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  “To be honest I never expected that one. Obviously it didn’t go to plan yesterday with a time gap on the line but then today the BMC guys were absolutely incredible. They backed me here which is nice."

Photo: Team Sky

ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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CARLOS VERONA QUINTANILLA

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DAVID DE LA CRUZ

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DIEGO ULISSI

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EF EDUCATION - NIPPO

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GEORGE BENNETT

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JAY MCCARTHY

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JESUS HERRADA

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JULIAN DAVID ARREDONDO

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LUIS LEÓN SÁNCHEZ

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MICHAEL WOODS

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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NELSON OLIVEIRA

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PETER STETINA

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PRIMOZ ROGLIC

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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RICHIE PORTE

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ROHAN DENNIS

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RUBEN FERNANDEZ

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SERGIO LUIS HENAO

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SIMON GERRANS

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TEAM SKY

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TIAGO MACHADO

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TOBIAS LUDVIGSSON

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TOUR DOWN UNDER

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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23.01.2016 @ 14:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Richie Porte confirmed his status as the undisputed king of the Willunga Hill when he took his first win in BMC colours in the Tour Down Under queen stage, making it a hattrick on the infamous climb. Launching a powerful attack 1.1km from the finish, he finally managed to get rid of Sergio Henao (Sky) and Michael Woods (Cannondale) who had to settle for the minor podium positions while Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) gauged his effort well to limit his losses and defend the overall lead with just the final criterium still to come.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Porte: I never expected that one

Richie Porte has made history by taking the win on Willunga Hill on stage 5 of the Santos Tour Down Under for the third consecutive year.

 

Porte attacked 1.3 kilometers from the top of Willunga Hill, finishing six seconds in front of Sergio Henao (Team Sky).

 

“To be honest I never expected that one. Obviously it didn’t go to plan yesterday with a time gap on the line but then today the BMC guys were absolutely incredible. They backed me here which is nice and I’ve only just started in this team. It’s always nice to win in Australia and on top of Willunga it’s three in a row,” Porte said.

 

Porte now sits second overall on the General classification, nine seconds behind race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE).

 

For Porte, it was a perfect start to the season with BMC Racing Team.

 

“The crowds are just incredible. The Australian public get behind this race so much. It does feel like riding the Tour de France up this climb, it’s an incredible feeling. I’m happy with how it’s gone. I didn’t target this race so it’s just nice to get the first win in the BMC jersey.

 

“Full credit to Rohan. He said yesterday that he didn’t have great legs and was willing to sacrifice himself. He’s been a brilliant teammate this week and to be honest the whole BMC crew has been fantastic. It’s not easy to change teams, coming from a fantastic team like Sky. BMC has really supported me and embraced me and I’m really happy.”

 

“I’m not going to fight for time bonuses tomorrow,” said Porte of the possible maximum sixteen seconds on offer in the Be Safe Be Seen MAC Stage 6. “That's not my forté. I'm already happy with how this race went (because) I wasn't targeting the overall. It's just nice to get the first win in the BMC jersey.

 

“Obviously I lost eight seconds there yesterday with a tiny split in the field which is just one of those things. If I finish second tomorrow, I’d rather finish by nine seconds to Simon rather than two seconds.

“I definitely came in here underdone, I stayed in Europe to until Christmas Eve and I am really happy with how it’s gone. I am not in fantastic shape just yet so it’s a good stepping stone into what is probably the most important season in my career. I don’t know what my race weight is at the moment of anything like that, I haven’t been too much on regime just yet. It’s always so nice to win a race so early in a season and I only take confidence out of this.”

 

“I think the plan went perfectly today. Richie and Rohan discussed it with me last night and laid out how they wanted to do it and how they thought it could work,” BMC Racing Team Sports Director Allan Peiper explained.

 

“Richie has adapted really well. He’s getting along with everyone and he’s already showing his leadership skills, working with the guys, congratulating them, giving them a moral boost when they need it. I think that’s really important.”

 

For defending champion Rohan Dennis, it was a disappointing day in the saddle finishing in 28th place, 54 seconds behind Porte.

 

“I spoke to Allan and I spoke to Richie and I said I don’t think I’m going to be able to hold on to third. Our best bet was to put the leadership with Richie for at least a stage win here and whatever comes with that.

