish.
The finish can be split into three sections; 4.6km at 1%; 4km at 4.1%; and 1.8km at 7.8%.
The pace will be high in Section 1 as the riders will still be carrying a lot of speed from their descent away from the Stirling circuit. I wouldn’t expect anything too crazy to happen here but this is where we will most likely see the sprinters unhitch as they look to conserve some energy. Unless of course they’ve already been dropped on the circuit!
Section 2 will see the GC teams come more to the head of the peloton. With some segments of the climb being around 8% it is certainly possible for a few riders to try to go for a long attack and get a gap. Satellite riders could be sent up the road here from teams that have two GC candidates (i.e. Gerrans/Chaves) and cause panic behind. Or those who won’t fancy their chances coming to the bottom of Paracombe with the GC group may also give it a dig.
Finally we reach the big test and with an opening 500m at 10.2% some time can be lost if you’re on a bad day. The climb does get easier afterwards and as we saw in 2015 there is a chance it can regroup. If that happens a well-timed late attack, à la Dennis, can succeed or we could get a small group sprint.
This really is a tough stage to call which hopefully should make it a great one from a viewing perspective but it’s not so great for me just now trying to write this!
The GC favourites for the race such as Porte, Henao, Chaves and co are all short odds with the bookmakers and you’d expect that with this being the Queen stage. However, from a racing stand point I find it quit hard to split them on this climb. We saw back in 2015 Porte give it a nudge but he was marked by Evans and Pozzovivo with no real inroads being made. I think something similar is likely to happen here and unless someone puts in a massive attack the favourites may well mark each other out of the race. Consequently, this will open it up for a “lesser” rider to take the stage. My favourite type of preview to write!
Annoyingly, it’s still not clear-cut as this could be done by an attack on Section 2 and staying away, or with a late surge on Section 3.
I guess we should start with the Aussies!
One of my outside punts for GC, Nathan Haas has already taken himself one bonus second out on the road on stage 1 so clearly he feels up to challenging for the overall title. I’m not too sure what the best approach would be for him, but with a fast sprint he could risk holding out for a re-grouping at the end of the stage. He’s looking very thin just now and can definitely surprise!
Also, Haas’ team-mate Lachlan Morton could be used as a satellite rider that may well just hold on to the end. An even better climber than Haas, his performances in the Tour of Utah were very impressive last year and if he’s in similar shape I wouldn’t give him too much leeway.
Jay McCarthy is another who took bonus seconds out on the road today. A rider of similar ilk to Haas, McCarthy possesses a fast sprint (his surge on Stage 1 was very impressive) but I’d say he’s naturally a better climber than Haas. Someone who won’t be as heavily marked by the peloton, he has a big chance of taking this stage.
Chris Hamilton is here as Sunweb’s leader and is a great young Australian talent. The Hurricane as he’s affectionately known has been doing recon of this stage over this past week. Finishing 14th on GC here last year was a great result and he’ll want to step up this year. A good result on this stage will go a long way to do that!
An even younger Hamilton (Lucas) could well be another that springs a surprise. Winner of the KOM jersey at the Tour de l’Avenir and 3rd on GC at the Ras, the boy is strong! He’ll hope to use his anonymity to his advantage. I wouldn’t give him too much space, that’s for sure!
Away from the Australians, some outsiders to look out for are Luis Leon Sanchez, Petr Vakoc and Jose Goncalves.
There are the other obvious Europeans such as Ulissi etc, but I don’t think they’ll win here. Unless of course Diego has brought his inhaler with him!
We’ll get an Aussie victor that will continue to please the home crowds. It won’t be the obvious Gerrans or Porte but instead, it will be young Jay McCarthy. I liked what I saw from him on stage 1 in that intermediate sprint, it was a very powerful surge to overhaul Goncalves. Furthermore, he finished 12th on the stage which highlights to me that he’s being attentive and doesn’t want to lose time which in turn means that he’s going very well and really wants to challenge the GC this year. He rolled the dice at the Aussie Nats and I’m intrigued to see how he plays this one, but he certainly has the strength/speed to pull off either approach!
I do also have fond memories of him winning at 100/1 on the Stirling stage last year which led to this post student night out tweet. Aptly in my uni-town of Stirling too…
0.8pt EW McCarthy @ 25/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 20/1)
0.25pt EW Chris Hamilton @150/1 with Betfair/PP (I’d take down to 100/1)
0.1pt EW Morton @ 150/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes (I’d take down to 100/1)
0.1pt EW Lucas Hamilton @250/1 with Bet365 (I’d take down to 200/1)
H2H Double; McCarthy v Gerrans and Hamilton v Meintjes @2.3/1 with Bet365. 1.5pt.
Keep an eye out later as more bookmakers price up, there might be better odds available!
Thanks again for reading, hopefully the stage lives up to the hype! As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.