(Above photos: ©Vareel Patel/onev.com.au
Ruben Guerreiro crossed the line in 7th place and claimed the Best Young Rider's jersey in what some were touting as the queen stage at the Santos Tour Down Under, Wednesday. The 148.5-kilometer stage was a leg breaker: the relentless up and down parcours led to a tough uphill finish to Paracombe, the first GC test of the six-day race.
Richie Porte (BMC) promised he would attack early in the finish climb, and he did; his persistent accelerations finally cracked those who tried to follow, and he soloed over the line 16 seconds ahead of Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) in second, and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) in third.
Guerreiro arrived with a group of 17 three seconds later, claiming a notable top-10 finish and the best young rider award.
"We have three guys here who could all place top 10, and I told the team that I felt good today," said Guerreiro. "They all helped, and I started the climb in the front. I really like these types of climbs. I was pushing, pushing to catch the first guys, but maybe pushed too much as I lost two or three places in the end. But seventh is still good, and now I hope to keep this young rider's jersey to the end and make a top 10 in this race."
Peter Stetina and Jarlinson Pantano crossed the line moments later in 22nd and 23rd places, moving Trek-Segafredo into second place (+11") in the team classification behind UniSA-Australia. A solid team effort.
Photo: ©Vareel Patel/onev.com.au
Guerreiro sits in 14th overall in the same time as 6th place (+29"), with Stetina in 22nd (+40") and Pantano in 26th (+45"). With four stages remaining, including the grueling Willunga Hill stage, the GC is far from set. In years past, it has been decided on the slopes of Willunga Hill, and it appears that once again the battle will be fierce on the notorious climb to settle the final standings.
"From when we left the circuits until about 10kms to go it was like a 30km-long field sprint; it was absolutely crazy," explained Stetina. "Up and down the hills, down the big mountain, there was a lot of crashes, and we lost Mads [Pedersen] to a crash, too.
"Once it went back up the gorge it became selective enough to shake out a little bit, and the climbers started to come to the front. And then in the final the team placed us three climbers as best as possible and then it was just a sprint up this little wall at the end. Ruben had a lot of punch, and he really impressed and was able to grab the young rider's jersey. I am not a punchy climber, so I was a little bit gapped, but I held strong, and I am still in a decent spot for Willunga later in the week. We still have everything to go for."
Mads Pedersen fell hard on a descent but was able to get a new bike and finish, albeit with a little less skin than before.