 

“I probably am not in the same shape as last year. I think that slight different lead up with the hour record last year maybe gave me a bit more punch. I’m fitter in some ways but not in others. “

 

Henao: It wasn’t meant to be

A brave ride saw Sergio Henao move up to third place overall at the Tour Down Under after taking the runner-up spot on the queen stage.

 

Willunga Hill again provided a grandstand finish, with Henao following closely the winning attack of Richie Porte (BMC Racing) before just falling away in the final metres.

 

The Colombian was protected throughout the day by his team-mates and it was Team Sky who initially set the pace on both ascents of the infamous Australian climb.

 

Six seconds back across the line, Henao bagged bonus seconds for his superb finish but was just unable to hold off former team-mate Porte on the GC. Behind them, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) did enough to hang onto the race lead by nine seconds heading into Sunday's finale.

 

Henao sits a further two seconds back on the ochre jersey and all but secured the King of the Mountains jersey with a gutsy ride on Willunga.

 

“It was a very hard stage,” said Henao. “I tried to follow the wheel of Richie, but it wasn’t meant to be. 

“I believe we did a good job and you’d always like to win but I had good sensations. My rivals are very strong, and I wasn’t able to win, but it’s a good sign that I am off to a good start to the season.”

 

"The guys did a perfect job today," explained Sport Director Kurt Asle Arvesen. "Swifty [Ben Swift] , Ian [Stannard] and Luke [Rowe] placed our climbers in a perfect position ahead of the final climbs. Pete [Kennaugh] and G [Geraint Thomas] took it on, and then when Richie attacked Sergio followed. He felt good but Richie was just stronger on the day. Hats off to him. It's nice to see Sergio wrap up the King of the Mountains and move onto the overall podium. 

 

"Our goal before the race was a top-three overall finish and a stage win. There's still one stage to go so we'll be going all out tomorrow!"

 

Team Sky were happy to sit in the bunch for much of the 151.5km stage, maintaining a good position for Henao and biding their time ahead of the finale.

 

The peloton had to chase hard as four riders - Lars Boom (Astana), Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) - went clear and eventually saw their gap open out to a dangerous six minutes.

 

Pete Kennaugh pushed the pace early on both ascents of Willunga, while Geraint Thomas strung out the bunch on the final climb. Luke Rowe and Ben Swift helped ensure Henao was protected, with Ian Stannard also stretching the field on the rapid final circuit.

 

Henao moved up as the climb wore on, jumping onto the wheel of Porte when the Tasmanian attacked with 1.1km to go. But there was no stopping Porte, who retained his King of Willunga status with a third win in a row.


Woods regrets costly mistake on Willunga Hill

Woods came home third on the stage, nine seconds behind Porte, and has moved up to fifth place overall. 

“I felt very good today, I just wasn’t as strong as Porte,” said Woods.  “I tried going with him, but I made a little mistake by trying to do it by myself, and I took Henao with me, and that cost me second in the stage.”

“(But) I can’t be disappointed with the week,” he said. “The crowd is amazing here, I’ve never done the Tour de France, but everyone is saying it’s the same level of crowds.”

 

Ulissi bounces back with great ride in queen stage

Diego Ulissi bounced back from his disappointment in stage 3 as he finished fourth in the queen stage.

 

Lampre-Merida were active in the opening part but failed to join the early break. They now focused all efforts on Ulissi until the entrance of Willunga Hill.

 

Ulissi was unable to follow Porte, Henao and Woods attacked but he was the best of the rest as he won the sprint for fourth.

 

"Today I knew the stage would be suitable to my characteristics and we agreed with the teammates and the director to focus on me,” he said. “Despite some pain in my arm and left leg after yesterday’s crash, the condition was good. I was protected until the start of the final climb where Porte started a very important action. I quickly realized that I could not follow the BMC rider and I preferred to manage the effort, dropping the group of the best just 400 meters from the finish line and getting a good fourth place. After this stage I can say that the condition is already good and I am happy because it means that the winter work has been done well.”

 

Lampre-Merida will support Marko Kump in tomorrow’s sprint stage.

 

Movistar miss out on teams classification win Down Under

An ocean away from team-mate Adriano Malori but equally determined to offer some success to their team-mate, the Movistar Team riders spent almost the whole queen stage of the Tour Down Under - 151km between McLaren Vale and Old Willunga Hill - at the front of the race.

