ADELAIDE, Australia — Richie Porte of Australia won the Tour Down Under cycle race for the second time Sunday, though for the first time in seven years he failed to win the grueling stage to the top of Willunga Hill.
Porte finished second behind unheralded Englishman Matthew Holmes on a stage he has won for the last six years after a massed breakaway on the 151.5 kilometer (95 mile) finishing stage threw the overall race standings into turmoil.
Two-time defending champion Daryl Impey of South Africa entered the last of six stages with a 2 second lead over Porte on general classification in the first World Tour event of the season.
But Impey’s chances of an unprecedented third-straight win dissolved on the second of two climbs up Willunga Hill while Porte launched his trademark attack on the second climb to put the overall result beyond doubt.
Porte’s chance of extending his winning streak on the Willunga stage was lost when Holmes, riding a World Tour event for the first time, swept passed him over the crown of the hill and beat him to the finish line by three seconds.
The 26-year-old from Wigan was part of a 26-rider break which sowed panic among teams whose riders were in contention for the tour win. The breakaway maintained a lead of more than four minutes over the peloton until the first of the two climbs up Willunga Hill.
With so many riders in the break, including leading riders such as Andre Greipel, the peloton was fully stretched to close the gap. At one point the young American Joey Rosskopf, who started the day 58 seconds behind Impey on general classification and was in the leading group, held a virtual lead of more than 3-1/2 minutes on the road.
Porte’s teammate, the world road champion Mads Petersen, did a superb job of leading the peloton’s chase for the breakaway and it was through his efforts that Porte was able to finally launch his winning attack on the second climb.
The break began to fall apart on the first climb up Willunga Hill and completely broke up on the second as Porte drove to the front of the race. Impey couldn’t go with him and dropped back to finish 30 seconds behind Porte in fifth place.
“It was a little bit panic stations there in the middle (of the stage),” Porte said. “We had to do the ride for the whole day.
“My team today were absolutely fantastic. It’s been an incredible week. People are quick to single out Mads Petersen because he’s the world championship and he’s there helping me but everyone’s been incredible.”
Holmes was able to hang on when the break fell apart to challenge and eventually out-sprint Porte on a stage he has made his own.
“There’s no way I thought I would win that in such a big group,” Holmes said. “I’ve never really raced up a climb. I’ve been stuck in Britain for the last six years.
“This is my second hilltop finish this week. They seem to suit me.”