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TDU14 St.5: Showdown On Willunga
tdu14st5_grapes650 Roadside Report: The Old Willunga Hill marks the Queen stage of the 2014 Tour Down Under and with the GC battle between Cadel Evans & Simon Gerrans just 7 seconds apart, today’s hilltop finish would be crucial. PEZ was in the thick of the roadside action.



Words and pics contributed by Steve Prokop

Day 5 is here. It is then with a wave of sadness that the realisation dawns, this week long party is nearly over and some of the riders even fly out tomorrow…

Before that though we have the Tour Down Under’s Queen Stage, Old Willunga Hill still to go and what a battle it would prove to be. Everything was up for grabs today – the Ochre Jersey had 3 Aussies in a position to stake a genuine claim for it for 2014, Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans and Richie Porte. This would prove to be a battle of seconds.

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Cadel Evans was looking relaxed in the leader’s ochre jersey pre-stage

Day 5 is the consumate people’s day. Easy access to the city and with the finish at the top of Old Willunga Hill an exciting Queen Stage is guaranteed.

We arrived early to ride the course back to McLaren Vale parking the car at the top of Willunga Hill and rode onto the circuit to the finish point. People had already claimed their positions even though the barriers were not yet up – 8 hours before the finish time to make sure they had the best view of the finish line.

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Talk about dedicated fans – Tarnya arrived with her children Brianna, Charmaine, Tanisha and Lachlan from Plenty Valley, Victoria for their first TDU and got well set up even before the barriers were up. Cadel Evans used to train and ride past their home so there was no way they were going to miss this opportunity to see him compete on Aussie soil.

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And many hours later with barriers up the family were still having a great time although their man Cadel did lose his GC lead.

In a complete change from the week’s sweltering temperatures, it was freezing this morning and the predicted wind was already blowing. Heading to McLaren Vale for breakfast, the sun was out but the breeze was winning. The cafés were packed with cyclists and we were still 2 hours from the designated start time.

There was an excited buzz in the air as the riders arrived and the sign on commenced. The talk is all about the time difference and the 3 protagonists are sought for interviews.

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Richie Porte too was looking relxaed and he wasn’t bothered for too many interviews pre-stage but post-stage he was swamped!

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Cadel was happy to sign autographs and mingle with the fans this morning.

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Cadel’s notes on his bar stem, Love the finish banner!

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The sign on time was a good opportunity for me to wander around and dream about nice bikes….

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and nice wheels.

Like most stages of the Santos Tour Down Under the organisers had planned multiple passes for the spectators to enjoy. We left McLaren Vale to get a picture of the riders and the famous McLaren Vale vineyards before then moving onto the township of Willunga, which the Hill is named after.

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Willunga has gotten behind the Tour Downunder from the start, with a number of cafés to cater for the public influx. It has an amazing atmosphere where the peloton heads up the main street, and down again 3 times, plus an additional 2 times when the route is changed to take in the Hill. It is no surprise that Willunga is a magnet for spectators.

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Jens Voigt leading the breakaway on the second pass up Willunga’s main street on his way to yet another, ‘Most Aggressive Rider’ prize.

After the second pass, we took to the road again to reach the summit of Old Willunga Hill. Once the peloton had completed its third pass of Willunga’s main street everyone wanted to get up the hill. Just like Mengler’s Hill, The Corkscrew and Stirling, every cyclist was heading up the hill providing entertainment and encouragement for the spectators and vice versa.

We get to the top and what a difference a couple of hours makes! The couple of hundred square meters is solid with cyclists. To give you an idea this area is a quarter the size of the summit of Mt Ventoux, but is packed with as many people.

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The crowd erupts as Jens Voigt led the breakaway across the line for the first time on the summit. Words can’t describe the effort Jens puts in. Incredible and absolutely amazing that we were here to see it for what might be his last time at the TDU.

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Jens leads the break over the summit.

The peloton came through for a shorter circuit, the next time it is for keeps.

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The commentator was doing his job and whipping the crowd into a frenzy especially when he told us that the main contenders were now in position at the front and then Cadel attacks!

The crowd went wild and all sorts of mathematical scenarios were broadcast as Richie Porte’s and Simon Gerrans’ position relative to Cadel is announced. This is very reminiscent of being on the top of Ventoux when Chris Froome attacked. The same pitch and the same frenzied response from the crowd as the gap expands and contracts and expands again.

In the end though it was Richie Porte who crossed the line first in a dominant fashion similar to that which Cadel inflicted on him on Stage 3 up the Corkscrew. Incroyable!

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Everyone stays for the podium before making the 1 hour return trip to Adelaide, however in a tradition of the Santos Tour Down Under, there are hundreds of cyclists who will make the return trip by bike alongside a number of the World Tour Pro riders – only in Adelaide at the TDU. This race truly is a spectator’s paradise.

Tomorrow is a late start as the final Stage, a criterium style race through the streets of Adelaide will be held at midday. Simon Gerrans is now back in the GC lead but with a buffer of just one second over Cadel and 5 seconds over Ulissi this race is still far from won. It should be another great stage tomorrow and then the party will be over for another year…

Live, Laugh, Ride.

Steve


Stage 5 Results:
1 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 3:42:20
2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:10
3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:14
5 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:17
8 Egor Silin (Rus) Team Katusha
9 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:21

General Classification After Stage 5:
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 18:02:19
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:05
4 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:10
5 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:27
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 0:00:30
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge 0:00:34
8 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 0:00:37
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
10 Egor Silin (Rus) Team Katusha



Steve ‘VeloRoo’ Prokop is an Aussie cycling enthusiast who runs a bike hire and Tour company with his wife Julia in the south of France for most of the year before returning to Australia in the French winter to enjoy the sunshine and visit events such as the TDU. Check them out at veloroo.com for an unforgettable cycling holiday.

 

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