 

It started off with a notable Nelson Oliveira, in the breakaway until the bottom of the second, final ascent towards the finish, and in the end, following great positioning work from Sütterlin and Sutherland, with Jesús Herrada and most notably Rubén Fernández. The furious attacks from Porte (BMC, stage  winner) and Henao (SKY, 2nd) didn't allow the duo a chance to fight for the day's glory, yet their great pace over the climb took them to 6th - Fernández - and 12th –Herrada - on the stage.

 

The pair’s effort is rewarded with the sixth and twelfth places, respectively, in a GC only pending Sunday's circuit race (90km) in Adelaide's CBD. The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta was also just 9" short of repeating their teams' GC victory against Cannondale; Fernández now sits in 2nd in the Young riders' competition, behind Jay McCarthy (TNK).

 

Gerrans: I knew that I just had to keep my cool

Former Australian champion Simon Gerrans is one step closer to a record breaking fourth Santos Tour Down Under victory, retaining his overall lead with one more stage to go.

 

Gerrans started the penultimate day of racing with a 14second advantage to Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) and 26seconds to Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).

 

The 35-year-old finished eighth on the stage, 17seconds behind Richie Porte (BMC Racing) who won his third consecutive Willunga stage to move into second overall, nine seconds behind ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Gerrans.

 

“It was extra tough,” said Gerrans.  “The calibre of climbers in this race, those three guys who attacked off the front, they’re some of the best in the world, it was bloody tough.

“You never discount Richie Porte in a finish like that, he obviously loves it and this is the toughest stage of the race where the GC (overall) is genuinely decided every year. One stage to go, I have come out just in front today, hopefully that is enough.”

 

“One stage to go and anything can happen but I tell you what, I’d prefer to go into that stage in front rather than behind,” Gerrans said of tomorrow's race finale.

 

“This is the toughest stage of the race and where the GC is generally decided each year so if I’ve come out in front, hopefully that’s enough.”

 

Asked if there was a moment of panic, Gerrans said the key was staying calm.

 

"That’s one thing I was trying to avoid in the finale there: no panicking, going too hard, exploding. I knew that if I blew there on that final climb, then I was going to put my jersey in jeopardy. I thought if I just kept my cool and ride my own pace, even when they attacked me in the final, it should be enough to hang on and I was just right,” he said.

 

“You never discount Richie Porte, especially on a finish like that, that he obviously loves. That’s three from the last three for Richie here.

 

"I expected Richie to attack, boy when he attacked he went fast. You know his one of the best in world at what he does so there was no big surprises there."

 

"But my team were again there for me all day today and they delivered me in the perfect position and as fresh as possible into the final climb.

 

"It’s hard to believe I’ve won this race four times now, every year I come back it just seems to get bigger and better and the level of race increases every year so to get a fourth title I am absolutely over the moon.

 

"This is huge race for the team, we put a lot of emphasis on it, we’ve got so many great supporters here in Australia, obviously Gerry Ryan and the Ryan family put a lot of support into the team. Obviously we can’t thank them enough, Orica as well. All our supporters here in Australia so it’s great to win for them."

 

Van Rensburg earns Most Aggressive Rider prize with strong breakaway effort

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were in the spotlight for the majority of the stage, thanks to Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. The South African formed part of the 4-rider break of the day, being joined by Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal), Lars Boom (Astana) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar).

 

The quartet were able to get away after just 15km racing and would go on to combine well, forcing out a maximum gap of 6 minutes. The peloton had their work cut out but fortunately for them, a number of teams were willing to contribute today. Van Rensburg and co. would reach the first of the two ascents of Willunga Hill with a time gap of 3 minutes.

 

On the climb it was van Rensbrug who emerged the strongest after an attack near the top saw him go clear, the peloton now just 2'00" back with 21km to go. The front four came together on the descent though, with speeds touching 100km/h. The peloton, with the numbers advantage, had the upper hand now as they hunted down the 4 leaders on the loop back around to the start of Willunga Hill.

 

With 4km to go, the final climb was about to start and it was only at this point that the break would be caught. The South African strongman was the last rider to surrender as the race made its way up the final climb. The team had Cameron Meyer duelling it out at the front of the race too, eventually crossing the line in 13th, 23 seconds after Porte which puts him 12th on GC going into tomorrow's final stage.

 

”I managed to get into the break of the day with 3 other really strong riders,” van Rensburg said. “We had quite a big gap and when we got near the top of Willunga the first time I was feeling quite strong. The gap was coming down quickly though so I tried to go for it bit. The break just rode me down again, after that the strength out of the breakaway was gone and the bunch was coming really quickly so they caught us on the final climb. It was a good try but we couldn't finish it off in the end.”

 

McCarthy disappointed to miss out on podium Down Under

Hard work from the Tinkoff squad to support the Jay McCarthy allowed him to the green jersey of the young riders classification. Up to the finale of stage 5, McCarthy was in the top positions and surrendered just a kilometer from the finish. Everything is going to be decided tomorrow in the last stage.

 

Today the riders raced over 151 km, from McLaren Flat, the beautiful vineyard valley to the most renowned Willunga Hill, traditionally a decisive climb in the Tour Down Under, in much better weather conditions than the previous days.

 

A small group of four riders started a breakaway in the first kilometers and grabbed all the intermediate sprints along the way, but was chased and caught by the group at only 4 kilometers from the finish.

 

The team contribution to keep Jay McCarthy in front of the group and in total control over his direct opponent was decisive but, within just one kilometer to go, a sudden and impressive attack from Ritchie Porte took the contenders by surprise, neutralizing any efforts from the chasers.


"It's clear that today's result was a little bit disappointing", stated sport director Lars Michaelsen. "Jay is also a little disappointed that it kind of slipped through his fingers. But we must consider the positive side because we have McCarthy who proved to have a great potential we had not seen yet, not to mention that this is a World Tour race and he has done much better than many big riders. So we should focus on the positive aspects that emerged from this race."

 

"In tomorrow's stage obviously", adds Michaelsen, "we will keep an eye on Michael Woods of Cannondale just in case he tries to gain some bonuses, as he shares the same position with Jay in the GC, even if he's a climber. Tomorrow is the stage that all the sprinters are waiting for, therefore it suits Adam Blythe, so tomorrow morning, also according to his feelings we will decide the race strategy."

 

“I’m a bit disappointed to get off the podium but I gave everything today, I (just) didn’t feel great,” said McCarthy who is now sitting fourth overall at 20 seconds but leads the Europcar Young Rider competition. “The team put me in a good position, I had just to keep pushing and I definitely have no regrets.

“I’ve won in Stirling and I’ve stayed pretty close to the first place overall. Being fourth I still take a lot away from this race and I’m happy with how the week went so far.”

 

"Today I gave everything,", adds McCarthy, "it was a tough day and I lost a few seconds on the final climb, dropping into fourth place in the overall, nevertheless I can be proud of the way my teammates raced and I think I did a good job today, although of course I would have liked to be on the podium. In any case, it's been a nice week and I am very happy I could be the leader of the team, and finish in the top five in three stages as well as in the top 5 of the overall classification. Anyway, tomorrow we still give our best in the last stage."

 

Tomorrow is the final day of the Tour Down Under with a stage of 91 km, in a tricky street circuit to be raced 20 times. The course, however, will include two third category KOM sprints, set between the city golf course and cricket stadium, and two intermediate sprints respectively in the 8th and 12th lap.

 

Former ski jumper crashes out, Bennett rides aggressively

George Bennett tried but was unable to win back some positions in the top end of the general classification of the Tour Down Under today. The Team LottoNL-Jumbo New Zealander finished 17th up Willunga Hill, the queen stage, behind victor Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEDGE) protected his overall lead in a stage that saw LottoNL-Jumbo lose Primoz Roglic to a crash. 

The stage was just underway, ten kilometres in, when Roglic tumbled. “His shoulder was dislocated in the crash and he has abrasions on his backside and hip,” sports director Frans Maassen said. “It forced him to abandon the race.     

“The four escapees survived to the final of the race,” Maassen continued. “With only one kilometre to go, George Bennett attacked. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stay in front of the chasers and had to settle for 17th.”

George Bennett holds a 20th place in the GC. Tomorrow the Tour Down Under ends with a city circuit race of 90km.

 

De La Cruz best of anonymous Etixx-QuickStep team

Riding the Tour Down Under for the second year in a row, David De La Cruz was the first to cross the line for Etixx – Quick-Step on Willunga Hill. The 26-year old Spanish cyclist finished 18th, just ahead of teammate Carlos Verona, and thanks to his brave ride climbed to 22nd in the standings, being now on the verge of improving his result of last year, when he came 24th at the end of the week-long race.

 

"The relatively young team we brought to the Tour Down Under did well. Overall, I think we can be happy with the effort the team put into the race. It's a good start to the season. We had good weather, a very intensive week of racing, and the riders' condition will only improve in the future. They didn't suffer too much in the heat, and they fared well. Importantly, they have made strides towards improving their form for the European events, so they'll be in better condition when they return to racing there. If everything goes according to plan in tomorrow's final stage, I think we can be satisfied from our trip to Australia", said sport director Rik van Slycke of the team's ride in the first World Tour event of the season.

 

“Meanwhile in @tourdownunder all OK at the moment. I expected a bit more of myself but when you #giveityourall you have to accept it,” Verona tweeted after the stage.

 

“And keep moving forward as @Pieter_Serry would say :) Time to look to the next goals, but first burn the last munition on tomorrow’s stage.”

 

Katusha climbers suffer in Down Under queen stage

The enthusiastic crowds on Willunga Hill cheered on a familiar winning face as Richie Porte took command of the uphill finish to tally up three wins in as many years on the most difficult stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. Porte timed his attack perfectly, riding away solo just before the 1 km to go banner and earned the win by 6- and 9-seconds to Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Michael Woods of Cannondale. For Team KATUSHA, riders Egor Silin and Tiago Machado showed their climbing forms are coming along, taking 20th and twenty-third on stage 5 on Saturday.

 

Silin and Machado currently sit in the 18th and 19th spots at +1.11 for the overall classification. The team is fourth in the Teams classification. 

 

Boom feels strong, Sanchez set back by mechanical

"Finally I felt very strong today and I thought it could be my day,” said Lars Boom after the finish.

 

"I promoted the escape just a few km after the start because my legs were so good today and I wanted to test myself and find out what I could obtain,” continued the Dutchman of the Astana Pro Team. “Then the bunch started to accelerate and they got us with 5 km to go.”

 

In the final, there was a brave attempt from Liewe Westra (as promised after yesterday’s stage) and a little bad luck for Luis Leon Sanchez who was set back by a mechanical problem. Thanks to the good work of the teammates Sanchezm was able to finish just behind the first group.

 

Arredondo rebounds after two crashes

Julián Arredondo was the first across the line for Trek-Segafredo in the 151.5km queen stage at the Santos Tour Down Under in 24th place (+44"), but after his two crashes in the past two days there was little to salvage other than redemption for his misfortunes and thwarting off the superstition that bad things always happen in threes.

 

Jack Bobridge followed in 36th (+1'07") and Peter Stetina a handful of seconds later in 43rd.

 

"It was a really nervous race all day, and there was a pretty stiff headwind on the climb," explained Stetina at the finish on top of Willunga Hill. "It became a position battle where you had to be at the front, but you had to be fresh for the climbs."

 

Ryder Hesjedal aided his three teammates after the first ascent of Willunga, pulling hard at the front to keep potential trouble at bay ahead of the final time up the punishing climb. When the screw turned for good in the final kilometer, it was Richie Porte (BMC) that jumped away for the win, but Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) managed to cross in 8th place, 17 seconds later and hold onto the leader's jersey by nine seconds.

 

"The first time up the climb there was a bigger group than normal due to the headwind, and then the last time up it was just legs," continued Stetina. "Unfortunately, I just didn't have it today. But it was the first stage race back in a while, and I paid the price. Our little Colombian [Julián Arredondo] had a little bit of redemption, and he charged up the mountain, but Jack and I didn't have it today."

 

The six-day tour concludes with a fast circuit race Sunday, one final crack for sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo and the team to snag a stage win. It will be all hands on deck for the fast Italian who sprinted to second and third places in the past week.

 

Willunga Hill too tough for Tobias Ludvigsson

Tobias Ludvigsson lost some positions in the GC on the Tour Down Under queen stage. The Swede finished in 29th place on stage 5 and now finds himself back in 25th position overall.

 

After the stage, Giant-Apecin coach Aike Visbeek explained: “Tobias and Georg [Preidler] were well protected during the stage with the aim to get them as fresh as possible to the final uphill. The whole day the positioning was very good, even at the foot of the Willunga Hill. In the end they just weren’t strong enough to maintain their position in the GC.”

 

“Feeling shit after my @GiantAlpecin boys worked like crazy for me this week and I couldn't do better then that in end,” Ludvigsson tweeted after the stage.

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